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Plastic Free July 2018

The Wrap Up

So as July 2018 comes to a close I now have to reflect on my efforts for my first Plastic Free July. I had absolutely no idea how I would go with avoiding the rubbish bin at all costs but the aim was to at least gain some awareness as to what I need to change to be totally trash free.

So my basic rules for the month were:

  • Recycle as much as I could

  • Reuse items more than once

  • Replace plastic items with sustainable alternatives

  • Do something about my food scraps

  • Be a conscious consumer

  • Put everything that would’ve gone in the bin in a glass jar to reflect on at the end of the month

So how did I go?

Recycle

This aspect wasn’t too hard as I grew up in a reasonably recycle conscious household. I have however, done a lot more research into alternative recycling for soft plastics. As much as I try to avoid bringing any plastic home with me from my weekly grocery shop, there are still a few things that come in a plastic packaging.

Although not ideal to purchase in the first place, I’ve now learnt that at most local supermarkets you can take clean, dry plastic bags and packets (all the stuff that can’t go in the ‘normal’ recycle) for them to recycle into outdoor furniture and other such items. Super easy, just go online and search for a list of things they accept (Coles use the Redcycle initiative).

Reuse

This rule started with a bit of pre-July preparation. A few items that I’ve bought that I now use time and time again in the house include:

  • A Keep Cup (duh, my rule is no cup = no coffee)

  • Silicone reusable food wraps and beeswax wraps (your food is just as fresh without that nasty cling wrap)

  • Mesh produce bags (or just no bag at all, fruit and veggies mostly don’t need a bag!)

  • Canvas bags (Are people seriously STILL not taking their own bags to the shops?)

  • Metal and glass drink bottles (refill bro)

Replace

I’ve swapped a few things to be environmentally cleaner, including:

  • Deodorant paste (in recyclable tub and no aluminium or chemicals)

  • Bamboo toothbrush (compostable)

  • Never using a straw (not even metal, I just don’t see the need)

  • Loose leaf tea with a strainer (most tea bags don’t decompose)

  • Minimal toiletries (I’m still working on this but shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and face wash is pretty much all I shower with now and only use once or twice a week max)

  • Period underwear and a menstrual cup (saving myself money and limiting exposure to nasty chemicals)

Food scraps

I live in an apartment with minimal outdoor area and no, food scraps can’t go in our green waste bin. Turns out there’s a community garden local to me that I can just take our food scraps to and share the compost love. Definitely feeling guilty about not creating a compost bin sooner.

“In Australia 8.2 million tonnes of food waste is generated each year, most of which ends up in landfill. Once in landfill, food waste breaks down and emits greenhouse gases, including not only carbon dioxide (CO2) but methane (CH4) – a gas 25 times more potent than CO2. In fact, the greenhouse gases produced by food waste in Australian landfill each year is equivalent to the emissions of Australia’s steel and iron ore industries combined!”

https://watchmywaste.com.au/food-waste-greenhouse-gas-calculator/

Enough said.

Conscious consumerism

This simply involves thinking before I buy. I have a few rules that I follow to help me be a thoughtful buyer and ultimately reflect a minimalist lifestyle.

The first question I’ll ask myself before buying anything is “do I really need this and if yes, why?” Most of the time I have an unofficial ‘waiting period’ that sits in the back of my mind and allows me to ponder on bigger purchases before actually making them. This waiting period also involves research. Do I know exactly what is in the product? Do I know where it is made or is coming from? Will it last and will I be using it for years to come or will it quickly become waste? Is the price fair?

This probably needs to be a post of its own (and likely will become one) but if you feel the need to justify why you bought it you probably didn’t need it.

Reflection

So everything that wasn’t composted or recycled that would have eventually made it into the bin (and inevitably landfill) went into the jar. So, what was in it?

  • Stickers- fruit, jar, decorative, you name it, it’s in there

  • Rubber bands and string- holding vegetables and bunches of flowers together

  • Entry wristband- not sure how to avoid this one

  • Needle packaging- from sterile needles for work (jury’s out on this one as to whether they can

be recycled, I’m still researching)

  • Packing tape- from a box of eco toilet paper (irony)

  • Bottle seal- from an organic maple syrup bottle

  • Plastic hair bands- ok I need to find a new solution to securing my Kimmy K braids

  • Dental floss

  • Razor head- I have a solution but just wasn’t prepared

A lot of these things are easily avoided but some of them were out of my control. Honestly, after seeing my month of trash in a jar and an empty kitchen bin, the convenience of not dragging a bin to the curb far outshines the inconvenience of changing a few unfriendly, purchasing habits.

I never thought I’d be a successful as I was but I recognise now that my small efforts of change each time I consume have really made a difference to my overall eco footprint. Of course there will always be tough battles (like how the hell do I avoid all the rubbish that will come with the new bed and mattress I want?) but we can’t forever sit in the ‘too hard’ zone.

My last words of encouragement- just get out there and give it a go and see just how small your jar can be next year.

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