Wednesday, October 11, 2017

"We are eating our Plastic Waste and It is Toxic"

Talk on Reducing our Use of Plastic 

This information was taken from Becs Gill's talk for the Women's Institute, who made Reducing Plastic their Cause for 2017.
She undertook the Marine Conservation Society Plastic Challenge
Her original degree was in Marine Biology and is also well known from the Gardening Club - Growing our own vegetables and fruit being a very good way to avoid the packaging of supermarkets!


She asked at the outset:
What does your MP or TD think about conservation? Is it on their priorities list?
She asked at the end:
What changes will we make, to reduce our use of plastic and support projects globally?

The Marine Conservation Society run 'The Plastic Challenge' which asks that you give up 'single use' plastic for a month. What does 'single use plastic' include? All packaging that can't be reused, for starters!

Litter Picking Abroad

A trip had turned into a litter picking holiday for all the famly, there was witnessed and photographed extensive littering on the beaches and in the lay-bys of Sardinia, Sicily, Jakata, Norway and also closer to home, at Didcot train station. It was pointed out that no one place is better than another. As we looked at a devastating picture of Norway, it was asked; Do you really think it was the Norwegians who left all that litter on their shores? Absolutely not. It is washed up after storms and completely covers the coast, not just occasional items. The UK and Ireland are not visibly a total disaster yet but that is only because we are lucky with the ocean's currents, around the islands.

The wide river and estuary, in Jakata, provides the drinking water for 14 million people. Water was not visible anywhere, in the picture, under the thick pile of rubbish (and remember that plastic is oil-based and once will have contained food, so the bacteria must be even more rife.

Ocean Plastic Pollution

The problem, then the challenge were looked at, in order to balance the horror of the extent of the problem and the challenge that we are presented with to reverse it. Litter has increased 135% since 1984. Plastic use has increased 180% since 1984.

 A photo was shown of the Great pacific 'Garbage Patch'. It is 6 times the size of the UK, possibly even the size of North America. It is so thick that a person can walk on it.

Drinking Water Plastic Pollution

83% of all tap water is polluted with plastic. 'We are eating our plastic waste and it is toxic'. 90% of us have plastic in our stomachs.

Biodegradable? Recyclable?

Worldwide, only about 7% of plastic is recycled.
Exposed to air, water, light and heat, plastic does break down but it never biodegrades. The very small particles are still plastic. Micro plastics are known as 'mermaid's tears'. It takes 450-1000 years for plastic to degrade. 8 million tons are dumped in the ocean each year.

The Affect On Marine Life

At least one in three marine species are affected. They mistake the plastic bags for jelly fish and eat them. Fish mistake plastics for food as they still smell like the food that was packaged in it.

The Plastic Challenge - Buy nothing wrapped in plastic for one month!

Do we just need to make better choices? No, it is more than that. Having explored alternatives to plastic-packaged items, it was found that you might have to abstain from some foods as it is impossible to find them without packaging; like berries for example.

Easy Wins - Easy changes To Make

There are certain things you can do, without too much hassle.
1. Use soap and not liquid soap
2. Grate the soap to make soap flakes for washing clothes
3. Buy glass bottles not plastic
4. Make your own bread
5. Use reusable bags, containers, mugs and bottles
And, brilliantly, toilet paper.
6. Wrapped in paper, like Andrex used to be, the company is called 'Who Gives A Crap'
and they will send you a box. Who Gives A Crap Website

7. Self Scan in supermarkets, rather than going to a scanned check out.
This provides times to
a) bring your own veg bags and weigh the veg - without feeling like a loon
b) choose not to have something- without feeling like an indecisive loon
c) leave your packaging behind after you've paid - to feel like an activist and push for the shop to sort out the plastic excess themselves, short term and...if we all did it...probably long term, they would deal with it.
The things you might choose not to have, on further consideration, might include convenience foods, magazines with lots of plastic tat on the cover. You might choose apples over berries and you might buy a longer-term razor rather than endless disposable ones.

Not so easy changes

Plastic-free Feminine Hygiene

(It's always uncomfortable to talk about femine hygiene products but I have been determined to, since I discovered that all the Always and Tampax (only two brands available in Ireland and UK supermarkets) use non organic cotton and therefore riddled with glyphosate. And... they are tested on animals. I mean really, where will it end...apart from in tears.
So Cheeky Wipes are the way to go, I gather. Sanitory towels are made from bamboo. I think the answer is to order some versions and try them. No big commitment to start with but a lifetime of savings, better health and much reduced waste.

Grow Your Own Food

If you grow your own food, you'll avoid plastic that way. (I would add to also really avoid bagged salad. They say that over a third of it is wasted every time, probably because it sweats. Bring back paper bags).

Make your own sweets and treats

So much nicer and actually nearly all sweets are now wrapped in plastic. Even kitkats that never were in the past!

Change some habits altogether

 For example, look around for new foods. A product called Ebly wheat had been found that comes in a cardboard box, like a cereal. Pasta was nearly impossible to find except sealed in plastic bags, so a change can be made to lasagne. Lasagne sheets are still sold in cardboard packets.

Make your own tofu, vegan cheese, yoghurts and icecream (I just veganized that suggestion as the last thing I want to do is promote dairy or any animal use).

Successes of The Undertaken Challenge

£300 was raised
Changed habits
Got people thinking
Replaced all chemical cleaning products
Litter Picking became a mild and beneficial obsession within the family!!

Current Situation

275,000 tonnes are used in the UK per year
45kg are thrown away per person, into the landfill.
Only one third is sent for recycling

8% of the world's oil is used to make plastic
That includes 4% in the plastic materials and 4% in the energy to manufacture the plastic.

The familiar recommendations are therefore reversed:

REDUCE, then reuse and only then recycle.

(This is even more pertinent now that China is trying to clean up it's air and has stopped the UK exporting 50% of its plastic)

Trying to round up the talk on a positive note, which was another challenge again:

Positive Actions Taken World-Wide To Stop The Plastic Pollution

1. Kenya has introduced the toughest laws to stop companies from producing and using plastic, including 4 years in jail or a 40,000 dollar fine. Ethiopa too.

2. France has banned plastic cups, cutlery  and plates. Some free trade groups have argued that this was against the law as presumably they want to sell whatever they want, however destructive.

3. Morocco banned plastic a year ago and 450 tons have been seized already.

4. Scotland has proposed a scheme for returning cans and bottles. It would be brilliant to see that in Ireland, England and Wales too.

Resources To Support A Reduction in Our Individual Use of Plastic

There are resources for making changes - The Joy Of Living Without Plastic - A practical guide - This is a blog spanning a heroic year done, plastic-free.

 Life Without Plastic is another site. Life Without Plastic - Blog and Store

Instead of toothpaste you can get an equivalent from Lush. Lush have loads of natural ingredient, unwrapped soaps and an ingenious range called Naked that exist without packaging at all.
Airmid are based in Ireland. Although both are ethically sourced and no animal testing, hardly any of each are vegan so serious research was necessary! I bought Airmid's shampoo bar and Lush's; 9 to 5 cleanser, their Charity Pot lotion (all profits go to charities), the lip tint, the solid perfume, a block of roll-on glitter of different shades (don't ask me why but I just liked the look of it), Aromaco Deodorant and Magical Moringa ... so all those are vegan (so no animal ingredients like even honey or beeswax, for definite!)

Airmid Shampoo Cardboard Packagin and Glitter Block

Request a Plastic Free Aisle and LEAVE YOUR PACKAGING AT THE SHOP!

We can also mention every time we go into a supermarket, that we would like to have a 'plastic-free aisle'. That sounds like a great plan!

Awareness, is it rising or isolated?

It was considered, at the end, whether we are on the edge of something? Like a real sea-change (pardon the pun).

Yes, there is greater awareness but it is down to where you put your attention; exploring plastic-free options, on line, was immediately met with countless ads and articles about plastic pollution. (My mother, on the other hand was sent ads and articles on embroidery. I, as another, am sent a multitude of information about the plight of animals. So, there is a risk that the information is not being presented in a general way. 

Artificial intelligence organizes it so that there is a 'preaching to the converted' and a complete disillusionment for some as they are sent the extent of the problem they have taken an interest in, while all their neighbours remain none the wiser...

We are each being sold and sent completely different information.

Plastic and Micro Plastic is Carcinogenic

And is plastic carcinogenic? Yes, most plastics are cancer-causing. We've all heard of BPAs. But they are in every level of the food chain. Now digested in plankton and...brace yourselves...tea bags are coated in plastic. Plastic-coated tea bags made with plastic-polluted drinking water. No wonder one in twenty people have cancer. Which plastics are most dangerous - Ty Bollinger

My own thoughts on the matter:

Start Your Challenge With A Proper Cup Of Tea

What to do first then? Get a serious water filter and get organic tea bags or loose leaved tea. Wait not a moment longer. One recommended to me was Nikken. The filter is £215 and shipping charge to Ireland is £16.50. This link might take you to their website!

I went to this talk as my first Women's Institute meeting and ON MY BIRTHDAY! Obviously, I had loads of invites to other parties and celebrations but I choose this! It was great and life-changing!! 

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