Solving the global pollution crisis means reducing waste generation. Let’s get to it.

Discarded plastic straws pose an environmental hazard. There is a growing movement to eliminate them altogether. (Helen Lockhart/Two Oceans Aquarium). Source: washingtonpost.com

We all know that the world is facing a global pollution crisis. For my part, though, I have sometimes felt rather powerless to do very much about it. Diligent recycling habits (for example) can seem like a mere drop in the (tragically plastic-filled) ocean when one sees the massive amount of waste which can quickly build up if it is not collected. Edinburgh City Council is pretty good about making regular local collections. But the inevitable disruptions over the recent festive period meant that our curb-side bins were very quickly overflowing. And that was just one part of one street. It was breathtaking to realise just how much waste we produce.

How very heartening it is, then, to see the rise of the movement in favour of avoiding generating waste in the first place, with a particular focus on reducing single-use plastics. Here’s a great article which sets out a number of practical, doable steps we can all take towards reducing our waste. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, the advice is to pick a handful of solutions and just make a start.

The list includes a welcome reference to a reduction in plastic straws. Thank goodness food outlets are starting to recognise the need to find alternative drinking solutions.  Incredibly, over 500 million straws are used every day in the USA. That’s enough to fill more than 46,400 school buses every year. Just image this quantity of plastic in our oceans, and that’s just the straws.

Rejecting a simple straw in a bar may feel like yet another rather pointless drop in the ocean. Let us hope, however, that by consistently taking a small step like this, changes at a macro level will emerge.

Here are the five things I am going to start/stop doing as of today:

  1. cut out using cling film. I have in recent times drastically reduced the amount of cling film I use, preferring instead to store food etc in reusable containers. It’s time to go the whole way and stop using cling film simply because it is more convenient;
  2. stop buying bottles of water. If I think I am likely to need a drink, I can take water in a reusable bottle from home;
  3. become more active about refusing drinking straws. No more complaining to Hub about the unwanted serving of straws with my drinks. From now on, I’ll be asking for my drink without a straw in the first place;
  4. stop using tea bags. I can’t believe that even the humble teabag contains plastic. I drink a LOT of tea during the day, most of which is leaf tea. Nevertheless we still have plenty of teabags in the cupboard ‘for convenience’. But seriously – how much more inconvenient is it really to make a pot? Enough said;
  5. switch to plastic-free cleaning. I am a great one for different sprays/wipes/cloths so this will be an interesting move. I am looking forward to learning new cleaning tips and techniques.

With only a moment’s thought it is obvious that change on a global scale can only truly happen if we all make individual efforts to do things differently. I’m excited to embrace these endeavours and will report back in a few months’ time about how I am getting on.

In the meantime, how about you? What steps could you take to help save the planet?

 

31 thoughts on “Solving the global pollution crisis means reducing waste generation. Let’s get to it.

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    These are wonderful ideas and something we all need to keep in mind. I hadn’t even thought about the teabags. Though some of the teabag is biodegradable, a portion of it is not. Definitely food for thought. (Or in this case, drink for thought?…)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. KerryCan says:

    Do you follow the Snail of Happiness blog? She is very concerned about these same issues and has been writing on the topic of the drinking straws, too. I like the idea of having a set of manageable goals–one plus one plus one equals a million, right?

    Like

    • Liz says:

      Thanks so much for the signpost to that blog, which I had not come across, but am now following! You are so right with your sums. It seems utterly inconsequential to, say, stop using tea bags – is that really going to change the world? – but we all have to start somewhere… 🙂

      Like

  3. utesmile says:

    Liz, you read the same article as me., and my thoughts were exactly the same. I shared it on my facebook page but no one seems to have seen it. I haven’t bought bottled water for years as I drink tap water, so I refill a bottle every day. For the straw problem I already bought stainless steel straws with a little brush so they are reusable. I don’t use them but my son does. That teabags have plastic in them surprised me, I didn’t know that. So I will have more open tea too. At work I only drink hot water anyway. Also I made the decision that I will not use clingfilm anymore. I don’t like it anyway as I can never get it to cut properly. I rather use something like tupperware. That’s plastic too though so glass ware is better really. It is amazing how much plastic is in our lives, only when we look out we realize it. I do love cleaning with vinegar and use old spray bottles. I will definitive do my bit to help, as I saw on the Blue Planet series how the ocean animals suffer. It is not fair of humans. Funny that I had the same feelings and thoughts like you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Clare Pooley says:

    Great post, Liz! I knew about the tea-bags and have been trying to get my dear husband to give them up but so far to no avail! I prefer using loose tea and loose black tea is easy to find but loose herbal teas especially, are almost impossible to find and I don’t particularly want to start making my own!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ste J says:

    I must confess being in The Philippines where locally the tap water isn’t safe to drink I have been necessarily drinking from plastic bottles, however I do reuse the bottles with the clean water that we have to order in. It’s like paying the water rates back home but we pay for water when we need it. It helps teach the true value of water, I don’t take it for granted any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz says:

      You are so right. I have long been a supporter of the charity WaterAid, which does fantastic work in bringing clean water to remote and deprived parts of the world. I agree with you that it can be all too easy to take something like water for granted. And everything needs to be taken in context – ok, so you need to rely on plastic bottles, but I bet, for example, you can easily shop in local markets etc, thus avoiding/minimising the need for plastic food packaging?

      Like

    • Liz says:

      A super article, thanks for highlighting it. Funnily enough I was having a conversation with a friend only last week about how good it would be if drinking fountains around Edinburgh could be restored and added – it seems like an obvious and helpful solution to the plastic crisis, albeit reversing the previous trend.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. valeriedavies says:

    The idea of parabens leaching into our food effectively put me off using plastic for anything, even storage i the fridge … I now use ordinary china bowls and and cover them with a plate… as for tea bags… the sheer pleasure of the ritual of making a pot of tea outweighs the convenience factor every time for me… and no straws in this house either… it’s so encouraging to know that these small things can make a difference…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz says:

      Really interesting to read this, Valerie, thank you. It really is hard to know what to do for the best, but as long as we all make some kind of effort, it’s a step in the collective direction, isn’t it.

      Like

  7. melissabluefineart says:

    And plastic bags. You don’t mention them, so perhaps they aren’t in use there as they are here? It is ridiculous to find a single measly item with a bag all to itself from the grocery store. I almost always remember to bring a canvas tote. The best news is I am increasingly seeing others doing so, too. Not so long ago the checkout clerks would roll their eyes at me for this. Now they take it in stride, or even congratulate me for doing it. Another one I hate is all the packaging on products. I’ve been on a mission to just stop buying things. ….but then I see a book I must have. Do books count?? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Milind Joshi says:

    Hi Liz, great post and especially you have put the whole thing in such simple words, without any jargon! However I will only partly agree with you. I agree with you on your point that “it is obvious that change on a global scale can only truly happen if we all make individual efforts to do things differently.” However in this “we all” is an important phrase. What I mean is the destruction which has already happened is at such a mega scale that efforts to restore also will have to be made on real mega scale. Individual efforts, though much appreciable personally, will not really make much difference on the level of planet. Therefore, one – governments have and must play a far bigger role by implementing policies to curb this menace and no government is interested to do it (barring a few small nations). And two- in today’s era we are seeing power of networking. So for example, say a network of 2.5 billion people (which is half of 15 to 65 age group population – which is 65% of world population) decide that, for one year, they will not use tea bags, cling film, straws, drinking water, plastic bags and so on… then, there can be some difference on planetary level. In present era – when facebook has 2.2 billion users and whatsApp 1.5 billion – creating such a network is not impossible. Isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz says:

      Thank you, Milind, for this very thoughtful and interesting contribution to the conversation. I see exactly what you are saying. We clearly need both a top-down and a bottom-up approach to tackling this massive problem. I think this is borne out by the example of the recent success in the UK with reduced plastic bag usage. As I am sure you are aware, following the introduction by Government of a law requiring shops to charge for plastic bags there has been an over 80% reduction in the use of such bags, with people making the effort instead to carry multi-use bags instead. A similar movement seems to be gathering now in relation to plastic straws, which is great to see. The combined effort of Governments at national and local levels, with businesses and communities is raising awareness of this vitally important topic. Of course, there is still much to do and a long way to go, but everything has to start somewhere, right?

      Liked by 1 person

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