There has been loads of hype and media around banning the single use plastic bag. And too right, San Francisco did it some 10 years ago and they are ok, and here we are in Australia slowly integrating what is possibly the easiest bag to get rid of. It just means that we all need to think a little before we rip around the shops buying up stuff.
So now that the plastic bag is banned in my own house and the local supermarkets are on board I started to think about where else we find single use plastic. I turned my attention very close to home, work. We have around 100 staff where I work and in general everyone seems fairly conscientious about their personal waste. However, we can still be better and do more. Due to the size of the business and premises we don’t clean up after ourselves anymore, like the old days, we have a cleaner. Our cleaner, when I asked him, just did what he needed to do and yep, everyday those 100 or so bins gets cleaned out, even if there is only a banana peel and a coffee cup lying in the waste. So I thought, I love math so lets do up the sums on the bin liner.
Ok, so in the office we have 1 bin for every person who works there. Yep! 100 bins!!! Each bin gets lined pretty much every day even if it is hardly used. Even if every bin had a bio-degradable liner that is still 1 liner that gets chucked out every day. I am only going to focus on the liner today as the rest of the consumption of paper, coffee cups and other packaging waste from ready meals, sauces etc is another story altogether. Here are the sums on the humble (not needed) bin liner.
The sums (and the costs to the business)
If we take out the weekends and then an additional 10 days per year due to public holidays and Christmas holidays the bins are getting lined for 250 days per year. Therefore : 100 bins x 250 days = 25,000 bags. The costs of just this one item being removed and replacing individual bins with a central bin is astounding. The costs based on a supermarket degradable bin liner (more on this in a minute) – packet of 25 costs $3.10, therefore 25,000 bags cost the business $3,100 per year. I am sure the bosses would rather that go to their back pocket not in the bin!
Anywho, I then started to investigate the difference between degradeable, bio-degradeable and compostable plastic bags.
Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels
Degradable plastic – Made from plastic – which is made from petroleum based product, but has an additive added to it in the manufacturing which allows the plastic to degrade quicker than traditional single use plastic bags…………………….but here is the clincher on this type of plastic – it breaks into tiny particles and ends up becoming micro plastic, and yep probably ends up in the ocean, as everything seems to.
Verdict – Please do not use them! They will end up in landfill, for sure.
Bio-Degradable – Made from plant based products like corn, wheat – starch, and maybe there are some others out there that I haven’t discovered. Truth about these is that they bio-degrade only under certain circumstances, i.e ultraviolet light, heat and if they end up in landfill they create loads more methane into the atmosphere. Forget the cows for a minute!
Verdict – Please do not use them! Thing is they will end up in landfill anyway.
Compostable plastic – Made from natural products like corn starch, soy protein, cellulose and potato. They do compost completely, but there is a glitch, they need to be separated sent to a specific recycling facility and heated to the right temperature, but yes out of all of the products they seem to be the most planet friendly. But, at this point there are only around 150 facilities in Australia that do this specific kind of recycling. Therefore planting them with your fruits and vegie compost may not work either.
Verdict – Use them if you know they are going to be recycled properly. If they end up in landfill they aren’t as bad as their counterparts.
So I know this is all very confusing and challenging. I have trash, it’s unavoidable to a degree, I do my very best buying bulk where I can, making food from scratch, using reusable bags, produce bags and revamping old stuff to make it new and reusable. *buy produce bags/reusable bread bags and other green products from my instragram @zerowastekulture
Lessen your single use plastic bag use, then tackle the other bits of plastic that come into your home!
I have two daughters, a pre-teen and a teen. They are super awesome, but they bring in their fair share of single use plastic in the home. I talk to them about making better choices when they go shopping, but it still comes through my door!!! Its a f*&king nightmare. Whilst I am busy trying my hardest to stop the plastics coming in, they are breaking their way in like vampires, being invited and never leaving! I am a realist and know that unless we move to the country, become fully self sustainable, make their clothes from scratch and cut ourselves off from the world there will inevitably be some plastic in our lives. But give me the pipe-dream of being completely plastic free on the farm, and yes – I might just put that in my pipe and smoke it!
So whilst trying to tackle the teens, the world we live and navigating a zero waste life, a couple of months ago I embarked on removing items in my house one by one.
a) to slowly integrate this into our lives
b) to have everyone in my house on-board with my journey
c) I am sick of seeing the waste
d) because I give a shit!
So far I have personally given up buying single use, plastic wrapped shampoo, conditioner, washing liquid, dish-washing liquid, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, bread, peanut butter, and dry goods like flours, sugars, grains. It’s easy, but I have so many more things to toss. Next on the list is milk (trying to source a farm close by, or buy a cow), each week consciously buying meat from the butcher in my own containers, making my own muesli again (slipped on that one) and purchasing bulk cheese, deli goods. It’s a slow process but it is working and our general consumption of waste is lessening each and every week.
And in the end here is a little anecdote :
Some years ago I had a conversation with my father in law about climate change and climate change skeptics. He is a skeptic. Whilst everyone is able to have their own opinion, even if this isn’t my opinion its good for the debate and discussion. What unfolded was this – It doesn’t matter on which side of the fence you sit, whether you believe that the world is cyclical and mother nature will just take back what is rightfully hers or not. Whether or not this is just a fact regardless of the endless papers you have read from scholars who are pro or anti climate change. The simple truth is that we humans, either by perfect design or by having weapons of mass destruction, have put ourselves at the top of the food chain and therefore by default are the custodians of the planet. Therefore our innovation and technologies have led us to where we are right now, swimming in the sea of plastic. Now come on if you don’t think you have been partisan to any of it, you are a fool or just really young. But we can turn it around, we can be better at what we do on a daily basis, we can start to clean up our backyards. This isn’t just a fad, it’s for real. so the conversation ended like this. Father in law “I do not believe in climate change, the world has been going through cycles of change for millions of years and will continue to do so, climate change is not real”, I chimed in “It is really not that important whether everyone believes in climate change or not, what is important is that we start to care about how we are living on the planet, therefore people just need to be more conscious of their choices, regardless of the climate change debate”.
So if you do give a shit, even if you don’t believe in climate change, take some more time and care about your daily duties, purchases and say no to the plastic bags you get over the counter, even if they do pick up your dog poo on your morning walk.
Photo cred : Troy Mayne
Some more light reading / listening
For your ears – https://medium.com/futurethinkers/7-ways-the-blockchain-can-save-the-environment-and-stop-climate-change-724d48287dfc