So, it seems the last time I added a blog post as part of the #Write52 challenge was sometime back in early June 2020... Oops. But what a year it turned out to be!
Anyway, less looking back and more looking forward :-) I've decided to reboot this challenge and make it to the end - better late than never, right?!
To kick things off, I've actually got a guest blog post from Andrew Groves from the eco-friendly company goBambu. His post is definitely food for thought, thanks Andrew!
UK Throwaway Culture: What’s the answer?
Throwaway culture is a huge issue as we look towards becoming a more sustainable country. With people becoming more aware than ever of who they buy from and what they buy however, there’s a chance that as a nation, we can put an end to such reckless behaviour.
24 billion items of plastic littered. 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans. 2 billion cotton buds flushed down the toilet. Sometimes it’s tough to visualise numbers but these figures are staggering. What’s even more incredulous is that these figures are PER YEAR…and just for the UK.
It’s clear to see that as a country we have a massive problem on our hands. But what is the problem and what effect is it having on our environment?
Let’s start with plastic. Plastic is one of the first completely synthetic materials and enjoyed a massive boom in production during the First and Second World Wars. Once manufacturers saw its convenience (mainly price and durability) to use in products and packaging, it started entering everyday life. From toothbrushes and cotton buds to takeaway cups and grocery bags, plastic was and still is everywhere. You’d be forgiven if you thought it was unavoidable.
Whilst manufacturers and consumers alike saw a false plastic utopia, reality has set in. Now we’re not only seeing the huge carbon footprint of disposing plastic but we’re also seeing the devastation it’s having on marine wildlife.
It’s estimated that the dumping, incinerating and recycling of plastic contributes 1.8 billion metric tons CO2 emissions each year.
On top of this we’ve seen our oceans being polluted by plastics and more recently discovered microplastics. Larger pieces of plastic has seen marine life become entangled in products as well as larger animals mistaking them for food. Microplastics on the other hand are ingested by the smallest marine life to the largest - entering the food chain and causing untold damage.
So how can we combat this huge issue we face?
Whilst governments around the world are starting to acknowledge the issue of throwaway culture and single-use items, it seems that we need a more immediate option for change. Bans on some single-use plastic items such as cotton buds and straws are positive but the go-to alternative now (paper) will result in even more deforestation.
So what materials can we use that are not only sustainable but also fit in terms of practicality?
Bamboo is one of the best materials and much revered in the green community. Due to the speed it grows at and the fact that it can continue growing without degrading the soil around it, bamboo makes for one of, if not the most sustainable materials we can use for consumer items.
On top of this, as it’s a natural material, it’s 100% biodegradable meaning it will absorb back into the soil safely after only a few months.
So what products can be made with bamboo?
Toothbrushes - a bamboo toothbrush is much better for the environment than plastic. Not only is it biodegradable but bamboo’s natural antimicrobial properties are the perfect solution when thinking about oral care. Plastic on the other hand takes many years to finally biodegrade and even then it sheds micro plastics. If Henry VIII had a plastic toothbrush when he was alive, the handle would still be biodegrading today.
Coffee cups - with 2.5 billion coffee cups being thrown away each year in the UK it’s clear that materials as well as behaviours need to change. The best thing about a bamboo coffee cup is that it’s reusable. This is far more valuable in terms of environmental impact than any single-use material could be.
Cotton buds - plastic cotton buds are notorious for being flushed down the toilet. As they’re unable to break down, they end up forming masses which leads to major blockages. An alternative is bamboo cotton buds but always make sure the cotton used is organic. Regular cotton leaves a large carbon footprint and should be something to avoid when possible. Once finished, you can compost them and they’ll decompose naturally.
What other plastic items can be swapped out?
Plastic bags - reusing when it comes to bags is key. Whether you’re shopping for groceries or clothing - always take a reusable bag with you. Plastic bags ending up in the ocean is a disaster for marine life and should be avoided at all costs. You can buy reusable bags almost anywhere these days and cotton mesh produce bags are also available for items like fruit and veg.
Makeup wipes - again, reusing is of utmost importance. Do away with damaging, disposable wipes and switch to reusable cotton pads.
Soap/Shampoo - it's said that only 10% of people recycle the containers their liquid soap and shampoo come in. Moreover, liquid soaps and shampoos mainly consist of water, meaning they don't last as long. Switching to a bar of soap and a shampoo bar is a great way to limit the use of unnecessary plastic in the bathroom.
It’s clear that in order for us all to prosper well into the future, we need to make sound choices today. Whilst government legislation can take years to be implemented, we can change our own attitudes. Buy from eco-stores, ditch reusable products, refuse to purchase the bananas packaged in plastic.
You should always bear in mind that the market never dictates the people - if there is a demand for eco-alternatives the market will follow.