Issue 102 is out now
Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

31st January 2014

Over 25 billion metric tons of plastic are thrown away each year. It’s estimated that 50-80% of debris in marine areas is plastic: small pieces of it in the North Pacific have increased a hundredfold in the last forty years (source: BBC). Closer to home, a new report shows that a stream of plastic rubbish flowing along the bed of the river Thames and out into the North Sea will have far-reaching effects on marine life (source: the Guardian). Added to all the ethical complications of its disposal, plastics are made from oil – a fossil fuel which will one day run out.

Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

31st January 2014

Lucy Corkhill

By Lucy Corkhill

31st January 2014

Plastic production is estimated to use 8% of yearly global oil production—both as the raw material and for energy in the manufacturing process.

For a fairly recent invention, plastic has become a part of everyday life and we’re hugely dependant on it. And there’s no doubt it has also revolutionised our lives: it’s durable, versatile, lightweight, moisture resistant and inexpensive. It’s everywhere: in our cars, our kitchens, our bathrooms, our workplaces, phones, computers, toys, games, clothes, sanitary items, toiletries, transport, packaging our food and drink…you name it, it’s there.
But do we know where to stop? If you look at the number of bottled waters now available, it would seem not. When we were children, we were able to wait until we got home to have a glass of water from the tap; now we have bottles in the car, on the go, on the beach, in the gym…everywhere. Plastic is taking over our lives: according to the United Nations Environmental Programme, global plastic consumption has gone from 5.5 million tons in the 1950s to 110 million tons in 2009. We can’t sidestep the environmental and health implications of plastic forever.

Plastic recycling is possible, but relatively little is recycled: there are various types of plastic with different chemical compositions, and contamination can occur through the mixing of types. We have to do something to break our dependency on a material that is clogging our oceans, polluting our skies and choking our earth.

So is it really possible to live without plastic?
Some people believe so, and have dedicated their lives to tackling this challenge.
Life Without Plastic is a website and online shop dedicated to finding non-plastic solutions to everyday tasks. Here you can find a whole range of plastic alternatives, from kitchenware to school and office supplies. Chantal and Jay, the co-founders of Life Without Plastic, had this to say about their mission:

“We launched Life Without Plastic (“LWP”) in 2006 after several years of daydreaming about how to make a contribution to reducing the large quantities of plastic that are consumed every second of every day around the world. We played with ideas for raising awareness about the issue. We wanted to address the environmental disaster that the consumption of plastic is causing, and the damage that leaching plastic can cause to human and animal health. We quickly realized that before we could effectively help people reduce their plastic consumption, we had to be able to point them toward non-plastic alternatives that could replace the plastic items currently used in day-to-day life.”

Polythene Pam and Village Boy, a pair of bloggers from Yorkshire have documented their boycott of (almost) all things plastic on their blog Plastic Is Rubbish. They also have great resources on their website for finding out about plastic alternatives, what plastic they cannot live without and why you should consider cutting down your plastic consumption too. Here’s what they had to say about the reasons they started Plastic Is Rubbish:

“The boycott started as a personal response to the increase in plastic rubbish littering the environment. Plastic of course doesn’t biodegrade so this rubbish is increasing exponentially. It was driving us crazy. Then we got to thinking how much plastic rubbish we were responsible for. In fact we monitored it – you can see how much plastic we got through in a week and read more about our audit. Eeeek! Now we wanted to see if it was possible to go without plastic. Being plastic dependant we decided to do it bit by bit. To start slow – build up those green muscles gradually. Each month we would stop “using” a piece of disposable plastic, and source a non-plastic alternative. In January 2007 we launched our 12 steps program for a cleaner planet. We called it that because a) we were giving up plastic, and b) we thought it would take 12 months. Years on and we are still finding new plastic to cut and we have learnt much more about plastic. We now realise there are more issues than just rubbish to be considered.”

Beth Terry (featured in our Dec/Jan 14 edition) opted out of buying new plastics in 2007 and since then has built up a website, My Plastic Free Life, filled with ideas and resources on how to rid your life of plastic. Her book, Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, was published in 2012. Beth is committed to talking to companies about reducing their plastic consumption and waste, giving presentations, and finding plastic alternatives, and her honesty, commitment and questing nature shine through in her blog. Beth was moved to go plastic-free by a picture of a dead albatross chick. This is what she says:

“In June of 2007, while recovering from surgery, I read the article and saw the photo that changed my life. The article was entitled, “Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic… Are We?“ and the photo showed the carcass of a dead sea bird, its belly full of plastic pieces: bottle caps, cigarette lighters, even a toothbrush. I looked at my own life and realized that through my unconscious overconsumption, I was personally contributing the suffering of creatures I hadn’t even known existed. That week, I committed to stop buying new plastic, and a passion and blog were born: My Plastic-free Life (known originally as Fake Plastic Fish.) I’ve been blogging away here ever since, collecting and tallying my own plastic waste (in 2011, my plastic waste was 2% of the U.S. average) and researching plastic-free alternatives.”

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