6 ways to go plastic-free this July
9th Jul 2019
By now we all know that plastic pollution is a critical problem for our oceans and environment. Perhaps you’ve read that if we don’t change our ways, by 2050 there could be more plastic, by weight, than fish in the sea. Awareness is growing. There’s global pressure from the United Nations to act fast, and governments are legislating to prevent things like plastic bags and straws from littering our environment. But did you know that plastic production is set to increase by 40 per cent over the next decade? Or that less than 10 per cent of the plastic ever produced has been recycled? While plastic is a very useful material for making things like airplanes and hospital equipment, single-use, so-called disposable, non-biodegradable plastic packaging is a scourge. Plastic is entering our oceans from other sources too, not least our clothes. So, what can we practically do about it, right now, in our own lives?
1. Sign up for the Plastic Free July challenge
It began in Perth when Rebecca Prince-Ruiz started a Facebook group with about 40 members. Now in its eight year, the campaign has reached 120 million people in 177 countries. Could you give up plastic for a week? For two? Or the rest of July? Sign up here.
2. Take on the beauty cupboard
Most beauty products come packaged in virgin plastic. What do to with it all? Much of it cannot be recycled in our yellow bins. And TerraCycle’s Beauty Products Recycling Program, which used to accept packaging waste from all brands, is about to close down in Australia. What are the alternatives? Glass can be dangerous in showers and is heavy to transport, which adds to its carbon footprint. Aluminium tubes are being marketed as sustainable because the metal is easily recyclable, but its virgin production (in particular the bauxite mining) is highly polluting. We need entirely new materials. Enter Chanel, which has invested in a Finnish start-up called Sulapac that produces a completely biodegradable plastic packaging alternative derived from FSC-certified wood. Others are innovating on recycling. Ren has produced a new bottle made from 100% recycled content, 20% of it from marine litter sources. They’ve also designed out the metal component from their pumps to enable easier recycling. The bottles are currently limited to their Atlantic Kelp and Magnesium body range, but they plan to roll them out widely next year.
Back to M.A.C. takes back primary M.A.C. packaging (think tubs and tubes, not boxes or cellophane) and even gives customers who bring enough of it free lipsticks in return. Aveda started take-back schemes years ago in the US, and are leaders when it comes to using recycled content. They say, “85% of our skin care and hair styling PET bottles and jars contain 100% post-consumer recycled materials”—much of it from recycled milk bottles. L’Oréal’s sustainability goals include that by 2025, 100% of the group’s plastic packaging will be refillable, reusable, recyclable or compostable. Both L’Oréal (which includes Giorgio Armani Beauty, Lancôme, Yves Saint Laurent and Kiehl’s in its stable) and Unilever (which owns Dove and Toni & Guy) are core partners of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, which centres recyclability, compostability plus reduction of unnecessary plastics.
Oh and, TerraCycle’s Oral Care Recycling Program is still operating here. Check their site to find out how to recycle your old toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes. Or consider switching to a bamboo toothbrush like this one from the Zero Waste Store (which also sells pretty pink Parker reusable safety razors in chrome plated brass, and plastic-free cotton tips).
3. Choose better fashion packaging
The New Zealand-based Better Packaging Company’s comPost range is made from corn starch. You can literally bury it in your compost pile at home and watch it disappear. Brands using it for their online deliveries include Tigerlily, P.E. Nation and Heidi Middleton’s Art Club. They’re not the only ones challenging norms. Maggie Marilyn’s bioplastic packaging is made from biodegradable cassava and dissolves in water.
4. Tackle takeaways
KeepCup co-founder Jamie Forsyth has turned his attentions to the takeaway food business. The more we order in, the more plastic containers get used. His solution? A re-usable, custom-designed stainless-steel bowl and cup that can be used at participating cafes and restaurants. Called Returnr, they’ve partnered with Deliveroo, and say a trial period they’ve just completed has diverted over 85,000 single-use plastic bowls from landfill. Heading to local café or the deli counter? Try taking your own Tupperware.
5. Be aware of microfibres
Every time we wash our clothes, thousands of tiny microfibres escape with the waste water, and when they’re synthetic they contribute to ocean plastic pollution, as detailed in this Vogue story. SBS reports that even the Great Barrier Reef is contaminated by them. One option is to wash your clothes less, another is to limit synthetics.
Net-A-Porter’s new vertical Net Sustain allows you to search easily for sustainable, natural fibres. It’s wool weather anyway. And when it’s not? Emilia Wickstead is using wool crepe in trans-seasonal dresses and shirting (the campaign was photographed in her native New Zealand to celebrate womanhood). Outerknown has just debuted the first 100% Merino wool boardshorts. Arnsdorf and Bassike are pushing linen. Kit X is excited about organic silk. Stine Goya have blended theirs with hemp. Spell has been expanded their use of hemp. For the full hippie experience, try Hemp Temple.
6. Remember the obvious ones
Okay, it’s been drummed into us—the big four are easy to ditch. But how often do you find yourself at the grocery store without a reusable tote, at the coffee shop sans mug, or ordering a yoghurt or juice to go, only to find your handbag bereft of a travel spoon or straw? Invest in cute ones you’re more likely to fall in love with, hence less prone to forgetting. Claycups feel luxurious. Designed by ceramicist Katherine Mahoney, they’re made in Bendigo and come with a silicone lid. Stainless steel bottles are much nicer than plastic ones and keep water cool—look for one that’s BPA free and avoid aluminium, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Biome sells Australian-made glass drinking straws, as well as chic bamboo utensils sets in a handbag-ready organic cotton pouch.
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