Inspired by Plastic Free July to go plastic-free for good

31 July 2013
Plastic Free July comes to an end tomorrow and I learnt new habits, sad facts, saved money, ate healthier food, reduces my exposure to toxic chemicals.

While this challenge only lasts a month, I have decided to take the challenge further. My aim is to create a life that is less plastic and this little space on the internet is where I will share what I have learnt. I never envisioned watching one movie would lead me to taking a plastic-free challenge that would then go beyond the 31 days of July.

I originally thought i used next to no single-use plastics. Well this challenge proved me so very wrong! In the first week my dilemma bag was full of straws, bags, coffee cup lids from my chai.

Here is a round up of why I'm going to continue this plastic free challenge beyond July.

Wildlife / Eight million metric tons of our plastic waste enter the oceans from land each year. It migrates through our creeks, rivers, beaches and storm water run off, through different circumstances. Ocean currents take the plastic to gyres, creating large areas of concentrated plastic in our oceans. During the plastics movement, marine animals becoming tangled init pollution and are mistaking it for food. Albatross on the Midway Atoll are dying of starvation due to the heavy amount of plastic pollution found in traditional feeding areas. Here in Australia, vast quantities on turtles are dying due to the ingestion of plastic bags.

Environment / From extraction to production, the manufacturing of plastic has a heavy impact on the environment, polluting air, soil and ground water. It requires the use of fossil fuels, oil and gas, both of which are non renewable resources. The pollution from fossil fuels contributes to 19,000 deaths every day. Then there is the resources, waste and danger associated with shipping nurdles (plastic pellets before they become a single us plastic spoon) around the world. Once plastic is used and disposed of, it does not completely breakdown.

Unlike organic matter nothing plastic is returned to the soil for nourishment, food or life. It will sit around clogging up landfill or end up in our rivers, oceans, forests and deserts, releasing chemicals into the environment. Plastic is disturbing the natural environment everywhere.

Plastic can break apart, becoming microscopic particles known as micro plastics. They act as magnets for other harmful toxins like DDT. Scientists are seeing these micro plastics entering our food chain, being found in fish, honey, beer and salt.

Potentially harmful chemicals / Bisphenol A (BPA), Bisphenol F (BPF), Bisphenol S (BPS), Phthalates, Vinyl Chloride, Dioxin, Styrene; the list of the chemical compounds found in plastic that could cause reproductive and brain development, asthma, obesity, diabetes and cancer did not sit comfortably with me and I was left wondering; did I really need these chemicals in my life? Was the uncertainty of these chemicals worth the risk? The answer was no. I understood that some plastics have become necessary in our lives. For instance in medicine and transport. But much of the plastic I was using, exposed me to these potentially harmful chemicals, could be avoided.

People / The environment surrounding the factory is not the only living thing absorbing toxins. Factory workers and their families are under threat too. My role as a mindless consumer encouraged corporations creating the plastics to continue taking advantage of “uneducated" communities. My purchases were part of the chain that promoted endangering a persons health due to lax environmental laws and unfair working environments propped up by systemic racism. Then were is the the environmental racism and social justice of plastic production, recycling and other methods of disposing. The more I read the more I realise how colonist practices really screw over non-white people. So while I'm learning about this I'm also looking at how my own life has attributed to this and what I can do to make changes in the future. 

Recycling is a bandaid / I used to think that recycling would solve our environmental issues that greenies were always going on about. I was a lazy recycler, meaning many items that ended up in my recycling bin, were put in there under the guise that someone on the other end would figure out for me if it was truly recyclable. I quickly realised that recycling in the not the solution. While our recycling levels have increased, so has our consumption. How much we consume is the issue and recycling does nothing to curb it. 

There is no away / Our rubbish that is put out on the street moves away from our lives, but does not go away. Because there is no away. It's merely transported to the outskirts of our cities, taking up valuable agricultural land, to sit around for eons, never truly breaking down. All the single use plastic, and frankly, everything else we toss into bins will be left around for the next generation to deal with.

They were just some of the issues I discovered. After Plastic Free July had ended, armed with information on the disruptive nature of plastic, plus seeing improvements in my life, I've decided to quit plastic for good. I'm not anti plastic, only anti its misuse. Plastic has been beneficial in health care and transport. But pasta packaged in plastic, maybe not? 

I came across this clip of Jack Johnson singing about single-use plastic. It's kinda funny because I've been a big fan of his for years and years...but never properly 'understood' his love for the environment. I respected it but was no part of it. I guess we all have to find our way to our own light bulb moments. Maybe this clip will be yours...

I can't wait to share about my new life without plastic. It sure will be an interesting journey. Gosh, I wonder what my boyfriend is going to think! Maybe we'll start with a reusable coffee cup for him. 
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