Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Month Without Plastics

Over on the BBC website, reporter Chris Jeavans is blogging about her August challenge: to live a month without buying or accepting anything wrapped in or made with plastic. Why? Because even though we're all repeatedly implored to reduce, reuse and recycle, plastics are still one of the most common things to make it into our trash, our landfills, and our oceans. So she wanted to track exactly how life would change if she gave up plastics - first, of course, tracking how much plastics she and her family used over the course of one month.

The numbers were surprising:
603 items, including:

* 36 carrier bags
* 67 food packaging bags and films such as bread bags, cheese wrappers (and a jumbo pack of Maltesers!)
* 23 polystyrene tea cups with lids and 24 coffee cup lids
* 15 fruit punnets and vegetable trays
* 13 yoghurt pots
* 16 water bottles, 10 milk bottles, 7 juice bottles
* Two toothbrushes

Probably the least pretty aspect to my household's waste at the moment comes in the form of disposable nappies. Our 18-month-old son gets through four or so a day so that's about 120 a month, plus individual nappy sacks, nappy bin bags and wipes, which go straight into landfill.
Chris has blogged near-daily about her experiences, and it's interesting - not only to see how she is navigating shopping and childcare and the like sans plastics, but to learn more about plastics, where they're hidden in our food and consumer goods supplies, and how they're made.

And I'll admit, for just a moment, I thought it might be interesting to repeat her experiment on this side of the pond. After all, I live in an area rich with local farms, where coffee shops push bringing in your own mugs instead of using disposable cups, and nearly everyone has totes they use at least part of the time while grocery shopping.

Unfortunately, I realized relatively quickly that my cats require food and litter, which is automatically going to guarantee buying some plastics (bags of both generally are lined in plastic). The same for prescriptions. I have to order textbooks - no way to get around plastics there. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that while I certainly can reduce consumption and focus on reusing, it would be nearly impossible for me to eliminate plastics from my life.

So what about it - given the significant environmental and health concerns around the use and production of plastics, could you give up plastics in your life? For a week, a month, or longer?

-Kelly Hills

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