“Bless me father for I have sinned”, or whatever the saying is…my C. o. I. Sunday School teachings focused more on singing hymns with ten verses and baking buns for the Mothers’ Union.
The morning after the firm summer BBQ, whilst in a fragile state, I had a moment of weakness and bought a packet of salt and vinegar crisps in plastic packaging. I suppose a positive take-away from my indiscretion is that I felt guilty about it. Plastic Free July is having an effect on me.
Last week was not a good week for me in in terms of my plastic consumption. I was flying to London for my sister’s graduation and, like most people who fly, I brought some liquids in my carry-on bag. There is no alternative but to use the clear single-use plastic bags when going through security. The EU Security Rules specifically provide that liquids under 100ml must be packed in one transparent, re-sealable plastic bag of not more than one litre capacity per person. I didn’t have a choice, I had to use the plastic bag (FYI – I still have that plastic bag and am reusing it to store dried herbs from my father’s garden – yay for me).
So – how many millions of these plastic bags are used every day in airports world-wide and then disposed of? Dublin Airport alone had 31.5 million passengers in 2018. A large majority of those passengers probably used a plastic bag for their hand luggage liquids. The thought is nauseating.
Although it didn’t temper my overall feeling of deflation, I was intrigued to see that Dublin Airport now has re-sealable cans of water for sale after security. I have long been an admirer of the stands of water bottles for sale. There is no point of sale, just an honesty box and a sign recommending a payment of €1 per bottle. The cans of water are a welcome addition, and I have been using mine for a week now. It’s a little bit bashed about but it can ultimately be recycled, and recycling a can is more efficient and less harmful than recycling a plastic bottle!
I have also been trying to replace plastic products from other aspects of my life. The most successful ‘swap’ has been my toothbrush. Bamboo toothbrushes have been around for several years and my experience so far has been great. They work the exact same way as a normal toothbrush but need to be replaced every 4-6 weeks or so (depends how vigorously you brush). Once they need to be replaced, pop them in the compost bin. My twin gifted me a care package of sustainable products from the Little Green Shop in Mullingar which included, amongst other items, a bamboo toothbrush, clay toothpaste, and a steel straw. I am not convinced by the clay toothpaste. It is gritty. STH said it tasted like ‘sadness’. We are fortunate in Ireland that our tap water is treated with fluoride as many sustainable toothpaste alternatives do not contain fluoride which is important for maintaining strong teeth. This has created a bit of a problem in the UK, but we should be able to manage in Ireland. I am open to trying other (non-clay) plastic-free toothpastes, so suggestions welcome!
Although I haven’t tried them yet myself, the shampoo bars from Lush have been recommended highly to me. Made with essential oils and packaged in tin cans, they are meant to last up to 80 washes which is the equivalent of two to three 250g plastic shampoo bottles. In recent years newer brands have appeared on the market and are available at Boots, Holland & Barret, Nourish and other health stores.
Last week Pat Kane from Reuzi came to William Fry to talk about the harmful effects of single-use plastic and how, at an individual level, we need to take responsibility for our waste production and our carbon footprint. She highlighted the range of positive actions one can take depending on commitment levels – from refusing single-use plastic to deciding to only have one child! Did you know that one child creates 58.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year? Even if I decided to go car free, I would only save 2.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. I felt embarrassed on behalf of my parents for the unsustainable five children they had. They should have stopped after me. I am the best one anyway.
Many shops, like Reuzi, are making it easier for us to live a more sustainable, plastic free life, so after my not so great week last week, I am determined to get back on track for the last few days of July.
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