“How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew what was happening to the world and did nothing.”
Let me introduce you to Scottie, my trusty plastic bag.
Yes I do have one. We met in Scotland during my ridiculous winter cycle tour (Watch it here) and I have been carrying it around since.
It was December 2014.
Why am I telling you this?
“Around the world, one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. In total, half of all plastic produced is designed to be used only once — and then thrown away.
Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s. Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled. About 12% has been incinerated, while the rest — 79% — has accumulated in landfills, dumps or the natural environment.
If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.1”
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world, located between Hawaii and California, has now reached an area of 1.6 million Km2, which is to say 3 times the size of France.
Pretty daunting, wouldn’t you agree?
And the main reason behind the overwhelming scale of this phenomenon is our natural predisposition to the convenient, the accessible and the easy. In one word laziness.
For four years Scottie has been my daily reminder that yes we can all do something about it and that with a little effort we can change our attitude.
But how exactly can we accomplish that?
Here is a humble list of ten things I do to fight my battle (so I can save the planet and be a super hero).
1. When I go shopping, I carry my lightweight backpack and a couple of small “veggie bags” in case I need to put fruit or vegetables that might stain or fill my bag with soil.
2. If I do end up with a plastic bag, I will use it and re-use it until there is nothing left of it.
3. I do not buy bin bags. I get offered plastic bags at every corner, why would I buy another one?!?
4. I don’t drink coffee or tea from either paper or plastic cups. If I cannot sit down for 5min then I clearly don’t have time for a coffee.
5. One night, sitting in a bar, I was presented with a bottle of beer with a plastic straw inside. A beer with a straw?!?! Who the hell drinks beer from a straw?!? Has the world gone completely insane?
NO PLASTIC STRAWS!!! It’s the silliest invention of all.
6. If I go to a take away restaurant I carry my own tupperware (I know, you should see their faces…). I have seen thousands of styrofoam food boxes floating in the Caribbean Sea. The mere sight of one makes me feel sick.
7. I don’t accept plastic cutlery, I carry my own trusty spork. It’s made of titanium and it weights 20g, less than a pack of nose tissues.
8. I do not buy bottled water. It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade. Think about it when you are about to buy one.
I have my own bottle which I fill up using a filter.
The filter is small and it costs 30 euros.
I am constantly travelling, if I had to buy bottled water the only practical solution would be to buy 0.5l plastic bottles. I drink on average 1.5l a day. That is 1095 bottles a year. Now stop reading for a second and try to picture 1095 plastic bottles in the room you are in. Exactly. And that is just one person in one year.
9. I do not buy fruit (or vegetables) wrapped in plastic. Fruit comes with its own protective skin for goodness sake!!
10. “Buy local, buy fresh” is my motto. When I buy at the local farmers market I don’t get things wrapped in plastic, food tastes better, it travels less so it has a smaller carbon footprint and I contribute to the local economy. What’s not to like?
This clearly insn’t an exhausting list and there is more that can be done. But it is a start. Please feel free to add in the comments section and suggests your own methods of fighting plastic waste.
Here is a short list of some of the most horrible aberrations I have seen around:
– disposable plastic gloves to eat chips and chicken wings
– plastic sticks to stir coffe
– plastic straws (let’s reiterate, shall we?)
– four apples siting on a styrofoam plate wrapped in plastic
– pre-cut cheese slices with plastic sheets in between each and every slice
– plastic coffee capsules wrapped in plastic sleeves and boxed in plastic-coated paper
If we keep burying our heads in the sand on this one we will probably end up finding plastic there too.
But don’t take my word for it. Have a listen at what scientists from around the world have to say about the subject in this touching video from the BBC award winning series Blue Planet II.
“Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet. The future of humanity, and indeed all life on Earth, now depends on us.”