PLASTIC FREE JULY KNOWHOW
Not all plastics or ways to reduce the impacts of plastics are equal. A key way to reduce plastic use is a little knowledge and action. There are a host of different ways to know your plastics. Plastics can be numbered, described as soft or rigid, or single-use verses multi-use.
Ninety-five per cent of plastics are only used once and a massive eight million tonnes of plastic enter the worlds’ oceans. To begin to tackle plastic waste it is important to consider the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy is a simple way to reduce waste and environmental harm from most to least preferable actions.
Starting at the top of the waste hierarchy is preventing waste in the first place. For an individual person an example would be using a reusable fabric bag instead of a plastic bag when shopping. This avoids generating waste. Other actions include using bees wax wraps or containers to store food to avoid plastic wrap. And using keep cups to avoid disposal cups.
The next step down the hierarchy is reuse. A great example is refilling plastic bottles. This can be done for products such as dishwashing and clothes washing liquids. Many plastic bottles these days are so well engineered they will last years and years (and our oceans know it). Finding where you can refill can be tricky but never be afraid to ask.
Stepping further down the hierarchy is recycling. Recycling is sometimes called down-cycling for plastics. This is due to the fact that something is always lost in the process of recycling plastics (e.g. malleability). Furthermore there is energy and other materials required in the recycling process. And a big caveat on the success of recycling is the need for an end market for recycled materials. Hence another way is to purchase products made from recycled materials.
Getting near the bottom of the hierarchy is recovery. This can include burning waste to generate energy. There are some amazing examples such as in Sweden where burning waste at extreme temperatures generates energy. But required is large-scale investment and significant infrastructure.
Finally at the bottom is disposal. Sadly, this is where a lot of plastics end up.
To take part in Plastic Free July remember the waste hierarchy of prevent, reuse, recycle, recover and disposal. To help make some changes there will be workshops at Harvest Market every Saturday for the month of July. The topics of these workshops will be:
- Plastic Free Storage and Lifestyle Tips – Saturday 6 July
- Making Bees Wax Wraps – Saturday 13 July
- Composting – Saturday 20 July
- Sewing reusable bags – Saturday 27 July
If you miss out on any of these workshops there will be hints and tips in upcoming articles and more information on what Harvest Stallholders are doing and do all year round to reduce plastic use.
Happy plastic-free July!