How to avoid plastics in your daily life
Actually, I wanted to upload this blog post a week ago. But then, “life” happened in between. A viral and bacterial infection has wrenched me from life and catapulted me into the emergency room. But I’m fine right now, I’m sitting in Cape Town looking at the Lion’s Head and typing these lines. If I ever get inked, I’ll probably choose “The greatest wealth is health”. Before I continue wandering from the real issue, I try to still hit the road. 🙂
Plastics have been repeatedly discussed on all channels in recent weeks and months. This topic has also occupied me for a long time. Not for nothing did I dedicate my very first blog post to the subject of what exactly plastic does to our body.
There’s way too much of it!
Our consumption, in general, is a big problem, as many products are still made from plastic. In addition, it has a very long half-life and a PET bottle needs about 450 years to break down. Fatal is that we use many plastic parts only for a few hours (for example, drinking straws), but these are hundreds of years later found in nature. In the meantime, mountains of garbage or even garbage islands pile up in the oceans. Animals get caught in it or confuse plastic with something edible. They die miserably. Probably, each of us has already heard of the marine animals, whose stomachs were full of plastic pieces. Most animals starve to death. Their stomachs are full of garbage and therefore can not absorb any other food.
Plus, I am always shocked by how much plastic waste I produce, although I am very careful to avoid plastic. I would like to bring you a few of my strategies to avoid garbage and above all plastic in everyday life. It is often much easier than expected! Often, I just wonder how my grandparents would have managed it without plastics those days. I even remember that my waste bin wasn’t that loaded years ago.
What is plastic anyway?
Plastic or plastics, in general, are made from petroleum. Mineral oil or petroleum is a finite, not limitless, fossil resource. Some features make the use of plastics very attractive and therefore it has become so strong in our everyday lives. It is light, cheap, manufacturable in many forms, durable, relatively temperature resistant, and ages very slowly. Depending on which mixtures are produced, we receive packaging materials, tubes, polystyrene, paints, tires, adhesives, insulation, or even microplastics. The list seems to be endless. The base is usually a large cocktail of chemicals, which can have serious effects on the body – more in my previously mentioned blog post.
Plastic can not rot in the sense that we know from organic waste. According to the current state of affairs, microorganisms can not process plastic. Plastic becomes more and more porous over time, and microplastics can result. Plastic is not degraded but slowly powdered over time by wind, water, and sunlight. It’s like bread which is slowly crumbling. In contrast to bread, the crumbs are still in existence hundreds of years later. Then, it completely decomposes into its atoms, but until then it is a long way on which it can cause much damage.
Plastic degenerates to microplastic
In fact, there was a little bit of a glimmer of hope some time ago. The plastic bio-degrading wax moth (Galleria mellonella) was in the limelight for a short time and seemed to be a solution to our problem. Researchers had discovered that the moth had eaten holes in plastic bags in which it was stored. However, the study was not conducted correctly and therefore the results can not be fully published. Apparently, the moth only chops plastic and excretes it as microplastic. Thus, the moth does not metabolize it, as originally hoped. There is also evidence of an enzyme that could accelerate plastic degradation. However, it is not really ripe for a decision yet.
Simple tips for avoiding plastic in everyday life
Even easier than the question of which worms or enzymes could digest plastics faster is how we could produce less waste. If we do not produce so much waste, we do not have to recycle anything. In fact, it is often surprisingly easy to reduce waste and avoid plastic. It is also easy to integrate it into everyday life. Often, we just have to ask ourselves what our grandmothers would have done and we have the solution. Just a few decades ago, the garbage problem was only a fraction of what it is today.
1. REPAIR INSTEAD OF DISPOSAL
We have mutated into a throwaway society. Everything is thrown away rather than repaired. Nobody bothers to patch anything and replacement is often just a click away. But it is so easy, to grab the thread and the needle, the glue or other tools to repair something. To be honest, some things turn beautiful when they have a story to tell and are not flawless any longer.
2. SECONDHAND, FLEA MARKETS, UP-CYCLING, AND SHARING
Personally, I love flea markets and I’ve never liked that everyone looks the same on the street. Just like will-less followers or lemmings dressed up in the bar of current fashion. Old things can have so much more soul and just because someone else can no longer use them does not mean that they are useless. And as we know, everything comes into vogue again. 🙂
3. LOOSE SHOPPING
More and more shops with unpacked food pop up. But even in the regular supermarket or even better at the farmer’s market, you can shop your fruits without plastic bags or use your own fabric bag. Without my shopping bags, I almost never leave home! 🙂
4. TAP WATER INSTEAD OF PET BOTTLES
We have the privilege of having unbelievably good tap water in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Hardly any food is better controlled than our tap water. If this is too boring, you can pimp it with soda or drink infused water. Who needs a few inspirations for the latter – soon more soon, here on my blog.
5. USE SUSTAINABLE DRUGSTORE PRODUCTS
Especially in the field of cosmetics, many people associate hygiene with the fact that they rather throw products away after using them than to reuse them. You can avoid a lot of plastic, especially here. I mention not only more sustainable or reusable products such as cotton cosmetic pads, cloth handkerchiefs, stainless steel shavers, solid soap bars, cotton buds without a plastic middle section, the menstrual cup instead of tampons or sanitary towels.
There are also bamboo toothbrushes instead of common toothbrushes or longer-lasting deodorant creams instead of roll or spray deodorants. Peelings are usually packed with microplastics – soon, I will provide you the best peeling recipe ever, very easy and sustainable.
6. USE SUSTAINABLE KITCHEN UTENSILS
Especially in the kitchen, the largest part of plastic still strikes me. Useful and sustainable helpers are for me e.g. stainless steel boxes instead of aluminum or cling film, wooden cutting boards and other utensils such as wooden cooking spoons. Sponges can be easily replaced with wooden dishwashing brushes. I also have straws made of bamboo or stainless steel. In addition, I almost exclusively take my drinks in a glass bottle. I think it originally contained tomato sauce. For coffee, I always try to take my time to enjoy it at home. Plus, my guests know anyway that there is the best cappuccino with me anyway. 🙂
In case I have to serve myself on the go, I have a stainless steel to-go cup. And for picnics, you can buy disposable crockery from bamboo or other natural materials, if you do not want to carry all the heavy plates.
7. DO IT YOURSELF
Especially here our grandparents or our parents were far ahead of us in many things. This ranges from homemade jam, self-made clothes, self-made cleaning products out of baking soda and vinegar up to general cooking with fresh ingredients. Convenience food or to-go products guarantee high packaging waste. My kitchen is filled with glass containers because I store everything in them. Whether the glass is really better than plastic, I’ll tell you in one of the following blog posts. Glass is in fact very energy-intensive to produce.
I hope I could provide you some suggestions on how to pay attention to your pile of rubbish. Each of us can do something and he should. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are already so many great alternatives to plastic. We just have to use them!
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Here are the sources for this blog post
Austin, H. P./Allen, M. D./Donohoe, B. S. et al. 2018: Characterization and engineering of a plastic-degrading aromatic polyesterase, in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), Vol. 115, 2018, No. 19.
Bombelli, P./Howe, C. J./Bertocchini, F. 2017: Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella, in: Current Biology, Vol. 27, 2017, No. 8.
Weber, C./Pusch, S./Opatz, T. 2017: Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars?, in: Current Biology, Vol. 27, 2017, No. 15.