I had never really considered how much plastic we used as a family until we started our travelling adventure over a year ago. Living a life on the move, where you are packing your belongings up every few weeks challenges you to consider what really is essential. I admit I am a sucker for creams, potions and lotions but when you are constantly on the move you can't really carry the contents of your bathroom cabinet with you or maybe you can but it isn't really practical! Even now without a permanent abode we are carrying about five very large wash bags full to the brim of mainly plastic bottles, containing various creams, shampoos, toothpastes etc. Of course once they are empty, we will take our usual measures to recycle them but what if we hadn't even bought them in the first place?
Then, whilst living on the Cape Peninsula in South Africa my mind opened up significantly to the effect of our plastic usage. It became evident how focused local coastal communities are on keeping their beaches plastic free, arranging regular beach clean ups to collect the masses of plastic that washes up on these otherwise pristine and beautiful beaches. In a country where the natural beauty around you is so utterly breathtaking you simply have to do all you can to keep that landscape intact. It became evident that there was a new wave of innovative thinking around the plastic solution. Here are just a few of the many clever solutions we witnessed. The Owl Rescue Centre (@OwlRescueCentre) are recycling plastic water bottles to make owl enclosures, they collect all plastic bottles and plastic containers including the caps and have nationwide drop off points. The plastic is chopped down and melted before being moulded to manufacture conservation products like Owl & Bat Houses & Bee Hives.
Next I came across eco-bricking - for those like me who didn't know, an eco brick is a plastic bottle packed tightly with non-biological dry waste (think crisp packets and plastic bags) to make a re-useable building block. Ecobricks turn rubbish into a highly insulating, durable, affordable, building material and are used to build all sorts of things from furniture, garden spaces, walls and even buildings such as schools. Again there are nationwide Ecobrick Exchanges where people can take their homemade eco bricks which then go on to be used for the construction of various projects often in deprived areas.
It was also in South Africa where I came across the concept of making clothing from recycled plastic bottles. I discovered Spiritgirl Activewear (available to purchase @raphaeldukestore), the leggings are made from fabric manufactured using recycled plastic bottles. The process is complicated, firstly the bottles are washed, crushed and chopped into flakes. The flakes are then melted and made into pellets before being heated and treated several times where finally they are pressed into fabric.
The usage of plastic straws was totally frowned upon in the Cape Peninsula with either paper or bamboo straws offered as alternatives. We all know how much kids love straws but just looking at the UK for example, eight-and-a-half billion straws are thrown away each year. The government is finally now looking at introducing a ban on these, together with plastic cotton buds some time next year. Plastic cotton buds are being flushed down toilets, passing through water filter systems which then end up being eaten by fish.
Recently and rightly so, there has been much world-wide press focus on the effect that plastic is having on our oceans, on our planet. So the question here is two fold, above are just some of the innovations and ways to recycle and reuse the plastic that we already have in consumption, it is not to encourage the production of more plastic but these measures and hundreds of others are all helping to protect our planet whilst we work out a way of reducing plastic out of our lives.
The second part is what can we do on a daily basis to work towards reducing plastic from our lives? Can we actually try to live plastic free I find myself wondering?! It seems like a huge feat, where do we start? Surely we all want to protect our environment as much as possible, for our sake and the sake of our children. Well, it just so happens that I have found the perfect guide to give me the kick start I need and what's more we can all do it together week by week, a little at a time until actually we realise that it isn't so hard after all. We just need to alter our way of thinking, plan a little better (I need to do that anyway) and how much better will we all feel to be doing something so worth while.
I urge anyone reading this blog to read the Plastic Free Parent Challenge on Emma Ross's Mamalina (@mamalinauk ) website, of course you don't need to be a parent to give it a go although obviously not all sections will be relevant to you! Emma writes a blog about motherhood, sustainability, travel, veggie food, yoga and together with Plastic Free Me (@plasticfreemeorg) they have devised an amazing guide, split over four weeks starting on Monday 4th June, each week focuses on a different area of parenting life. For example, week 1 looks at Meal Times, with food and drink as we know being one of the worst contributors for unnecessary packaging. I dread to think how much of it we have purchased over the years and so now it is time for us as a family to make a change, a more concerted effort. Starting next Monday, actually no, starting now we will endeavour to omit as much plastic as possible from our daily lives!
Link below to Mamalina's Blog where you can download the full Plastic Free guide full of hints, tips and suggestions to help you on your way:
Go on, join us and give it a go!
Thanks to Mamalina and Plastic Free Me for allowing me to share this guide.
Other Useful Links: