Ok… so I am going to admit it. My 2016 Plastic Free July was an epic fail. Travelling temporarily doubled the size of my families carbon footprint, and my Plastic Free dilemma bag was getting so full that I doubted that I would be able to carry it back to New Zealand.
What it did do (and I guess that this is the point) is hugely raised my awareness of how much plastic my family personally used in one month, and inspired to me to work harder in reducing our footprint.
I had always believed that we were pretty plastic conscious. We always have re-usable bags or boxes on hand at the supermarket. We always leave our fruit and veges loose in the trolley. I carry a keep cup and a glass water bottle, and both my girls have re-usable water bottles and metal straws. But to be honest in July 2016 I think that we produced more rubbish than we normally would in a year. When you fly, not only is your carbon footprint massive from the flight, but the amount of throw away plastic that is used to feed and water travellers is astronomical. On our return flights I was at least organised enough to make sure that our water bottles were filled before boarding the plane so we wouldn’t use plastic cups, but I will admit I wasn’t organised enough to pack food, so plane food wrapped in plastic it was.
Below are some of the other culprits that destroyed our efforts for a Plastic Free July.
1. Straws, they are everywhere. According to Wikipedia (so this may or may not be true) the modern straw was patented in 1888 by a chap named Martin C. Stone who was sick of the taste of grass in his bourbon (up until this time rye grass straws has been used). Apparently straws were originally marketed as a means for people to reduce the risk of contracting an illness from improperly washed containers, glasses, or cups. These days I think that it is just a bad habit. Just say No Straw Thank-you.
2. Food packaging. In supermarkets in the UK it is very hard to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables without packaging, especially if you are actively trying to purchase organic food (weird I know). In NZ we are lucky enough to have the facilities to recycle most types of plastic. This was not the case where we staying in the UK (apparently it’s not the case around most of the UK) and the only plastic that could be recycled was PET ie. plastic bottles. So what do you do with cheese wrappers, yoghurt tubs, margarine containers? Well, I tried to be creative with them, but I am fairly sure that the in-laws (who were humouring me) binned pretty much everything as soon as I left.
3. Food wrapping. We did a lot of eating on the run when we were travelling, and it is terrifying to see the size of the rubbish pile that a family of 4 can make when they are eating sandwiches on the side of the road. A lot of the packaging was cardboard, but the packaging always seemed to have a little window of plastic on the side so you could see what was in your sandwich, and there was no recycling bin to put the cardboard in anyway.
4. Takeaway sushi. I am not even going to talk about this, because we all know how terrible those little plastic containers are, not to mention the soy sauce bottles. All I will say is in future I am going to carry a little tray in my bag as well as my keep cup and my water bottle, or we are just going to do without.
And last but not least…
5. Plastic water bottles. As conscious as we were about water bottles we still bought a few when we had no other option.
In hindsight there are things that we could have done to reduce our plastic in take while we were travelling, the main ones, were just being a little more organised, planning and preparing our own meals and finding farmers markets to shop at.
Plastic Free July 2017 is still a few months away, but this time there will be zero tolerance for plastic, and with a bit of planning I think that we will be more successful.