Day 7: By 2050, the volume of plastics in the ocean could be greater than the volume of fish. How would we like to chew on that?

So, day 7! The last day official day of my personal plastic challenge, it certainly has been a challenge.

I don’t like to think of this as the last day, as the things I’ve been opened to this week have really changed my perception of the scale of the plastic problem. To put it simply, I’ve realised just how prolific plastic is in our lives. Not only this, but how hard it is to wean yourself off all of the things we’ve come to love (often your treats and sweets) which are just as hard to kick the habit of. They’re a bit of a dangerous pair.

At the start of the week, I felt quite proud of my healthy looking trolley! I felt that removing single-use, non-recyclable plastics was synonymous with a healthier lifestyle. I’ll admit I’ve slipped up at times, from straws to just needing a little pick me up of chocolate with the stress of packing and prepping for Tanzania tomorrow.

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I know that everything I bought won’t be completely plastic-free. Behind the scenes at the supermarkets, things may be first wrapped in even more plastic before hitting the shelves, and those Tetra Pack and cardboard cartons still have those plastic spouts on top whose recyclability I’m not sure of. Most of our favourite dairy goods are off-bounds in this light. Perhaps it’s been a bit of a re-discovery of more of the diet we’re meant to have…

What’s the way forward?

Sweden have pipped to the front of the food label innovations to go plastic-free on some fruit and veg using laser branding technology. So far they have saved 135 miles of plastic a year for their organic avocado range alone, our M&S in the UK have done the same for coconuts.

We aren’t alone in our call for a less plastic-y supermarket shop – a recent Telegraph article shared the campaigns of the organisation A Plastic Planet who will be lobbying supermarkets to sell a range of foods in biodegradable plastic packaging (I hope it comes with the appropriate disposal instructions) with their ‘A Plastic-Free Isle’.

A Plastic Planet’s upcoming campaigns with supermarkets are related to their feature length documentary, A Plastic Ocean, released in the UK this week. This documentary which has been 4 years in the making, features familiar activists like Sir David Attenborough and Ben Fogle and highlights the absolute necessity and urgency with which we need to address our shared ocean plastic problem. The Guardian shared an article just 3 days ago on the huge problems we have with plastics in our oceans…and then us humans eating it. A Report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that by 2050, the volume of plastics in the ocean could be greater than the volume of fish. How would we like to chew on that?

Some things that surprised me were that even when you are trying to buy consciously with plastic for the goods inside, it can be the packaging that lets you down…a bit like my face wipes revelation. I get so infuriated receiving post which is wrapped like some sort of concentric castle in layers and layers of plastic defences. It’s just not necessary. In saying that, some of my favourite things I’ve learned this week have been about recycling our stretchy plastics (bread is BACK!), and also gaining a better understanding of how biodegradable plastics work.

Our busy, fast-paced lifestyles mean that plastic has become the go-to equally convenient material of choice. From taking off your make-up, to eating food on the go. I’ve taken a few more opportunities this week (albeit currently not in work), to take some time out at a slower pace and give myself a break from my usual running around. Fight the rush!

Some things I’d like to have looked into if I had more time, were:

  • The amount of plastics that go into eating food at a restaurant, comparing supermarkets on their ‘plastic performance’
  • If we can create a social media campaign to go plastic-free in packaging materials we receive our online orders in
  • Sending questions to retailers/manufacturers about their packaging on social media
  • Developing some plastic-free recipes for easy dinners, cakes and snacks

It’s not a passing of the baton, but more of a join me in the march (cue picture of hundreds of vikings holding batons at the Up Helly Aa festival).

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I hope you’ve enjoyed following my challenge, and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has tuned in, supported, asked questions, given ideas and shared their own tips. I hope you have been able to find to easy ways to get involved in the plastic fight, and learnt something new along the way 🙂

Thanks for following my challenge, I hope to join you’ll join me on the continuing journey.

What can I do to get involved? Top tips:

  • If you want to see (or congratulate) a change, write it down, stamp it and send it in the post (or email, tweet or instagram..) – write to manufacturers, supermarkets, restaurants, tourist attractions if you like, or don’t like something they’re doing. Social media means you can get other people to show their support easily. If you write an email/letter, you might like to share the text with friends so they can show their support that way too.
  • Write to your local MP if you want to change your local recycling facilities, or how businesses operate – Oxford was the first city in the UK to ban non-recyclable food containers for street vendors. Perhaps you can encourage you local MP to do the same.
  • Organise a local showing of A Plastic Ocean – it’ll be a good way to raise awareness of the issue (schools, clubs, societies, community halls…), good for your CV if you want more experience, and can be a good way to create a local (or international!) movement. See here to see how to organise in the UK.
  • Organise a group ‘Plastic Free July‘ with friends and family

…and other top tips from the week:

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