Plastic reduction in my own little world has gone well this week. I have spent less than normal. In part because I am using up food wrapped in plastic in the freezer, but much because of truly making everything from scratch and predominantly vegetarian. My one fail this week is because I started dying my hair in August and I did buy a kit that contained three plastic bottles. I need to look where I can buy henna in different packaging. My one new eco purchase this week was laundry detergent. These strips have proven as effective as my previous detergent and not expensive at all, although a box of powder would work just as well too.
I love DIY and finding ways to reuse what I have to solve problems. As I mentioned last week, I have started to use baking soda to wash dishes with (by hand as I don’t have a dishwasher, and wanted to find a receptacle to keep the soda in by my sink. Tada, I found this old ceramic tea strainer one of 95% of my kitchenware which was gifted by friends and colleagues when I moved into my place three years ago. This works perfectly to sprinkle onto dishes and doesn’t go lumpy as I thought it might.
And here’s a bit of food porn from the farmer’s market and a couple of dishes this week.
I love how empty my recycling bag has been these past two weeks, but recycling can only go so far. Even in rich countries, recycling rates are low. Globally, 18 % of all plastic is recycled. Europe manages 30 %, China 25%—the United States only 9%. Part of the solution is to use less disposable plastic in the first place. The “zero waste” movement, which dates to the mid-1990s, is gaining favor. Hundreds of communities worldwide are embracing it—including the downtrodden industrial town of Roubaix, France, where the success of a citizens’ campaign shows that zero waste is more than an affectation of wealthy liberals.
Does my not using plastic straws make any difference faced with the global problem? I think it can. As communities act to ban single-use plastics and individual consumers reduce their usage and raise concerns, bigger actors pay attention. On other issues, like overfishing or deforestation, we have seen that big companies like McDonalds and Walmart can be sensitive to the concerns of their customers. Those global companies can be important levers in driving change and shifting to a regenerative, circular economy. Our little part can cumulatively up the pressure on these companies.
Individuals and communities thus can and should reduce their plastic usage but nothing substantial will happen really until government legislates that manufacturers be responsible for their own byproducts, they don’t generally pay their fair share in tax either. There are rays of hope on local and national levels:
- SEATTLE BECOMES FIRST U.S. CITY TO BAN PLASTIC STRAWS AND UTENSILS – July 1, 2018
- STARBUCKS TO DITCH PLASTICS STRAWS by 2020
- CALIFORNIA BANS TRAVEL-SIZE PLASTIC SHAMPOO BOTTLES FROM HOTELS – to take effect for large hotels in 2023
- in 2016 FRANCE BECAME FIRST COUNTRY TO BAN DISPOSABLE PLATES AND CUPS – new French law will require all disposable tableware to be made from 50% biologically-sourced materials that can be composted at home by January of 2020.
- NORWAY RECOVERS 97% OF ITS PLASTIC BOTTLES – Its trick: deposits as high as 2.5 kroner (32 cents) and machines, found at most supermarkets, that ingest bottles and spit out refunds.
Bans go way beyond recycling and tackle the issues at the source, helping to curb greenhouse gases coming from the rapidly expanding petrochemical industry that uses fossil fuels to produce plastic. In all my reading on the subject, I am convinced by far the greatest change to reducing the global plastic pollution crisis is if governments implement sweeping national policies that restrict plastic use and hold manufacturers accountable for responsibly handling waste. In the USA, Congress must pass legislation that would hold corporations accountable for handling plastic waste at the end of its life.
We can support initiatives like the 2018 Save Our Seas Act, but I need to do much more research on how I can become involved in groups pressurizing the government for change. I hope more to come in my next post when I will look more at how plastic has become environmental enemy #1 in a very short time and why.