article from bestlife magazine

A while ago I came across this article in a stack of materials a friend had left me to use for my advanced English classes. From Best Life magazine, it discusses plastic; it’s composition, it’s resistance to recycling, and especially, it’s accumulation in the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch – a swath of the Pacific ocean, twice the size of Texas – TWICE THE SIZE OF TEXAS – that has turned into a floating soup of garbage – mainly plastics, that is just swirling in a giant gyre.

After reading it, I couldn’t look at plastic in the same way. I started to notice every bit of excessive packaging (which has always annoyed me) and decided to try to cut out plastic as much as is possible.

I challenge you to do the same. Even just for a few days. No plastic. (Or as little as possible).

So what did that mean? Well, I wouldn’t get any plastic carrier bags at the store. I’d either use my backpack or take one that we already had at home. This was sometimes annoying if I wanted to make an impromptu shopping trip and did not have the bag on me. I had to learn to plan ahead, or carry a bunch of things precariously balanced in my arms.

Once in the store, the no plastics challenge changed what I bought. I only bought the eggs in the carton package, for example. And, well, that was almost the only thing I could buy in the typical grocery store that did not come with some form of plastic. (Ok, well, maybe garbanzo beans in a jar, but I can’t live on beans alone, my flatmates might rebel).

I also had a battle against those little bitty plastic bags supermarkets make you put your fruits and veggies in. I tried consolidating, and not putting big single items in bags at all. Sometimes it worked, sometimes the checkout ladies looked at me like I was a nut because I’d put the pricing sticker directly on my single mango. I pretended not to notice.

All of this meant I had to try to do a lot of my shopping elsewhere – mainly the big, beautiful, and yes, more expensive market down the street. They would wrap my fruit and veg in brown paper, and my cheese and meats in wax paper, and I would bring my own bag. I sacrificed quantity for quality as it was pricier so I had to buy less (and in a world of increasing obesity, is that really a downside?). And of course bread fresh from my local bakery came in paper, unlike the sliced stuff from the supermarket.

But there are still things that, try as I might, can not be found without plastic. Rice might come in paper bags sometimes, but pasta never does. And though I used to buy Granini juices only because they were the only ones on the market here that came in glass (which meant I drank less cuz it was expensive, but hey, less sugar right?) I was dismayed to find out over the summer that they’ve switched to plastic. Sigh. I drink more water now (from the tap and stored in my metal drinking bottle – which means it never has that nasty plastic taste).

And of course the things that absolutely, one hundred percent do not come in anything but plastic? Bath and beauty products (except for my tins of Nivea) and cleaning products are obvious, as well as any sort of office supplies and electronics parts which must come in impossible to open thick shrink wrapped layers of pure evil which only exist to accommodate the thin layer of marketing copy laminated between them.

My experiment in total plasticlessness was not long-lived (though some of the habits have stuck, like carrying my carrier bags with me most of the time, and trying to go to the market more often than the supermarket, and I’ve just automatically become more aware of what choices I can recycle and which I can’t). But more and more, I feel like plastic is a huuuuge problem, I feel like some weird paranoid, cuz now I notice it everywhere, and its increasingly noticeable presence is becoming increasingly irritating.

If I thought I was going to be in Spain long-term, I think I’d go out and start a big packaging-reduction campaign. It’ll have to wait til D.C. I guess.

Well that’s it for today. I guess I’ll just go hug a tree and go to bed now. 🙂