“They aren’t something I make every year, but this year there’s one in particular that I am determined to make a conscious effort to change”
The arrival of yet another year means New Year resolutions. Whether you are a fan of them or not, there’s no denying that imposing a change on your life (or attempting to) during this new beginning comes with a new found sense of motivation. How long it lasts however is another thing entirely. For me they aren’t something I make every year, but this year there’s one in particular that I am determined to make a conscious effort to change…. and not just until the end of January.
2019 is going to be the year I start reducing the amount of plastic I use. Don’t get me wrong, I do try to avoid it in areas where I can, and I always make sure I recycle. I’m quite literally that meme about asking for a recycling bin at a party. People that know me well are very much aware of this, as I do tend to provide ‘strong encouragement’ to those around me to do the same. However recently I learned that it really isn’t enough. The recycling industry is a little more ‘complex’ than just putting your plastics and paper in a bin for them to be taken and reused. There are so many restrictions and variations in materials that on top of a lack of recycling factories, means that some of it still goes to landfill. Does that mean we should stop recycling? Definitely not. What it does mean, is that we need to start reducing the amount of waste we create in the first place.
As I mentioned earlier, I do try and make an effort in this department, however there is something that I am extremely guilty of, and it’s probably my biggest downfall when it comes to being green. Bottled water *holds hands up*. Yepp, I am one of those people who will literally retch at the taste of tap water. I know to some people there is absolutely no difference in taste, but even during my many drunken states at uni there was no fooling me. I have been given the ‘sober up’ glass of tap water and just spat it straight back out (I know, not very lady like, but we’ve all had our moments). So yeah, I really don’t like tap water, you get it. The problem is, I still want and need to drink water (obviously) which means to substitute I go through bottles and bottles AND BOTTLES of plastic in order to do so. Now there are a couple of problems with this;
1.“Drinking from plastic water bottles is bad for your health”. Some take this as gospel, but personally I take this statement with a pinch of salt. Mainly because today anything and everything is said to put you at risk of getting cancer, as well as there being such opposing opinions on the matter. A cause of cancer, an increased risk of heart disease, ingesting chemicals that can decrease fertility in women, the list goes on, and yet at the same time this is completely dismissed. It’s difficult to know what to believe when there are two sides of an argument being very strongly put forward. So as I say, a pinch of salt.
2. They are terrible for the environment. This is what I am most concerned with. Each year we throw away enough plastic to circle the earth four times. In the UK alone, we use approximately 13 billion plastic bottles each year, only 5 billionof which are recycled. In the US 35 billion are used annually, and yet only 25% of them get recycled. If the remaining 75% were also recycled, it could save around 1 billion gallons of oil and 118,8000000 ft3 of landfill each year. It seems like the answer then is to simply recycle more, but that alone isn’t enough. Most of the plastic that surrounds us in our day to day lives isn’t recyclable. The recycling industry comes with a very high pay cheque, but only if it remains profitable, and in order for that to continue there needs to be a market for it. China played a big part in ensuring this was the case by importing our recycled waste, however we are producing it in such vast amounts that a limit has been applied. We are using far too much plastic to recycle our way out of the plastic pollution problem, and this continues to increase. As a result, 70% ends up in landfill, oceans or incinerated releasing harmful toxins into our atmosphere. Another problem is that unlike glass and metal, plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely, meaning at some point it will reach the end of its recycled life and need to be discarded. It will then take centuries to decay with a single plastic bottle taking around 450 years to completely decompose. The way in which the bottles are produced is a disaster for our environment in itself, as they are manufactured by crude oil which is obtained by fraking. This involves drilling down into the centre of the earth and injecting a high pressure of water to release the gas or oil held within the rocks below the surface. This process not only increases the risk of oil spillages (a disaster for marine life and surrounding soils), but can cause earthquakes due to the high amount of pressure involved in the process as well as air and water pollution, impacting the health of any residents living near the drilling site.
The government ban several substances for the harm it can be known to cause to people, however little that number may be, and yet industries, such as tobacco or plastic production, are fully permitted… Strange.
Anyway, how do I plan to give up my beloved bottled water? Well I figured that actually getting a reusable bottle was a good place to start, so, for Christmas that’s what I asked for, alongside a reusable straw (quite the extravagant list I know), both of which I received much to my happiness. I’d decided I didn’t want a reusable plastic bottle, as despite the obvious first thought they don’t last as long as glass and metal, both of which are also much more recycle friendly materials. After doing my research I also found that glass bottles were recommended from a health point of view as they don’t contain any bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the production of many plastics. You can purchase BPA free bottles, however if I’m honest, I was already sold on glass and stainless steel is more easily recycled; so, I decided to save who ever planned to purchase my gift the search.
Anyway, as I mentioned before, I got my water bottle and I absolutely love it! (I’m so easily pleased; you should see my excitement over receiving socks…) My plastic, single use bottles have now been replaced with a Chilly’s 750ml water bottle. It is made from high grade, durable stainless steel both inside and out, preserving the flavour and freshness of drinks and is completely BPA free. I was a tad dubious to take my first sip as I remember getting a metal water bottle for school when I was much younger, and it made the water taste awful…I’d go as far to say worse than tap water, and that’s saying something! But you get none of that with this bottle. Not only does it keep cold drinks cool for 24 hours, regardless of outside temperatures, it can also be used as a thermal flask, keeping drinks hot for 12 hours! It also has an air tight lid making it completely leak proof and apparently something about its vacuum insulation is the reason you get no condensation with it (I don’t know a great deal about that if I’m completely honest, but it’s a perk I’m happy to have nevertheless). Mine is the pastel green, 750ml bottle however they have a huge selection of designs and colours to choose from as well as 3 other sizes. And if that wasn’t enough, their packaging is made from recycled materials AND is completely recyclable.
But what about the water? The main issue at hand for me. If I’m completely honest, I’m kind of just winging it. At work I fill it up using the filtration system connected to the main water supply, which actually tastes pretty good. At the moment, this is the only water source I’m using, so I make sure to fill my bottle up before I leave to have whilst I’m at home. I’ve tried the ‘leave it overnight in the fridge’ trick for getting rid of the foul taste that comes out of the tap…….needless to say it isn’t something I will be doing again. I’m debating on whether to get a Britta filter, however the last thing I want to do is spend my money pointlessly, and the only people I’ve ever seen drink from them with conviction, are people that will also happily drink straight from a tap. So you can understand my trust issues in this department.
Talk about first world problems right. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware of how trivial this all sounds, when there are people who have no access at all to clean water. I roll my eyes at myself and wish I could change the detest my taste buds and stomach have for it. Nevertheless, I am determined to persevere with my 2019 resolution. As long as the amount of plastic is reduced that’s all that matters.
During a visit to ZSL London zoo with my boyfriend, we found that no plastic bottles were sold inside the park, and were instead replaced by cans. We were told that they are much easier, and more likely to be recycled, so that is another thing I plan to try and implement whenever I’m out if I forget to take my bottle with me.
The amount of plastic bottles we get through globally is a huge issue at the moment, one that Blue Planet 2 did very well in documenting. Our oceans are becoming filled with plastic, to the point that some say are past the point of rescue. But I disagree. There is no overnight fix, but there’s certainly a starting line to begin with that will make a huge difference with each step we make. Where I live plastic filled oceans aren’t a daily sight, but out of sight shouldn’t mean out of mind. So here’s to my reduced and recycled plastic 2019! Have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!