Don’t feed the garbage patch! A few more tricks to limit plastic waste.
Reducing plastic use
Have you heard of the Great Pacific garbage patch? It is a huge gyre of plastic debris located in the North Pacific Ocean, between California and Hawaii. The patch was first described by scientists in 1980s. In 1999 Charles Moore, an oceanographer and a racing boat captain was coming back from a race when he observed a huge area of floating debris. Since then, he has been seeking to bring it into the public eye. The size of the gyre is difficult to determine – estimates go from 700,000 to 15,000,000 kilometres square. There is some more bad news – this is not the only such patch in the world. Similar “wonders” can be found among others in the Mediterranean Sea. Such concentration of plastic debris causes death of hundreds of thousands marine animals every year.
If this vision doesn’t seem particularly attractive to you and you don’t want to contribute to increasing garbage patches, below you can find a few simple tricks to limit plastic waste in your everyday life. A few weeks ago, I shared some ideas for complete beginners. Today we will go a level up.
Eco-friendly drinking straws
Colourful plastic straws make us think about summer parties and sophisticated cocktails. This is very misleading. In fact, seemingly innocent straws are pure evil. You use a straw for a few minutes only, then it will never be used again. It will immediately land in a bin and then – in many cases- in forests, seas and oceans. According to Greenpeace, straws are one of the most common plastic items found in beach cleanups. They are small, light and difficult to avoid, that’s why they often end up stuck up in sea turtles’ nostrils, lodged in the stomachs of baby sea birds, or back on our plates after being eaten by fish. Large fast-food restaurant chains use millions of straws every day. Thefore, whenever you buy a drink in a restaurant or a pub and the staff offer you a plastic straw – refuse! Unless you dream of finding something like this on your plate in the future – then go ahead. But of course I would rather recommend you to give up plastic straws completely.
However, if you really love drinking using a straw, I encourage you to go for multiple-use ones. You can easily buy them on-line, they are made of stainless steel or glass. You will be able to clean them in a dish-washer and carry them with you in your hanbag or backpack when going out for lunch or to grab a beer in a pub. Yes, this is still not a norm in our society, so at first people can give you strange looks. Embrace it! After all, it’s quite likely that some people will be interested to find out more and who knows? Maybe this way you can start an interesting conversation or even a friendship.
In the morning, when I get ready for work, I usually don’t have enough time for breakfast at home. That’s why I usually bring a sandwich with me to eat at my desk. I used to pack them in aluminium foil or even worse – disposable plastic bags. Then it started to bother me and I felt guilty about throwing away my packaging after a single use. Some time ago, I discovered an alternative, called Bee’s Wrap, which is a multiple-use food packaging. It is made with organic cotton, beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and tree resin. Thanks to these substances, it has a smooth surface and good moisture barrier properties. You can wash it with cool water and gentle soap and reuse them for a very long time (according to the information on the company’s website, up to one year). They are also biodegradable, plus they look really nice. Wraps are available here, in a few different sizes. Of course, such a wrap costs more than disposable plastic bags, but in my opinion the investment will pay off. However, if you don’t feel like buying a Bee’s Wrap, you can create a homemade version of it, as long as you have time and patience. You can find instructions or video tutorials on-line, for example here.
Multiple-use cosmetic pads and washing powder in eco-friendly packaging
I have now stopped buying single-use cosmetic pads which are – of course – sold in plastic packaging. Instead I buy multiple-use cotton pads sold without any packaging at all. They can be washed in a washing machine, together with clothes or other items. I also try to avoid washing powder in plastic packaging, instead I buy it packed in paper. These and other cosmetics are available in an eco-drugstore called Better Land. As it is not located in my town, I order the products on-line. What I like about Better Land is that when ordering your items, you can select the option ”zero waste”. This means that the ordered products will not be wrapped in any unnecessary packaging, no foil, no plastic and you will not find any advertising material in your parcel either. Of course, this is a solution available on the Polish market but I’m sure you can find similar options in your respective countries.
- A Greenpeace activist describes how plastic straws pollute our seas and oceans: https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/final-straw-20170310/
- Charles Moore, the oceanographer famous for bringing the Great Pacific garbage patch into the public eye, speaks about plastic pollution, caused by our consumptionist lifestyles. His TED talk takes only 7 minutes, nevertheless it is very powerful: https://www.ted.com/talks/capt_charles_moore_on_the_seas_of_plastic
- A TED talk by Dianna Cohen, an artist and a founder of a coalition against plastic waste: https://www.ted.com/talks/dianna_cohen_tough_truths_about_plastic_pollution#t-299137