Tania Uitto from Vancouver has a challenge - Can you live plastic free? A green advocate and self-confessed “hippy at heart”, Tania took a pledge to live, to the best of her ability, plastic free for one year. She tracked her experiences and gives tips and alternatives on plastic-free life on her Plastic Manners blog.
Because plastics are extremely resistant to the natural processes of degradation, they persist in our environment for hundreds, even thousands of years. “Think about that,” Uitto says. “Every piece of plastic you’ve consumed and discarded is still out there, and will be for 10 times your lifetime—or more.”
What about recycling? According to Uitto, plastic is actually not recyclable in the true sense of the word. “You can’t turn one plastic bottle into another plastic bottle,” she explains. “Plastic down-cycles at best, meaning it becomes lower-quality items, which will end up in the landfill anyway at some point.
The plastic strategy: Refuse, reduce, reuse, repair
So how can we help the situation? “Refuse, refuse, refuse,” says Uitto. “That’s first. Then, reduce, reuse and repair. Rethinking your use of plastic and refusing to bring any more into your life is the key.”
“You don’t have to start your plastic-refusing with the idea that you absolutely need to replace every item or fear losing out by going plastic free,” she adds. “Many of the convenience items, especially, that I’ve had to ‘give up,’ I didn’t actually need in the first place. I think we buy a lot of unnecessary stuff out of pure habit and because we’re told we ‘need’ it. But simplifying feels good. And finding alternatives has been really rewarding, especially when I’ve had to wake that little sleeping beauty inside called creativity.”
If you're interested in doing your own version of Taina's plastic-free diet, here are some suggestions on getting started.
Plastic challenge 1: Refuse and reduce plastic waste
1. Rethink your use of plastics. Remember that every plastic item ever created still exists, and ask if that disposable convenience is really worth it. That plastic granola wrapper, for example, will be on this planet for thousands of years—could you do without it, or make/find a better treat?
2. Recognize where all of the disposable plastic items in your life come from. What are your own bad plastic manners? What items are you buying out of habit? Are others constantly imposing plastics on you without notice?
3. Refuse single-use disposable plastics. Start with easy things: coffee lids, drinking straws, plastic bags, cutlery and wrapped muffins. Then move to “harder” things, sourcing one alternative at a time. Be creative, and visit Plastic Manners for tips and alternatives.
Plastic challenge 2: Take stock of your plastic habits
1. For one week, collect all the plastic you acquire. This means all the caps/lids, bags, wrappers, cans (yes, they are lined with plastic), bottles and containers etc. Be sure to follow your normal routine, and carry a big bag!
2. At the end of the week look at the trash you’ve accumulated. Remember, all this plastic will be on the planet forever. Ask yourself: Where is it coming from? What items did I not need in the first place? What items can I replace with a non-plastic/plastic-wrapped alternative? What items can I not live without? (Be realistic!) What items have no alternative?
3. Adjust your habits accordingly. Set ground rules for the things you plan to eliminate and goals for the things you plan to replace—just be sure to allow yourself time to find alternatives at your own pace.
TIP: Do this challenge with a group. At the end of the week, get together and compare your trash!
Plastic challenge 3: Take a plastic inventory
Your kitchen and bathroom—where most disposable plastics live—are the perfect places to start becoming more aware of your plastic habits:
1. Gather every item from these two rooms that’s plastic or has a plastic component—and we mean everything!
2. Make a big pile, stand back and take it all in. Remember, all this plastic will be on the planet forever. Ask yourself: Where is it coming from? What items did I not need in the first place? What items can I replace with a non-plastic/plastic-wrapped alternative? What items can I not live without? (Be realistic!) What items have no alternative?
3. Adjust your habits accordingly. Set ground rules for the things you plan to eliminate in the future—just be sure to allow yourself time to find alternatives at your own pace.
Good luck and spread the word! Challenge others to do these plastic exercises, too.