The terms ‘plastic free’ gets used a lot by some people, and, plastic free living along with challenges like Plastic Free July are seemingly becoming more common.
But, what is a realistic way to define plastic free, or make it part of your own lifestyle?
We provide some unique context on these things in this guide (from our perspective, and not necessarily what you might read or see in other plastic free guides), and also provide some tips on how the average person might go ‘plastic free’ in a more practical way.
If You Live In A Modern City Or Location, It’s Virtually Impossible Not To Use Plastics
Unless you live a more isolated or custom built life away from most of modern civilisation, and you don’t often travel, the odds are good that you aren’t living 100% plastic free.
The reality of modern living is that plastics exist almost everywhere.
We all use them both directly and indirectly almost daily … consider comprehensive answers to these questions:
- What are all of the pipes in your house, or under the pavements and roads made of?
- What are all the materials in your car made of, or the bus/train/tram/plane you use to get around?
- What are all the materials made of that are required for the energy equipment and cables that supply you with electricity?
Something people may not know, is that plastic bags (according to one recent Danish study), are better as carrier bags across a range of environmental and human toxicity indicators when considering production and waste disposal, compared to paper, cotton, organic cotton, and composite (including jute, PP and cotton) bags. This study did not take into account the impact of plastic litter, and various other indicators or factors like economic impact, but you get the picture … plastic isn’t always the villain it’s made out to be. Plastic has it’s pros and cons like anything.
Back to the topic of this guide … living ‘plastic free’ or participating in a plastic free challenge almost certainly means you are still going to be using some plastics, directly or indirectly.
What you might focus on instead is reducing or eliminating the use of plastics that are potentially or clearly more problematic or harmful.
Problematic &/Or Harmful Plastics
They may include:
- Commonly Littered Plastics, Or Plastics Commonly Found During Volunteer Waste Cleanups
- High Waste Plastic, & Plastic With Short ‘In-Use’ Lifetime
- Non Recyclable Plastic
- Plastics That Take The Longest To Break Down & Degrade
- Plastics That Might Leach Chemicals, Or Are Made With Potentially Problematic Additives & Substances
- Plastic Most Prevalent In Land Pollution
- Plastic Most Prevalent In Ocean Pollution
How You Might Change Your Plastic Footprint – Tips For A Plastic Free July Or Living Plastic Free
With the above information in mind, these are some realistic tips you may choose to consider for changing your plastic footprint, or living a more ‘plastic free’ lifestyle.
You may choose to follow one, a combination, or all of them (in as a relaxed, or strict way as you deem suitable for your own life circumstances):
- Buy new plastic less frequently (in products, or packaging)
- Re-use existing plastic more frequently (such as shopping bags)
- Repurpose existing plastic more frequently (such as using plastic bags for bin liners)
- Dispose of existing plastic less frequently (can achieve through more re-use and repurposing)
- Consider plastic that becomes waste most often, and use less of it
- Reduce your own litter (by using bins, or re-using and repurposing at all times where possible)
- Pick up or clean up littered plastic where possible, and/or participate in clean ups
- Use less and buy less products with plastic packaging, or short use/single use plastics
- Use less non recyclable plastics (generally, plastics #1 and #2 are more recyclable than others, but it also matters how you dispose of your recyclable plastics – so, know your local recycling guidelines)
- Be mindful of whether you are using plastics that take a long time to break down (but in reality, all plastics take a long time to degrade and break down – so, it’s better to use less plastic in general)
- Use alternative materials to plastic that can leach where easily substitutable (e.g. use a glass or stainless steel drink bottle, or food container)
- Use less textiles with synthetic fibres (e.g. buy natural fibre clothing and garments where you can, or buy second hand)
- Buy more natural products (that don’t have man made additives, or aren’t packaged in plastic) in general where realistic (e.g. buying natural personal care products where possible may reduce micro beads and other plastics)
There are many more tips you can implement, but the above are some good individual points to consider.
Being Conscious Of Your Plastic Footprint Is Great, But, There Are Other Ways To Live A Sustainable Life, Or Lower Your Individual Sustainability Footprint
If someone wants to do something about their plastic footprint, that is obviously a positive.
But, it can also be beneficial to take a wider view, or get a bigger picture about how individuals can live a more sustainable life (and know that people can contribute in other ways).
As we outlined in our link to the life cycle assessment of plastic bags above … many sustainability experts have pointed out that choices in these areas of your life (and other ares) can have significant impact on living a sustainable and/or eco friendly lifestyle:
- What you choose to eat
- The transport you use
- The size of the house you live in and how well insulated or efficient the energy or heating/cooling is
- Your overall consumption behavior (what you consume, how you consume, how often you consume, how frequently you re-use, and so on)
So, be aware of all choices in your lifestyle, and how significant or effective each is when it comes to sustainability.
You may be contributing (or capable or contributing) to a better world in more ways than you initially thought.