What can we do about plas­tic? How you can live with less

It’s the global is­sue that’s shot to the top of every­one’s agenda. an­dréa Childs shares what she learned by go­ing plas­tic free for a week

Woman & Home - - Editor’s Letter -

When i was asked to live with­out plas­tic for a week, it was as if my (sin­gle-use, non­biodegrad­able) con­tact lenses fell from my eyes and i saw the world in an en­tirely new way. my bath­room shelves, the su­per­mar­ket aisles, my favourite cafés and clothes shops, all re­vealed as sources of planet-wreck­ing plas­tic. it’s ev­ery­where. and worse, it’s not go­ing away. since the 1950s, 8.3 bil­lion tonnes of plas­tic have been pro­duced world­wide, and be­cause none of the most com­monly used plas­tics are biode­grade­able, they ac­cu­mu­late in land­fills and the en­vi­ron­ment, where they take up to 400 years to de­grade. only 14% of plas­tic is cur­rently re­cy­cled and 30% of the plas­tic that could be reused isn’t be­cause it con­tains mul­ti­ple ma­te­ri­als or is sim­ply too small to col­lect and sort. “it’s es­ti­mated that eight to 12 mil­lion tonnes of plas­tic pol­lu­tion en­ter our oceans an­nu­ally,” says Hugo tagholm, chief ex­ec­u­tive of en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ing group surfers against sewage (sas.org. uk). by 2050, there will be more plas­tic than fish in the world’s oceans. “Plas­tic pol­lu­tion is killing mil­lions of marine an­i­mals and birds an­nu­ally, and break­ing down to en­ter the hu­man food chain,” ex­plains tagholm.

“i went to the lo­ca­tion of The Is­land with Bear Grylls in aid of stand up to Can­cer two years ago and was hor­ri­fied at the huge amount of plas­tic cov­er­ing the re­mote shore­line,” says GP Dr Dawn Harper (dr­dawn.com). “Chem­i­cals such as bPa and ph­tha­lates in plas­tic leach into our food from pack­ag­ing and via the en­vi­ron­ment. these tox­ins are linked to can­cer, hor­mone dis­rup­tion, fer­til­ity is­sues and even be­havioural dif­fi­cul­ties in chil­dren.”

Dr Clare morrison at med­ex­press adds: “some test­ing has shown that over 92% of peo­ple tested had de­tectable lev­els of bPa and other plas­tic chem­i­cals in their bod­ies – in­clud­ing ba­bies.”

Call it the Blue Planet II ef­fect (the iconic se­ries’ im­ages of al­ba­trosses feed­ing their chicks with plas­tic has ar­guably done more to raise aware­ness of the is­sue than any eco-cam­paign or po­lit­i­cal pledge), but change seems to be hap­pen­ing. the govern­ment aims to limit avoid­able plas­tic waste by 2042 and con­sumer power is forc­ing brands to re­think their plas­tic use.

“it feels like a tip­ping point and leg­is­la­tion is re­ally im­por­tant to push a quick move away from plas­tic, but ul­ti­mately it’s down to in­di­vid­u­als,” says Ge­orgina Wil­sonPow­ell, founder of sus­tain­able life­style mag­a­zine peb­ble (peb­blemag.com). “tak­ing a re­us­able cup to the cof­fee shop has a big im­pact. We need to re­pro­gramme our­selves to think a lit­tle less about con­ve­nience and a lit­tle more about the im­pact of our de­ci­sions.” it’s one rea­son the #plas­ticfree­weekchal­lenge has been such a suc­cess on so­cial me­dia; it forces us to be con­scious ev­ery time we shop or or­der a latte, and helps to break our plas­tic habit one pur­chase at a time.

The eu wants 55% of all plas­tic to be re­cy­cled by 2030 and is in­vest­ing £310 mil­lion to re­search how to mod­ernise plas­tic pro­duc­tion Theresa May wants all avoid­able plas­tic waste in the uK elim­i­nated by 2042. The levy on plas­tic bags will be...

Plas­tic is killing en­dan­gered species of tur­tles

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