Challenge 6 – Plastic Won’t Last-ic (for longer than 500 years)

Challenge 6 – Plastic Won’t Last-ic (for longer than 500 years)

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Hey, it’s you! The actor portraying the owner of the chocolate factory turned environmentally friendly campaigner, Green Wilder! Oh wait, it’s you, renowned early 1900s actor starring in movies such as Singin’ in the Rain, turned eco-activist, Green Kelly! Oh, no, no, that’s not right. Of course, it’s you, it’s you, the co-lead singer and bassist for Kiss, who’s now an advocate for sustainability, Green Simmons! 

Well, whoever you are, *bows on the green carpet* we’re honoured to see you again. Welcome back! And welcome, June. We’re semi-circling the sun, halfway into the year and mere minutes away from Home Bargains frenetically stocking up their Christmas aisles. That’s six months of making green swaps and bettering the Earth we inhabit. You might not see it yet, but you’ve already made such an incredible environmental impact. You’re mama nature’s favourite. 

And speaking of our favourite discount retailers, this month’s theme was inspired by something I spotted in its confectionery aisle whilst I was perusing the biscuits; a party-sized bag full of tiny gummy foods – gummy burgers, gummy pizza, gummy fries, gummy cola bottles – where each tiny item was individually wrapped in plastic upon plastic upon plastic, and then they were all stuffed into a, plot twist, larger packet of plastic, bulging with the promise of pollution. 

Plasticity? More like plastic city, right? That’s the world we live in. Where everything and the kitchen sink is bound in plastic packaging – I’m surprised babies aren’t born in a sack of plastic with nurses needing a letter opener to set them free.

But as bad as it is, it can get better – with the many ways we can green swap out plastic for better, more environmentally-friendly materials. Hopefully then plastic won’t last-ic. Because if we don’t make these changes, take these steps, it will last, for centuries at a time. So let’s see what we can try this month, to better forever. 

Turns out Aqua was wrong. Life in plastic is not fantastic


1. Invest in a bamboo toothbrush

Haven’t we all thought that Pandas have the best pearly whites we’ve ever seen? They might be morons when it comes to balance and avoiding head injury, but when it comes to dental care; they’re way ahead of the game. Brushing, flossing, possibly pole vaulting with bamboo, all because it is infinitely better than plastic use. 

212 million toothbrush heads or manual toothbrushes are thrown away each year. That’s more than 580,000 every day – and that’s only for the UK. 

Did you know that the average toothbrush takes approximately 500 years to decompose? That means that your great-great-great-great grandchildren will likely be using your current Colgate Max to scrape scut off their skirting boards in the distant future (whilst their AI servants are, of course, recharging). We all want to immortalise ourselves, to linger well beyond our timelines, to be remembered in one form or another ad infinitum – but do we really want it to be our stale plaque crusted onto a plastic brush that we’re recognised for? Probably not.

These single-use plastics amount into multiple-waste plastics, landfill now landfull of expired toothbrushes enjoying a half millennia retirement, and contributing to plastic pollution. But there is an evergreen perennial solution. 

Bamboo toothbrushes. This month, replace your old toothbrush with a new bamboo. 

Save your plastics for grimy loo cleans, and treat yourself to a Panda-endorsed bamboo toothbrush instead. They are created from nature-made materials, plastic free and biodegradable, meaning that when their time comes for a brush with death’s teeth, the handle will break down and return to the soil as organic matter in an average of three to six months. 

They’re also sustainable, reusable, BPA-free, and their nylon bristles are recyclable! 

Bamboo is a renewable resource, growing rapidly and fruitfully, yearly. The production of a bamboo-made toothbrush involves no pesticides or fertilisers and requires much less water, meaning its environmental impact is far less than that of plastic toothbrushes. Not to mention bamboo brushes support local economic growth in the communities that harvest the bamboo.

So, grab yourself a bamboo toothbrush and, the next time your mouth is frothed with toothpaste as you’re scrubbing them into silk, remind yourself that with every brush, spit and rinse, your carbon toothprint is lower. And your environmentally friendly influence on the world is much, much higher. That’s worth toothy-grinning about if you ask me.


2. Avoid plastic packaging

The Earth’s plastic problem is, ironically, rather elastic. Stretching around the globe like a plastic-made belt and suffocating the environment one package at a time. Now, it’s rarely recommended to avoid your problems, but in this case, avoidance is actually the solution to this particular problem.

Avoiding all plastic packagingwhere possible. 

Things have already come such a long way. Amazon itself has “mitigated the use of more than a billion single-use plastic delivery bags from its European distribution since 2018,” thus ending the use of non-recyclable packaging across the continent. Companies across the globe are committing to the use of recyclable boxes, bags, bottles; Puma, ASOS, Lush, Kelloggs, Samsung, JUST Water, PANGEA – but there’s still a long way to go.

However, the long way isn’t tackled by only one of us, all on our own. It’s travelled by all of us, a mighty united front, a collective of doers, thinkers, hopers, and as individuals the long way is accomplished by an accumulation of our tiny, yet tremendous, steps. One step at a time, if we all strive to stride forward, we’ll get there.

So. Here are a few of those tiny, tremendous, plastic-free steps you can choose to make today:

  • Carry a reusable bottle

We’ve mentioned it before and we’re mentioning it again, only because we know how easy it can be! Easy to grab a plastic bottle of Evian from the airport because you forgot to pack your own. Easy to slip £1 into a vending machine because you’re parched and your bag wasn’t big enough for your bottle. Easy to forget about hydrating until the last second, when only your local WHSmith is around to alleviate your thirst. 

But do you know what’s even easier? Browsing Etsy for a cute water bottle of your choosing. Litre ones, half litres, travel-sized, gym-sized, sustainable and reusable and better for the environment. Not to mention you can get them customised! As easy as it might be to grab a plastic bottle of water on the go, remember this; it’s not so easy to undo the damage caused by plastic pollution. But it is easy to fill up your very own reusable bottle and stuff it in your bag every day; and more than that, it’s better

  • Swap out the cling film for sustainable alternatives

We all love leftovers. I’m actually convinced pasta sauce tastes better when it’s had an overnight stay in the fridge, wrapped beneath its cling film blanket, taking some time to get to know itself and be the best that it can be. Problem is, it could be better – if it was sealed beneath something other than cling film. Why? Because “cling film can take hundreds of years to decompose. And when it does eventually break down, it turns into microplastics, which leach harmful chemicals into our groundwater, our oceans, and endangers the world’s wildlife.”

Kind of adds a sour taste to the leftovers, right?

Thankfully, there are plenty of sustainable swaps we can make. Including glass containers, recycled jars, silicon lids and even beeswax food wraps, infused with organic cotton. You can’t tell me you don’t want your spirali to snooze beneath a bee-made blanket before meeting its bile-y end in your belly.

  • Buy recycled fashion

There are two ways you can dabble with recycled fashion. The first, and possibly the more expensive option, is to swap your fast fashion spending habits for sustainable ones. Brands like Lucy & Yak, Rubbish London and Passenger create their lines out of recycled and organic materials. As Rubbish London itself said, it’s “love from landfill.” Passenger even plants a new tree and protects ancient rainforests with every order! “See mom, I told you I needed those seven hoodies. I’m bringing a forest to life.”

Alternatively, and potentially better for the piggy bank, is recycled fashion in the form of buying pre-owned. One woman’s out-of-season skirt is another woman’s vintage treasure-wear – so download apps like Vinted, Depop and eBay to buy good-as-new clothes that have some previous stories to share! It’s a way of recycling, re-wearing and re-loving fashion – and you tend to get items you love for cheaper than retail prices.

  • Bye bye balloons

It’s quite a romanticised gesture, capturing air in an expanding rubbery sphere and making your loved one celebrate their additional year of existence by lugging it round with them all day. As mighty as they might seem in UP, or as sinister as a red one is in IT, balloons have a mighty and sinister impact on the environment. When a balloon rises high enough, it can burst into a thousand tiny plastic-y pieces – which take ages to biodegrade, eventually breaking down into microplastics. But worse than that, balloons affect marine life, with many nautical animals mistaking them for jellyfish, which they often eat, and the rubber can get stuck in their gut, causing them to starve. That’s not party, that’s a break-your-hearty.

So ditch them. No more balloon buying for special occasions. Bunting, pompoms, lanterns, flowers, homemade decorations; these are all sustainable celebration alternatives that can be used time and time again. And anyway, I don’t think your 50 year old brother is too excited about the idea of lugging his balloons around the golf course. 

  • International Plastic Bag Free Day

On July 3, it’s actually International Plastic Bag Free Day – so, for that day at the very least, try to ditch those, too.


3. Plastic Free July

And finally, to ready you for the month ahead with this month’s theme in mind, meet Plastic Free July. “A global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution – so we can have cleaner streets, oceans, and beautiful communities,” hosted by Plastic Free Foundation.

The mission, should you choose to accept it, is to reduce single-use plastics in everyday ways – doesn’t sound too impossible, does it? Whether that’s home, school, work, out-and-about activities like shopping and coffee-stopping, there are innumerable ways, little and large alike, that you can cut out plastics for the month – and maybe even beyond that. The Plastic Free July challenge website comes equipped with an array of resources; videos, posters, ideas, solutions, tips and tricks and tremendous encouragement, as well as a resourceful “Pesky Plastics” quiz helping you to figure out what plastics you can and can’t change from your everyday routines – all for (plastic) free! 

It’s impossible to fail. And even just one plastic-item refused is 100% more than if you’d refused none; one lower-carbon-footprint step towards a less polluted planet. One step, multiplied by the 100 million plus participants throughout 190 countries; that’s 100 million steps all across the globe, creating lasting and impactful change.

So get involved this July, find local events nearby and reduce plastic use – give it a try.

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