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Home » Reduce, reuse, recycle

Could you live without buying plastic for a week?

Submitted by on Thursday, 14 June 2012 Loading Add to favourites  5 Comments

This week’s “Change the World Wednesday” challenge is one I’m going to have to admit defeat on.

There were two challenges to choose from; the first reads: “This week refuse to use plastic produce bags. Instead, opt for reusable versions such as cotton mesh which are available at many stores, small canvas totes which you may have around … or no bag at all (not all produce needs to be bagged)“.

I already do that as much as possible which meant I had to step up to the second challenge: “If you routinely avoid plastic bags, please commit to a no-plastic week … yep, no plastic … nothing which is plastic, which comes in plastic packaging and, of course, no plastic bags.”

And that’s where I score a big, fat zero.

Only last night Mr Green was washing up and commented to Little Miss Green there was a lot of plastic packaging to be recycled. She found some rather enticing things in the shop this week which she couldn’t resists – fruit leathers, fruit ‘sweets’ (they’re actually dried fruit but are individually wrapped to look like sweets) and I’ve been enjoying seasonal fruits. The trouble is, we’ve been really busy recently so I’ve been purchasing more food from the supermarket rather than spending the time to visit my local farm shop.

Sadly our local orchard is not open – we’ve had torrential rain this year and because he’s a small, independent grower with little money he grows everything outdoors instead of polytunnels. He’s basically lost his entire crop of soft fruit this year which means I’m using a supermarket instead – where all soft fruit comes in hard plastic containers.

I’m also on a ‘Use it up!’ month freezer challenge so I’m emptying out all those packets of vegetables and I’m left with lots of packaging.

Fortunately a lot of our packaging can be recycled, but we are having to put a lot more in landfill too.

Little Miss Green is now eleven and we feel it’s right we allow her to exercise free will and choices in certain areas of her life. When she was younger it was simple – we didn’t buy certain things or have them in the house. Now she has pocket money and, once she has paid for the things she has responsibility for  (rabbit food, bedding and friend’s Birthday presents) she is free to spend money on whatever she likes. More often than not this is a magazine with lots of plastic packaging, a packet of crisps or chocolate bar (non recyclable plastic packaging) or make up and clothes (plastic tags, plastic packaging)…

Am I prepared to give up fresh fruit for a week? I’m afraid I’m not. I’ve been making smoothies for breakfast every morning and am feeling the health benefits of that. There is one place I can buy lose organic cherries and I’ll make the effort to head there next week so that will save two plastic punnets but apart from that I feel unable to achieve much more.

Our landfill waste is minimal as it is, but I’m acutely aware that it is ALL plastic and to be honest it scares me to see as a society just how reliant we are on this  material. I recycle all I can but I am still left with plastic films which cannot be recycled locally.

What about you – could you say no to plastic for a week?

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5 Comments »

  • Jane says:

    I regret that I, too, am going to fail with this one. We already use reusable shopping bags and produce bags. However, even if we buy loose bread and vegetables, other items such as milk, certain fruits, washing up liquid, and cooking oil are only available (for us anyway) in plastic packaging. We used to buy milk from the milkman in reuable glass bottles, but it was stolen twice in one month and we now have to buy it from the supermarket in plastic bottles instead. My cat has just finished her plastic bottle of medicine and needs a new one and all my tablets come in plastic packaging.

    Plus we already have a lot of plastic at home. A lot of our plants are in plastic plant pots. My toothbrush and nail brush are made of plastic, not to mention parts of the fridge, the telephone, computer and television.

    The 3 big problems with plastic are the amount that is thrown away after only minimal use, the amount of plastic litter that is strewn about all over the place, and that so little is recycled. If durable plastic items are used for a prolonged period, and then recycled at the end of their life, plastic is a fairly environmentally-friendly option. Therefore, while in an ideal world I think that we would all like to eliminate plastic bags and packaging, I do not think we need to ban plastic from the world completely.

    I think that one thing that does need to be tackled is the widespread practice of putting all rubbish in plastic bags to throw it away these days. We never used to do this. A reusable bin is an ideal container for rubbish, and can easily be washed.

  • I managed to live without buying anything plastic … which meant that I bought nothing, except items from the Farmer’s Market, during the week … and, to me, that’s a failure. I should be able to go to the market and find products in something other than plastic but that seems to be impossible. I headed for the organic, whole-food section and thought it would be easy but … not so. I found boxes (Eco-friendly) but they’d have a plastic window in them. Ugh! It’s a huge problem … one that I’m really not sure how to battle. But awareness is the first step so if enough of us get mad about it … maybe we can illicit change.

  • chris levey says:

    I think we really failed this call challenge .My husband although not that old, 63, has Parkinson’s and a heart complaint so we spend a fair bit of time at the local hospital. On our last inpatient episode, when he was feeling a bit better we started to notice the plastic waste. It was not only syringes and drug plastic waste and the catheters etc but his food came on a china plate with a plastic liner on top, all deserts came in plastic pots, puddings were either Yoghurt, Jelly of Trifle, sandwiches came in plastic packets which he could not undo and there was no plate to put the sandwiches on. Even worse was that the plastic bowl given to him to wash in and the headphones for the radio were to be thrown away after use [they were offer to us by a thoughtful nurse and we now have them at home]. The curtains on the ward were all disposable paper, the bottles for urine and bowls were all cardboard and there was no way of washing hands after using the loo. I do understand that they do some of this to limit MRSA and C.Diff but some of it is excessive.
    Once he was home again I went through the builders skip, [we are having a shower put in], Removing all metal, paper and cardboard, then while I was in the mood I did out the garage. Paint, an old caravan awning and a towel rail went via Freecycle, years worth of cardboard boxes went for recycling, plastic bottles were recycled and the metal went to the scrap man. I felt a bit better about thing after this. Now guess what the radiator in the hall is leaking this morning.

  • Bravo. Great article. It is sickening how much plastic we use. Now I have a motto “ 5% Plastic. No More! “. That means nothing more than 5% of the items I buy can have plastic. That means no juice. I make my own. Meats are bought at places where they wrap it in paper like Whole Foods. No more processed foods. Goodbye to Trader Joe’s Chicken Shu Mai or the Quiche which I love. Chocolates, unfortunately need to come in a wrapper but that’s very little. Definitely not those packed salad leaves. Bacon. No luck there. Maybe I should eat less Bacon. Fruit and vegetables definitely can be bought without packaging, even without the plastic bags that is used to measure. A bit embarrassing at the checkout counter when other people grumble and the cashier just growls at you with beans flying around everywhere and falling through the shopping basket. This process has led me to cut down on my food consumption and increase its quality.

  • chris levey says:

    Having read Cinnamon Vogue’s comments I have a couple of comments of my own. We are all used to taking bags for food is it not time we all took bags when we go cloths etc, I have made cotton bags from a old pair of curtains or you could take a pillow case. Secondly I noticed that Concord in Massachusetts have banned 1 litre and smaller plastic water bottle sales, what a good idea. We could do with a campaign in the uk to do this.