Imagine your plastic bottle starting to grow into a plastic-bottle-tree in a landfill…
Currently, the news is overflowing with stories about plastic in the oceans, recycling, living sustainably and so on. When was it? Yesterday, I think, we (the humans living on this planet that we call “Mother” earth) were advised that we should pay attention to climate change.
Just today, this image of some old plastic waste washed ashore onto my Instagram feed:
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A plastic washing-up bottle that is at least 47 years old has been found washed up on a beach in the UK with its lettering and messaging still clear, prompting warnings about the enduring problem of plastic waste. The item, found by a coastguard warden at a beach in Somerset, “still looks almost new”, despite being dated back to before decimalisation was introduced in Britain in 1971. Some types of plastic bottles take 450 years to break down. The UK produces more than 170m tonnes of waste a year, much of it food packaging, and only a third of plastic packaging is recycled. Photo: Burnham Coastguard
Plastic! It’s bloody everywhere!
And as the picture of the old washing-up liquid bottle proves, it (the plastic pollution problem) has been around for quite a while.
Littering has always been out of the question
I was brought up to respect nature, littering was out of the question (I even feel bad when it’s the stem of an apple going into the gutter by accident and not making it into the next bin). So, imagine how shocked I was at 22 when I saw a kid chuck a disposable cup into the gutter next to a bin or a dogwalker doing the same with a bag of poo… But then I received a certain education/brainwashing when it comes to littering.
My mother loved to go for long walks into the woods and fields that would be in proximity to our various homes. Often, she would come home with quite a collection of things that had nothing to do in those areas (cans, bottles, wrappers, nails), thus sometimes we’d grab a (plastic) bag when going outside to have a place to put all of those things.
She wasn’t alone being exasperated by the litter all around. In our neighbourhood, a few adults got together with us kids and we organised a cleanup Saturday. A newspaper might decompose, but a whole stack of newspapers still bound together does not really. Someone had updated their hardware and the old computers were rotting underneath a cherry tree. Seen that since then 20 years have passed, I hope that after subsequent updates the computers and their insides weren’t again left outside in hope of aliens finding interest in the outdated electronic equipment.
A few months later, my school went on the same mission and we found other astounding things.
You know, litter doesn’t grow
In kindergarten, we were once asked to bring in all sorts of rubbish. We drew little pictures of the objects we had brought in (toilet paper, candy wrappers, yoghurt cups) and stuck them onto little sticks, just as you do when you are sowing tomatoes or peppers. Well, we didn’t sow tomatoes, our seeds were made from plastic, paper, iron, aluminium. And guess what? None of the things we planted started growing. In hindsight, I am happy that nothing grew, imagine your plastic bottle starting to grow into a plastic-bottle-tree in a landfill…
Speaking of a landfill, when a kid I lived near a former landfill. I had a hard time grasping what that was, but the idea of the sickly trees growing on waste that wasn’t composted just did not seem right.
This spring, I found myself picking up plastic and styrofoam whilst walking on the seaside in Split Croatia. I always tell myself every little bit helps. And I sincerely hope it does.
Recycling isn’t everything, but producing less waste might be!
When I went to Germany this summer, I took the photo of the bins pictured above. My grandfather has 4 different bins (compostable, plastic “light packaging”, paper, and non-reusable), for the glass you have to go to a special recycling place and bottles, cans and certain jars come with a deposit. But all this effort seems to be of little use. This summer, I read that Germany might be recycling champion of the world, but it also the biggest waste producer per head… I was often impressed by the amount of useless packaging material.
Writing about useless packaging material, I really don’t need plastic separators between my slices of ham of salmon! Maybe it’s so I know what a fish’s diet looks like? Fish and plastic (more plastic than fish, that is!).
Sort of doing my bit
So, yes I am guilty of buying products wrapped in plastic. I buy bottled water. But I don’t drive a car, I even limit my use of public transportation by using my bike to commute everywhere. I live in a tiny apartment with lost of plants. We like cooking soups and sauces that are then put into jars. This saves time and limits food waste. I bought a beautiful pela case this summer, my old very cheap plastic case started to fall apart. My pela case comes with a certain price tag, but it is made from natural fibres and apparently, it is compostable. I also invested in a Brita filter, the tap water has a horrible chlorine taste and even though the lead pipes were taken out late 2014, I still don’t really trust them. Recently one of our local supermarkets installed a recycling machine, for every clear plastic bottle that you return you receive a cent, or you can give a said cent to charity. I’m not in it for the money (a penny is a penny and should always be respected), but it’s a good way of underling just how many bottles we use! Trust me, it gets scary quickly.
How are you passively or actively doing your bit to save our mother earth?