The Whys and Wherefores
The call to reduce our dependency on plastic is growing louder. With increasing frequency I hear around me murmurs of dissatisfaction with the quantity of the stuff people feel compelled to purchase as they go about their daily tasks of keeping themselves and their families healthy, clean and fed. This is an inter-generational, omni-cultural issue that affects everyone of any 'class', regardless of whether they realise it or not. But many are noticing and one theme recurs: how to cut back on plastic consumption in any way that feels meaningful. It is clear that recycling alone is not cutting it.
Do we wait for legislation, sluggishly shuffling along from somewhere in the future, to force manufacturers to review their choice of materials while the food chains continue to clog up with indigestible polymers? Can we do something now?
Many feel their hands are tied. Because one thing is clear: going plastic-free is incredibly difficult, maybe impossible. Yes you could give up your plastic bank card and whip out cash, but even Sterling notes are now being made out of plastic. Are you going to resort to pocketfuls of coins? What if your loved-one has a fever and some simple paracetamol might help relieve their suffering? Good luck finding medicines not in a plastic blister pack. So... Completely Plastic-Free for those choosing to live in the modern world is perhaps a pipe-dream. But Practically Plastic-Free? Is that any more realistic?
Plastic is everywhere! And there's a very good reason for this! Plastic is an incredibly useful, versatile and inexpensive material. It has taken on jobs formerly covered by wood, metal, glass, ceramic, rubber, cork, cotton, wool, wax paper... I can't think of another material with the potential to be moulded into whatever clear/coloured/opaque, flexible/rigid, heat/chemical/bullet resistant, thin/thick, heavy/light object the creator can dream up. Medicine for example would not be where it is today without the infection-resistant, inherently sterile, non-conductive and mould-able qualities of plastics. Plastic has its place. But these advantages should not blind us to its down sides. 'Traditional' plastics originate from fossil fuel, once created are very hard to break down, poison and choke wild and particularly marine life, enter food chains, leach into foodstuffs contained within them, disrupt hormones and affect fertility, have the potential to cause certain cancers and birth defects... Yes, plastic is incredibly useful but we should remember that Asbestos was also once thought to be a faultless wonderstuff. The ease at which plastic has pushed out other renewable, non-toxic, safe and not-to-mention aesthetically pleasing alternatives is alarming. Who wants to live on a plastic planet?
It is a strange thought that that sheaf of plastic, so easily slipped from that loaf of sliced bread and into the bin, barely registered and swiftly forgotten, will outlive not only the bread but the eater of the bread by what, a hundred? a thousand? times (nobody actually knows). Do we want our legacy on this Earth, after our civilisations have crumbled to dust, to be a layer of plastic, laid down in the bedrocks like deposits from a meteorite or volcanic eruption? Perhaps future civilisations will puzzle over it, remarking how this strange material appeared at the same time as one of the largest mass extinction events in the Earth's history and wondering at the link. Maybe they might recognise its potential for harm and leave it alone, under the surface.
For anyone uncomfortable with this imagined future scenario and our very real present conundrum, unwilling to wait for politicians and corporations to act, we must take things into our own hands. For keen individuals there are many websites out there which will guide you to make your own shampoo/fabric softener/soap, which is one approach if you can source the ingredients - themselves not in plastic packaging - and have oodles of time on your hands. There are also numerous commendable reviewers of plastic-free alternatives to regular household items: toothpaste, toothbrushes, Tupperware etc which I refer to myself when looking for ideas. If you can track the items down that is. So far, so very time-consuming. I am determined that there must be an easier way. How does an average person, with an average wage and little free time, go Plastic-Free Practically?
Myself and my partner noted that our plastic consumption skyrocketed when we were caught short for a meal or household product and needed something quick from the nearest shop. Anything half decent (and lots of junk too) comes layered up in plastic. There must be acres of the stuff in every convenience shop, the majority single-use, destined for waste. When you think of the sort of turnover a supermarket has, the mind boggles.
But here is our first clue. If plastic consumption is directly linked to convenience shopping, then surely a practical way to cut back is to employ the opposite of convenience. In this context the opposite is not really inconvenience, but rather organisation. And this is the core reason for this website. If I am going to spend time and effort working out a strategy to reduce plastic consumption in the home in a meaningful way, I want to share this. It does not make sense for everyone to be doubling up.
This website is, in essence, and probably will be for time to come, a work in progress. There will be slips, inaccuracy and no doubt an element of clumsiness to start with. But hopefully, with patience and multiple reviews, some kind of use-able resource and tool will emerge. Who knows, maybe I might even create an app.