Can you cut 1 Tonne of carbon pollution out of your life?Take the challenge
Every single piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists!
If you've ever been the guilty owner of a slowly growing pile of plastic bags, or scowl when you can't find the recycle triangle logo on an empty food container, or just been alarmed by one of the many reports that have come in recent years about the state of our oceans…you may have wondered about what impact all this plastic abundance is having on our planet.
The bad news: every single piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists.
Latest figures estimate that there are 5 trillion individual pieces of plastic floating around in our oceans right now, with around 8 million tonnes being added to the system every year. Plastic takes hundreds of years to break down, and along the way will degrade into smaller and smaller pieces called 'microplastics', a material that has lately been working its way into the food chain.
As well as the toxins that these plastic fragments bring with them, a terrifying number of birds and marine life are dying from entanglement in marine debris and from plastic pieces clogging up their digestive systems, causing a slow death by starvation.
The good news: there is something we can do.
Humans have lived without plastic for most of our history and we're certainly innovative enough to find new solutions, better products and new habits that can help us kick the plastic habit for good.
But where to start? Any quick visit to a supermarket, hardware store or takeaway restaurant is a stark reminder of just how prevalent plastic is – how can we negotiate a plastic free path through such a saturated environment?
A great first step is to sign up to the Plastic Free July (PFJ) challenge. PFJ is an Australian initiative that asks people try a day, week or whole month without plastic – either by seeking alternatives for a few key items (water bottles, plastic bags, straws, takeaway containers) or going cold turkey on everything single use.
The idea of going completely plastic free might come across as a bit extreme, but the PFJ initiative is a great exercise in paying real attention to how this stuff is coming in to our lives, and thinking about what changing this might mean for us. The convenience of plastic is understandably appealing; many of us are juggling work, a family and daily chores, which doesn't always leave a lot of time for planning our conscious consumerism and fighting the status quo! If you decide to take up the challenge, expect to be asking yourself a lot of questions, getting a reality check with plastic abundance and spending a bunch of time researching alternatives to many of the products you use daily.
On the plus side, you'll probably be eating a whole lot healthier (you won't find too many highly processed foods that don't come plastic wrapped), getting to know local producers and sparking up conversations with a lot of strangers.
If this is your first Plastic Free July challenge – welcome! It won't be easy, but it will be an eye-opener and may very well change your future consumption habits for good. Head on over to the Plastic Free July sign-up page, where you'll get lots of tips and tricks to help you through the month.
Be part of the transition to a plastic-light life!