This June, I’m challenging myself to give up single-use plastics for 30 days to raise money for the Marine Conservation Society!
Disposable plastic has become almost unavoidable in 21st Century Britain. We wrap our fresh fruit and veg in it, we transport water hundreds of miles in it, and it even finds itself into our cleansing products and toothpastes. The problem is that all this disposable plastic is poisoning our planet and suffocating our oceans.
I recently had an insight into the scale of the problem when I volunteered to collect litter on the River Thames shoreline for London-based charity Thames21. You can read my full thoughts on that experience here – but the bottom line is that as an eco-conscious kinda gal, I was pretty shocked to discover the extent of London’s plastic problem literally sitting in a massive pile just 5 minutes away from where I work.
The hours spent cleaning up deformed disposable plastics from our city’s river ecosystem spurred me to do a thing or to about my own plastic consumption. I made an increased effort to kick the plastic bag / water bottle / coffee cup habit by making sure I always had my own reusables to hand. But despite saving a few pennies in Pret (win!) it seemed that I wasn’t actually making much of a dent into the size of the recycling bag I empty each week. Nor in the amount of non-recyclable plastic in my waste bin.
Then I stumbled across the Marine Conservation Society’s June Challenge to give up single-use plastics for a whole month and it got me thinking… what would a world without disposable plastic look like? Is it possible? Would it impact my lifestyle so much to give it a go today?
After a bit of pondering (in which I’ve probably underestimated how hard this is going to be!), I’ve decided to give it a go. I will stop using or purchasing any single-use plastics for the whole month of June. I am hoping to raise money for the amazing work that the Marine Conservation Society are doing in protecting our marine wildlife. And I am also hoping to learn and spread the word about the various solutions out there to simplify a zero-plastic lifestyle.
I would be SO grateful if you could donate to my campaign! Any pennies you can spare will help MCS to keep our beaches clean and work with industry and government to work towards policy solutions. Here is my fundraising page – please spread the word, and thank you in advance for your generosity!
When I’ve mentioned my challenge to friends and family, I’ve had lots of questions on how exactly I’m going to define and implement my zero-plastic month. So here is a bit more detail on my plan…
–> I’m giving up specifically disposable plastic.
i.e. Plastic that is chucked as soon as its purpose has been exhausted. This includes everything from food packaging to hygiene items such as bottled shampoo, toothpaste tubes or dishwasher tablets. If it’s plastic and cannot be reused, its banned. I am not including plastic items I own that are re-useable in nature, such as my plastic Tupperware, my laptop (plastic casing!) or my plastic-framed glasses. Gonna need to see if all that plastic I’ll be running away from…
–> I’m including recyclable plastic in my challenge.
And I think this is actually really important. It’s easy to think that you are doing your bit for the planet by diligently washing out and recycling plastic packaging. What many people don’t realise (and I certainly didn’t!) is that recycling is really just kicking the can down the road. The quality of plastic reduces with each recycle to the extent that there is a finite number of times it can be recycled to an acceptable enough quality. At the end of the process, the same plastic still ends up in landfill. Another little-known but troubling fact is that 46% of collected recyclable plastic from the EU-27 gets exported to China for processing, where its ultimate fate remains largely unknown.
–> I’m focusing on the consumer end of the supply chain.
A few friends have asked “how deep” I’m going to go in my plastic avoidance. If I eat out, for example, the food I order will probably have arrived at the restaurant in some form of plastic. The approach I’ve decided to take to this fact is to focus on the decisions facing me as a consumer. It would be impractical for me to fact-check the plastic history behind the supply chain of every product I purchase, and in any case, it is something I have very little control over as an individual. What I can influence, however, is how I chose to consume my product.
–> I’ll be costing it all up as I go along.
Some facets of environmentalism get a bad rep (deservedly) for concentrating on eco solutions that only the privileged can afford. To promote transparency, I’ll be tracking my zero-waste expenditures for the entirety of the challenge. I think its important society focuses on promoting solutions that are realistic (in terms of both time and money) for the vast majority of the population. And I’m hoping that my month of zero-plastic reveals a cheaper, as well as more environmental way of living.
–> And I’ll be keeping y’all updated on here…
… with a weekly post summarising what I’ve managed to discover! Expect reviews on bulk food stores, Lush products and London’s various deli’s / produce markets (not just the posh ones!). I guess I’ll also have to get to grips with some form of household cleaning involving vinegar and baking soda which I’m slightly less thrilled about…
In the meantime, to give you all a flavour of the challenge ahead, I took a picture of my recent weekend food shop. Dunno if you can spot any plastic in there at all?
Here is my fundraising page for the Marine Conservation Society. I would be so grateful for any contribution you can make to this important cause… Let’s help this amazing charity lead the way to a better, cleaner future!
Wish me luck!