We all know it: it’s time to choose. The latest news on plastic pollution are catostrophic: scientists have discovered up to nine different types of plastic in the faeces of people who took part of a European research. Lead researcher Dr Philipp Schwabi said: “While the highest plastic concentrations in animal studies have been found in the gut, the smallest microplastic particles are capable of entering the blood stream, lymphatic system and may even reach the liver”. So, what does this mean?
It means that plastic has now officially entered our food chain: it’s in our oceans, our seafood, our stomachs. Plastic has not only changed the way we pack and wrap, but also the way we eat and clean. It influences on how we dress, put on makeup or wash. Basically, it determines the way we live.
It’s time to stop microplastics. It’s time to avoid excessive and unnecessary plastic products in our life. How? Here is a list with the 5 most common types of plastic waste we can easily (and quite quickly) get rid of.
1. Food packaging. Do we really need a tetra pak box of precooked beans, when we already have glass jars or, even better, bulk raw beans available at the markets?), and it’s time to refuse complex and mixed materials. There are so many food packages that are made of plastic and cardboard, aluminum and plastic… two or three materials put together! This means that most of the times they cannot recycled. And even if they can, most of the people get confused and, instead of dividing each part of the packaging and throw it the right bin, they just put it in the undifferentiated waste bin (I guess not every country has it, but here in Italy we have a special bin for all those materials that can’t be recycled. Unfortunately).
HOW TO AVOID IT
So, what’s the best solution? Supermarkets can be convenient sometimes, but we should always prefer going to the markets, especially the farmers’ markets. In this way, we know where the products come from, we can speak with the farmers and ask them questions and we can learn a lot about concepts such as seasonality and short food supply chain. Besides, veggies and fruits are not wrapped in plastic, we can choose the ones we like the most and put them in our own reusable bags. Another good alternative to supermarkets are the bulk stores and all the greengroceries, butcher’s shops, fish shops that sell plastic free products.
2. Polystyrene. Do we actually need it? I mean, do we really have the very urgent need to have our beef steaks, chicken breasts, aromatic herbs or our take-away meal in a hideous and useless polystyrene container?
HOW TO AVOID IT
This one is really easy. Just go to butcher’shops and ask for a plain paper sheet (although I think it may get stucked to the meat) or any other container which is not in plastic or polystyrene. If you want – I know it may sound crazy, but during our zero waste journey we need to learn how to say ‘no’ – you can just say “no, thanks” and ask the butcher to put the meat in your own container.
3. Cosmetics and makeup. There are many natural and paraben free brands nowadays, but most of them are packed in plastic: shampoo, deodorants (some of them come in a glass bottle but with a very annoying plastic lid), shower gels, liquid soaps, scrubs, body lotions, hand creams… products we use every day of our life, ending up with thousands of empty plastic bottles.
HOW TO AVOID THEM
We really need to analyse the beauty routine aspect very soon. I promise I’ll do it in my next post. For now, just keep in mind that there are so many alternatives to conventional cosmetics: homemade ones, refillable containers, solid shampoo bars, toothpaste creams, tooth powder etc.
4. Cleaning products. Dear me… I don’t even know where to start. We need a limescale remover, of course, and obviously a good degreaser for our kitchen counter, too. And what about a glass cleaner? Wait a minute: you forgot your dusting spray! Now, jokes aside, how many different cleaning products do we use in our home? Air freshener, dishwashing liquid, hard-surface cleaner… not to mention all the stuff we use to wash our clothes: fabric softener, laundry detergent, laundry ball. All made in plastic and full of chemical substances that are bad for our skin and for the environment.
HOW TO AVOID THEM
How to avoid them? With homemade cleaning products or refillable containers (many bulk shops also have a liquid soap section) or even with solid soap bars. Some homemade recipes are very simple and I really think anyone can make them. But we will talk examine this closely another time.
5. Shopping bags. I want to spend only a few words on plastic bags: they are completely useless. Buying (in any country, you have to spend a little more to have a bag in the supermarket) a shopping bag, whether it is recyclable or not, is a waste of money and a real environmental fail.
HOW TO AVOID THEM
It makes no sense to use plastic bags when you can find so many shopping bags made in cotton, hemp, linen, jute that are ridiculously cheap (and so lovely!). You can always keep them with you in your bag or car (some of them are foldable and very small) and you can reuse them every time you want.
Of course, water bottles and straws represent two very big problems for plastic pollution, but I’m going to write a different post about alternative solutions to these products.
Beginning a zero waste journey is not always easy, as I explained in my previous post. But some little steps really are (c’mon, buying a reusable shopping bag is the easiest thing on Earth). So, who’s with me?