We've always recycled, vaguely aware that we were "doing good" without any real thought behind our actions. I've just always hated waste. It always seemed immoral to be wasteful when there's so many people in the world that are in want. We weren't exactly environmentally conscious. We just did what we considered to be right.
Then we watched a BBC mini series called "War on Plastic, with Hugh and Anita" in June 2019. It was upsetting to view. It was shocking. It changed our lives.
I recommend that everyone watch it. I also think it should be compulsory viewing in schools. The programme isn't full of science double-speak that will confuse. It shows in a blunt, no-nonsense way how we're ruining this planet and our own and future generations' lives.
It changed us completely. We'd been living in blissful, partial ignorance but the programme forced us to wake up and take the blinkers from our eyes.
Simply put, the planet can't sustain the amount of plastic we currently use and just casually throw away. According to research I've done online, every plastic bottle you buy can take upwards of 450 years to degrade (consider how many you've gotten through to date and do the maths as to how long they will take to decompose).
We looked around our house and were shocked by the sheer amount of plastic contained within it. The bathroom was a big culprit, with its multitude of plastic bottles and wipes (many wipes contain plastic). Even the loo roll was wrapped in plastic. Elsewhere too. Pop bottles and cleaning materials in the kitchen. Tea bags ... apparently most brands use plastic in their teabags! And who hasn't got a bottle of ketchup in their cupboard? Vegetables and salad wrapped in plastic. Meat, yoghurt, cheese ... everything seemed to be in plastic. I looked closer and saw my plastic hair straighteners, combs, make-up cases, airers, storage containers, food bags, cling film (shrink wrap) ... and I seriously began to feel like I was drowning in the stuff. It was overwhelming.
I took a deep breath, and thought about it. Many of the plastic items we have will last for years ... so not as bad as single use plastic ... it's still bad but not as bad. My hair straighteners (GHDs) are more than a decade old and still going strong. My food storage boxes will, with care, outlive me.
There was no point in binning everything in our house that wasn't eco-friendly, as that would just create yet more useless waste. It would have also cost too much! We decided that we would use everything up but seek greener replacements as needed. I found people online who were attempting to live zero waste, Their attitude was pretty much the same, inasmuch use what you already have before seeking anything new (or pre-loved).
So, that's what we've been doing. Replacing plastic with greener alternatives. Making careful, thoughtful choices about purchases.
Breaking away from plastic use is challenging but necessary.
Cutting down on the rubbish that we send to landfill also needs to be decreased. I read that this country sends enough rubbish to landfill every year to fill 54,000 Olympic swimming pools, approx 45.4 million tonnes a year! Just this country (UK) and in just one year!
I dread to think what kind of rubbish infested, plastic contaminated planet we are creating for our grandchildren. What will they think of this generation's thoughtlessness and selfishness? Marine life being infected and killed by rubbish dumped in our oceans. Mountains of garbage discarded. Toxins from degrading rubbish. A substantial drop in agriculture (and our ability to grow food) as our bee population declines at a frightening rate. Weather patterns changing until the planet is unrecognisable. The dystopian future we are heading towards is truly terrifying.
I understand what a lot of you are now shouting at your device as you read this ... that big companies have more of an impact than we do as individuals (that used to be my argument too). When we are individuals our impact is minimal in the grand scale of things. Which is why we all need to start working towards a healthier future. The more individuals that wake up to the truly terrifying prospect that we are facing, the more impact we will have.
I've done a lot of reading online about this. Some of the figures I've found will blow your mind.
Here in the UK we only recycle around 44% of our plastic. That means about 55% is still being sent to landfill. Many plastics discharge toxic substances when exposed to heat (like the sun) that will ultimately get into our water.
Too much of the plastic we send for recycling is actually shipped abroad, as the UK doesn't apparently have a great infrastructure set up for recycling plastic. However, it has been shown that not all the countries we ship to recycle it ... instead, much of it seems to end up in landfill sites anyway. Dumping our rubbish out of sight doesn't make it disappear. The only way to stop it polluting the environment is to stop using it in the first place.
Here is a little breakdown for time taken for items to biodegrade (decompose):
Plastic bottles, between 450 and 1000 years ~ every bottle of water, squash & fizzy drink you've ever had. Every shampoo/conditioner, bubble bath, cleaning agent bottle (ie bleach), every food bottle (ie ketchup) etc
Sanitary towels/pads 500 to 800 years ~ how many you or your partner use a month x 12 months a year x how many years you remain reproductive.
Batteries 100 years ~ kids toys, clocks, video console controls, remote controls etc
Plastic bags 20 years ~ most carriers are now being eliminated but there's still other plastic bags ie bread, salad, meat, frozen goods, bin bags etc.
Fishing line 600 years ~ think about how much of this has been discarded in our oceans and rivers.
Disposable nappies 450 years ~ statistics show that the average baby/toddler will use at least 4000 of these. Multiply that by how many kids you have.
We throw these things in the wheelie bin and forget about them. But those items will often outlive not only us, but our kids, grand-kids and often our great-grandkids too. That's something to think about.
A plastic bottle of water or pop that you drink from today could still be around when your great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchild is here (ten generations or more from now), struggling to live on this planet that we've poisoned in just a couple of generations. Frightening.
Now, I'm no scientist, environmentalist or Climatologist. I'm an ordinary woman, on the "wrong side" of 50. Mrs Average. I left school aged 18, worked, got married, had our son and muddled my way through life as best I could. True, I've always been interested in the world ~ especially in people themselves ~ and am a big reader but I've no qualifications specific to the mess we're making. I have the internet. Most of us do today. The internet provides a wealth of information with just a few taps of our fingers.
The information I've found is beyond frightening.
We have a simple choice.
We can bury our heads and continue to poison this world completely, leaving our grandkids and their descendants to live in a type of "Mad Max World" of deprivation, chronic health issues (far worse than we live with now) and desperation.
We can be remembered as the first generation to be educated enough to know what we were doing but still continue doing it. The generation that knowingly destroyed the planet.
Or, we can be remembered as the generation that turned the tide, that stood up for what was right and actively tried to save this world whilst we still could.
Take a long look at your kids or grand-kids. Your nieces and nephews. Look into their faces with the love you feel for them. Then think about what our actions are doing to their world.
How do you want to be remembered?
One day we will all be just a memory ~ I'm trying to be a good one.