Tag Archives: The Story Of Plastic

Plastic Recycling Symbols

Have you ever looked at a plastic bottle and seen a triangle with number? Ever wondered what they mean?

Although, it would be better to try to avoid using plastic altogether, I thought it would be a good idea to put together a little guide to help.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET). What is it used for? – Soft drinks bottles, food packaging. This plastic is easy to recycle

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). What is it used for? – Milk cartons, cleaning products, yoghurt pots. This plastic is easy to recycle

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). What is it used for? Pipes, Electrical cables, insulation. This plastic is difficult to recycle.

Low-density polyethylene (LDPE). What is it used for? Shopping bags, wraps for magazines. It can be recycled…just about.

Polyethylene (PP). What is it used for? Butter and margarine tubs, food trays, carpet fibres. Easy to recycle.

Polystyrene (PS). What is it used for? Plastic cutlery, takeaway packaging, insulation. Difficult to recycle.

This is the ‘other’ category. This will include the other packaging that is incredibly difficult to recycle; crisp packets, salad bags

You may have noticed that the text for each of these are separated into three colours; Green, Orange and Red, this determines the ease or recycling that plastic.

Green – Recyclable

Orange – Recycled at specialist points

Red – Not easy to recycle and will most probably end up in landfill

One important aspect to bear in mind that if something is easy to recycle, this is more likely if it isn’t attached to a layer of another type of plastic. Mixing plastics comes with a new set of problems.

The best thing to do is to reduce the amount plastic you buy, where you can.

What I did for Plastic Free July 2020

On the run up to July 2020, I started noticing the hashtag #PlasticFreeJuly. For someone who has been making changes in an effort to reduce plastic use, I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of them before.

Based in Australia, Plastic Free July started in 2011 and have an amazing website offering a wealth of ideas of how you can reduce your plastic use at home, school, work, businesses and within local communities. If you’re stuck of ideas, check out their ‘What Others Do’ page for some fantastic inspiration.

In light of this, I decided to take on the #PlasticFreeJuly challenge. I started looking at what changes I could make to reduce my plastic use.

Fruit and Veg

Every Tuesday and Thursday, there is a fruit and veg stall and when I need something, I buy from the stall (#SupportLocal). When I used to buy fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, I found it frustrating that the only options available to me was pre-packaged and, in most cases, more than what I needed. At least buying from a stall, I can buy what I needed. However, the downside I found was that they offer to package your items in a plastic carrier bag. Nope, not for me. I have a small bag that I leave in my bag I only use for loose food. I also started growing my own strawberries at home so no need to buy them.

Tea Bags

I’m a tea-loving Brit and after the shock of discovering that some teabags contain micro plastics, the thought of little bits of plastic swimming around in my tea made me feel a little queasy. In light of this new information, a solution was urgently needed. After some research, it turns out that there are some brands who advertise their products don’t contain plastic but one thing I’ve been aware of in the past, not necessarily by tea bag brands, is that when a company changes something about their product, they aren’t always as vocal or transparent as they should be about the changes. I guess, as a consumer, I’m not that trusting. Therefore, I found a place that sells loose tea. I had to buy a tea infuser and using loose tea did take a bit of getting used to but I don’t notice it anymore.

Waxing

I’ve been waxing since my teens and I’ve always used wax strips available in shops, yes, that ones that can’t be recycled. So, I decided to convert to sugar waxing, however, I don’t think I use sugar waxing how it was intended. I appears that you should roll up a ball, smooth it on your skin and pull it off quickly, I found that hurts WAY TOO MUCH. I quickly realised that I needed strips of some sort so I cut up a cotton shirt my partner no longer needed into strips and used them instead. I’m not going to lie, it still hurts but I don’t feel like my skin is being ripped off like shop bought wax strips and it’s made of natural ingredients; sugar, lemon, salt and water. It’s a lot cheaper too, to wax both of my legs cost me eighty pence. Bargain and nothing to landfill!

I’m really happy about the changes I’ve made so far and I won’t be waiting until next July to make more changes, I will continue to do so until I can reduce my plastic use as much as I possibly can. What changes did you make for #PlasticFreeJuly?

Our Plastic Problem

A few months ago, I watched a film on The Discovery Channel which made me feel very sad. It was aired on Earth Day 22nd April 2020 called The Story of Plastic.

We are familiar with images of where plastic ends up; in rivers, on landfill, in the oceans and wrapped around sea life, but it’s not often we see where it comes from.

One thing that was very striking to me was that a lot of leftover plastic used by richer countries are shipped to the poorer countries to deal with, we are looking at them to sort out our mess without taking ownership of our own rubbish. I was acutely aware of the rubbish being sent to Asian countries but I wasn’t aware of how much. Recently, China have said they don’t want anymore and the problem has been dumped onto other smaller nations in the region.

These plastics are shipped off to Asian countries and end up polluting their waterways endangering wildlife and drinking water or burned in incinerators which brings a whole host of health implications to local residents; shorter life expectancy, skin conditions and respiratory conditions to name but a few. Imagine living next to an incinerator?

It appears the producers of plastics are shifting the blame onto the consumers because we are not disposing of them correctly. By shifting the blame onto the consumer, it eliminates the company’s ownership of the plastic problem ‘I didn’t use it, not my problem’. According to the film, 14% of plastics are recycled and a mere 2% is recycled effectively, which means it’s recycled into something as usual as it previously was. What we’re not being told is that majority of plastic degrades and cannot be reused into something useful second time around.

The film also focused on the source. As 99% of all plastic is from fossil fuels, the corporations behind plastics are the same who drill of oil and gas; Shell, Exxon and others. Due to some of their extraction plants being located in or close to residential areas, the impact on the health of local residents are almost inevitable.

Who is to blame?

I don’t know if it’s constructive to assign blame because they are both reliant on each other; these companies produce the products and we consume them. If one side changes, the other side will have no option but to change. This brings us to the introduction of the UK’s plastic bag charge. A 5 pence levy was introduced in October 2015 and on 31st March 2020, parliament released a report stating sales of carrier bags in major supermarkets have dropped 87%. Could this have happened without parliament introducing a levy? I don’t think so. As we all know, if there is going to be any kind of substantial change, it really needs to come from government. In April 2020, the Evening Standard reported the UK government decided to postpone the ban on single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers from April to October

A Defra spokesperson said:

Given the huge challenges posed to businesses by coronavirus, we have confirmed we will delay the introduction of our ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds until October 2020.

We remain absolutely committed to turning the tide on the widespread use of single-use plastics and the threat they pose to our natural environment. This ban is yet another measure to clamp down on unnecessary plastic so we can better protect our precious wildlife and leave our environment in a better state for future generations.

 Does it sound like there’s more to this?

Why are companies not made to deal with the problem?

One of the most frustrating things I keep asking myself is why aren’t companies like Procter and Gamble, Unilever and Nestle (the three companies singled out in the film) aren’t being forced to find a solution to this. Surely we need to stop waste from entering the system in the first place, I don’t think recycling is really the answer. The film talks from the point of view from United States but I’m interested in the point of view for the United Kingdom.

The decisions made locally have an impact globally.

How can we live plastic free?

This thought kept cropping up for me throughout this film; how can we live plastic free? Is it even possible? Without realising, we have become so used to plastic that we use it everyday. If you look around your home, I bet it wouldn’t take long before you find something that is made out of plastic, this is worse in bathrooms and kitchens.

Can the plastic container be repurposed?

Ways to ditch the plastic

In 2018, Prime minister at the time, Theresa May, pledged to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. This was their commitment to the environment for the next 25 years.

First thing that comes to mind is why does it take 25 years? The plastic problem is happening now and a solution is needed now.

What are you doing to reduce your plastic? 

The Story of Plastic

The Story of Plastic was aired in the UK on Earth Day 22nd April 2020. I found the film to be incredibly moving giving us the story of not just where plastic ends up but also where it begins.

Since the 1950s, plastic was seen as an incredible invention with multiple uses and since then it has weaved itself into every aspect of our lives. We are starting to discover the true cost of this material that never actually goes away.

We have been encouraged to separate our rubbish and ensure we recycle as much as we possibly can. As well as metals, glass and paper, we put our plastic in our recycling bins in good faith believing it is being taken away and something useful is made from it, after all, that’s what the word recycle means, doesn’t it? This film shows us what happens to our plastic once it has been collected from our bins.

The focus at the start of the plastic journey was a plastic processioning plant in Texas, USA, where toxic chemicals are released into the local water and air. Tiny plastic pellets end up into local rivers and will eventually be ingested by local marine life which will inevitably enter the food chain. The cancer rates and health issues in the local areas are shockingly high; child leukemia, infertility and respiratory issues.

What I found shocking was that a product sold in a European country displays that it is recyclable but the same product sold in an Asian country in sachets which cannot be recycled. Decisions made in these boardrooms are adding to the plastic problem faced in Asia and companies should be responsible for installing the necessary waste infrastructure.

What is plastic recycling?

The film shows plastic sorted from India and the Philippines discussing the issues faced when it comes to recycling. One point that struck me was that the whole recycling industry is only possible because there is poverty in the world, who else will do it? Most of the plastic from the West is shipped to Asian countries to deal with and it is hand sorted. Unlike other materials, there are around 80 different categories plastic falls into and therefore the sorting process is a time-consuming one.

When a plastic is sorted and can be ‘recycled’, it is washed, melted down and chopped into plastic pellets; the dirty water used to clean the plastic is dumped into a local waterway leading to pollution, the melting process emits harmful chemicals to the workers, who do not have any protective clothing. Incinerators come with their own set of problems too; skin rashes, increase in cancer rates and other health issues.

It turns out that plastic recycling is a myth.

Who does the buck stop with?

Fossil fuel companies have aired their concerns about the pollution caused by plastic but they seem to prefer shifting the blame onto consumers rather than admitting their products are ill-designed. The film shows that these companies aim their products towards the Asian market flooding them with single-use plastics forcing them to be reliant on these products while hiding behind the excuse of a rise in demand.

I would highly recommend everyone watching this film. The plastic issue is everyone’s problem, not just Asian countries (where the west are dumping their plastic).

If you’re interested in this eye-opening film, click below for the trailer