Plastic and plastic waste has fast become a global environmental problem having adverse effects on wildlife and humans. The ‘catch 22’ with plastics is that they are inexpensive and durable, however, they take a long time to degrade, with a plastic bottle taking, on average, 450 years. The cause and effect of the ever-growing plastic industry has resulted in mass plastic pollution since the post war era. A study performed by the University of California found that of 9.1 billion tons of plastic produced since 1950, around 7 billion are no longer in use. What about recycling you may ask? Well, from that same study, only 9% got recycled over those years and 12% incinerated, that left around 5.5 billion tons polluting the oceans and land, most of which contributing to what you may have heard of, The North Pacific garbage patch estimating 700,000 square kilometres in size (about the size of Texas).
More than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed each year in the UK alone, with only 24% estimated to be recycled. The remaining 3.8 million tonnes are sent to landfill, which inevitably finds its way into the surrounding and wider environment. Studies have suggested that around 90% of sea birds are found to have plastic debris in their stomachs which often results in death if not treated.
While plastic pollution has been a known growing problem over the years, it has not been such common knowledge among the public until Sir David Attenborough emphasized the damaged through one his popular
documentaries Blue Planet 2. It not only opened our eyes to the extent of how bad plastic pollution has become, it also influenced and inspired not only us as consumers, but it also politicians, companies and even the Queen, who banned all plastic straws and bottles from all Royal estates. Bars and restaurants have been seen to stop supplying plastic straws to customers, the Mayor of London has implemented a ‘free water scheme’ in a bid to reduce plastic waste, with over 65 businesses trialling it whilst encouraging more businesses and shops to do the same. Coffee giant Starbucks has also launched a competition to develop a fully biodegradable takeaway cup, with the winner taking home $10 million.
More and more people are taking the initiative to reduce their plastic footprint from recycling more, making their own beauty and cleaning products to even opening their own ‘waste free’ shops. These shops, which some people call ‘hippyish’ and ‘trendy’, were once the norm to our grandparents, great grandparents and the generations before them. We are simply utilising the knowledge of our ancestors and putting our own modern twist on it.
So after learning about how our everyday plastic lives are slowly killing us and the surrounding environment, I decided to look further into how I, as an individual, could #ditchplastic. At first, I thought it would be impossible since just about everything we buy comes in a plastic wrapper, but that is precisely the first place to look and change. These ‘waste free’ shops are proving popular and are appearing more in Europe, the UK and the US, from Berlin to New York, Vienna to London and now Bristol has its first waste free shop – ZERO GREEN. While this comes as no surprise since Bristol is a vibrant city, accommodating a wide variety of vibrant people, one could almost ask why it hadn’t appeared sooner.
Located on North Street, Bedminster, Zero Green opened their doors at the end of February 2018. The shop offers a range of products from cereal, flours and pastas to toothpaste, soaps and deodorant there is also a selection of oils and laundry detergent. The staff are super friendly and helpful as well as eager to assist you in how the system works whereby you bring your own containers, weight them first, choose your product/s then weigh the containers/s again to determine the actual weight of your product, then finish off by paying for the weight.
It is often thought that a ‘hipster’ shop like this would be targeted to the ‘middle class’ person, earning a ‘middle class’ salary, however, I found their prices to be fairly reasonable and that is coming from someone who is a full-time student on a very part time job budget. Adults have compared themselves to kids in a sweet shop as there is just so much to look and wonder at, with the older generations commenting on how this is what shopping used to be like.
It comes down to us, the consumer, to make the change we want to see and to leave clean environment for future generations to come, because without it, we as a species simply cannot survive. I have been asked many times about ways to cut out or reduce our plastic usage and I am more than happy to hand over advice, although, there is an abundance of resources on the internet to help you learn and educate yourself and start the transformation in living a plastic free life. Granted, I know, this is not always easy, but it is most definitely possible. By making small changes, together, we make a much larger impact.
This is just a sample of resources I found to help you #ditchplastic.
https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/ - great for ideas on how to go plastic free.
Simply Co founder, https://thesimplyco.com/ Lauren Singer, first inspired me to believe it is possible to live a plastic free life as she only accumulated a jar full of waste over 4 years! That is all! Amazing! She has also opened her own waste free shop, albeit across the pond in New York, I find her blog a great source for tips and handy tricks in reducing waste.
Keynsham Plastic Re-Action – A group of people who get together once a month to talk about environmental issues in Keynsham. I have recently joined this group and I feel I want to make more of an impact than just recycling every week. They recently made the news for arranging a ‘Plastic Attack’ at a Tesco in Keynsham, whereby they buy their groceries as usual but at the end, they strip all the products of their wrappers and hand it over to the supermarket to dispose of themselves. They bring their own containers and bags to take the goods home. Most of the time the shops are compliant and helpful. This is such an empowering way to make our voices heard and tell these big companies that we no longer want plastic in our shops. But you don’t have to wait for an event to join in on, you can do this yourself at any shop you go to. Granted it may be daunting, but generally the shop assistants are happy to help.