Plastic Free July
Very much in the news at the moment, we look at ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
This is quite a challenge that we’ve been set - going plastic free. I hesitate to say it’s impossible, but it is difficult. We are very much in the hands of the manufacturers and suppliers of every type of goods, who choose to package their products in plastic. We have seen a shift towards recycled plastic which is a step in the right direction, but wouldn’t it be great if we could all go plastic free?
Supermarkets have very sophisticated systems that analyse everything we buy; the shelf space that they give products is closely monitored, and if sales targets aren’t met, they remove the items and allocate it to something else.
So, imagine - if we all bought only fruit and veg that was loose, and they didn’t sell any that were packed in plastic, they would stop packing it in plastic. So whilst we are dictated to by the big conglomerates, we can influence them if we want to.
When I was a kid, independent greengrocers provided paper bags for you to pick your own fruit and veg off the shelves and pack them. Paper bags are made from recycled paper and can be recycled time after time, so better for the environment.
I decided to participate in Plastic Free July (although I usually think about what I buy, but sometimes take the easy option) and when I went to a supermarket this weekend I deliberately chose loose fruit and veg. I also found peanut butter in a glass jar instead of the usual plastic tub. Small steps but collectively we can make a difference.
Facts and Figures
I read recently that we use 500 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is packaging. Single use plastic takes 450 years to break down. It’s thought that there are 500 million plastic pots a year going to landfill. Plastic can be recycled between 7 and 9 times before it is too flimsy to reuse. It’s estimated that 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year.
I’m not sure how much more mind-boggling figures are needed before the human race decides to really do something about it.
It’s not just foodstuffs that use plastic packaging, it’s every industry and product. We’ve been virtually brainwashed into using the easiest materials to do a job, irrespective of those materials’ environmental credentials.
Take gardening for instance - if you’re lucky enough to have the space and time to grow your own plants from seeds, you’ll know how easy it is to use plastic seedling trays and pots. Hopefully if you’re able to, you save them from year to year to re-use them, which is better than treating them as single use.
I saw a tip from someone who had used rolled up newspapers to form a biodegradable seedling pot - basically a paper tube filled with compost. Apparently you can also use toilet roll tubes for those young seedlings.
Obviously organic gardeners don’t use chemical pesticides on their crops, which of course is better not only because the edible plants are better for us, but also because it usually comes in plastic bottles. But some plants attract pests, so an idea is to put a bird feeder near the plants, and the birds will eat the insects for you. Nature has a way of dealing with these problems but we need to give nature a helping hand to let it do its job.
Other tips for the garden are for instance, using glass cloches instead of plastic. There are plant labels available made from bamboo instead of plastic, and it’s possible to make fertiliser for your roses from banana skins. Just ferment them in water for a few days, then add more water to pour over the plants. The potassium is also great for peppers and tomatoes. Apparently, the starch in the water used to boil pasta and rice is great for plants if it’s unsalted - just let it cool before you pour it on your plants.
Of course, by growing your own vegetables means you don’t have to transport them very far! So no fuel used, no packaging used, and they taste much better anyway.
At Reverse we only use garments made from organic cotton, in ethical working conditions. The inks used in the printing process are water based and the packaging we use is recycled. Bulk orders are despatched in the boxes that we receive the goods in when they come in to us, so negating the need for us to buy new boxes. We really believe in making the least impact on the environment we can.
Plastic Free July is designed to educate everyone to reduce the amount of plastic we use globally. Have a look at www.plasticfreejuly.org for loads of information to help you help the planet, whether it’s at school, home or work. The organisation truly is global and encourages us to make small changes in what we do, and therefore by joining together we can make a massive difference to the world. And hopefully, what you do in July will continue forever, making you think about the choices that you make for the rest of your life.
If you have any great tips to help the cause, please share them with us - we try to raise awareness of the issues in these blogs but we don’t know it all! We’re ready to learn so please help us.