Image: Henderson Island, Copyright Jennifer Lavers / University of Tasmania.
It all started with news reports and pictures of Henderson Island, uninhabited yet littered with plastic, together with reports of a whale washed up in Scotland with the highest level of toxic pollutants recorded in any marine mammal. By May 2017, we (family Frostick) had joined the Marine Conservation Society’s annual campaign to see if we could avoid single-use plastic for the month of June.
This didn’t sound so challenging at first. Surely we could do that!?!
Honestly, I thought our lives weren’t too bad when it comes to waste for a family of five; we recycled what we could, grew veg, baked and generally were quite creative with the often random selection of ingredients that were left in our fridge at the end of the week. But, looking closer made me think again.
I went through our basic weekly Ocado shopping list and only one item (butter) from a long long list didn’t come wrapped in plastic. Just one! (And I’m not convinced that wrapper is recyclable).
Our bathroom and kitchen cupboards were filled with plastic bottles. I merrily (and slightly smugly if I’m to be completely honest) popped our old bottles into the recycling, assuming every last bit could be re-used and, from then on, not really giving it a second thought. Yes, we bought food locally too, but with busy lives, we relied heavily on supermarket and other online deliveries.
Only then it struck home. We were channeling massive amounts of plastic in our lives, disposable and not. As a household that regularly recycled, we’d become pretty ambivalent to waste. With most things going in the big green bin, we thought we were doing our bit, but the reality of how much plastic we had in our lives was shocking. It also meant that trying to cut it out even for just a month could make a real difference.
The whole family had to commit to it and to making some pretty big changes; quitting our reliance on online supermarket deliveries, making time to go to local shops (with our own Tupperware); changing what products we buy and doing a whole lot more baking.
At that stage, we didn’t know we’d fail. We thought it just might be possible… so long as we didn’t leave one of our boys’ water bottles behind on the way to a footie tournament or were thoroughly overcome by the urge for salt and vinegar crisps. We didn’t really appreciate how hard or how life-changing it would be. And that we’d end up making a far longer-term commitment to minimising our use of plastic.
Six months later, we’re still learning. We have copious amounts of plastic in the house – products that haven’t yet been used up as we move to alternative cleaning products, shampoos etc. We also make mistakes and have some days which seem to be filled with failures. It’s been an adventure – it still is – and some weeks are far better than others. But, over the next few blogs, I’ll share some of what we’ve discovered, our changes, thoughts and tips for those who might be inspired to do the same.
In the meantime, let me know if you have any #plasticfree tips that you’d like to share.