Over the past month, as part of our Trash Talk series, we’ve been looking at how we create waste and what to do about it.
This week, the focus is on single use plastic. There’s so much out in the media now on why single use plastic aka plastic bottles, cups, straws and bags are a disaster for the planet. You might even wonder (in the face of news stories with photos of mounds of garbage) if there’s anything you can do in a real and tangible way.
So we decided to use a tool designed by Daily Dump called ‘How I Buy’ to think about some buying choices we all make in our everyday lives. Because each day, with every choice we make as buyers and consumers, we have the power to effect how much is going out to the landfill.
So the next time you step out to the market to make a purchase, ask yourself these questions:
Ques 1: How often do I buy it in a month?
Mapping the quantity of any purchase can help to make decisions about alternatives. So taking the example of snacks, for instance, by measuring how many packets of biscuits/chips you buy in a month, you can plan for alternatives. So one large bag of chips to replace 4 smaller ones.
For things like tea and coffee that are part of every grocery list, think about loose leaf tea instead of tea bags. You can immediately cut out waste that’s going to the landfill after 5 minutes of use.
Apply this question to all your purchases and you may be surprised by how much of a difference you can make.
Ques 2: What does the packaging look like?
This is the next thing to consider when making purchases- how much packaging do you need to unwrap to get to what you actually wanted to buy? Let that lead the way in how you choose brands/products. For instance, instead of a bag of biscuits which has individually wrapped biscuits in it, or smaller packets inside, choose an options that minimises its packaging.
Extend this to everyday items like things in your refrigerator too, like cheese. Swap out the individually wrapped cheese singles for a block of cheese that can be grated/cut into slivers. That’s fewer than 8-10 plastic wrappers being sent to a garbage dump with that one choice.
Ques 3: How colourful is the packaging?
Clean, clear plastic is the easiest to recycle. Shiny packaging with multiple colours (multi-layer packaging or MLPs) that cover many read-to-eat snacks are non-recyclable and serve no alternate use. So when you’re looking to make a purchase, try steering clear of the glitzy products.
Ques 4: How do I bring home zero plastic?
Plastic might seem to be embedded in our shops and homes, but until not so long ago, we had alternatives to it. Choosing to go back is simple with a little planning. So invest in steel/glass dabbas of different sizes. Take them with you when you go out to restaurants (for leftover food you want to bring home), carry them to the market for everything from snacks straight from a local bakery to paneer from the dairy. Swap out the plastic soap dispenser for a bar of soap.
With a little planning, you can watch the waste in your dustbin shrink.
Ques 5: How do I decide what I want to buy?
There are many factors that influence buying choices- is it a bargain? Is it a brand/style/trend that you’re looking for?
Another filter to add when making buying decisions is looking for a product that supports a value/cause. In most cases, bargain shopping is possible because somewhere down the manufacturing chain, its cruel to the worker who often produce these goods in exploitative conditions. That’s the human cost that isn’t visible in a store. There’s also an environmental cost attached. The energy invested in the supply chain and the carbon footprint it accrues accounts for more than 8 percent of global climate impacts—think crop cultivation, production, dyeing, selling. In addition, quantities of micro plastics are washed into the ocean from synthetic fibres. Read more about the true cost of fast fashion here.
So next time you plan to go shopping, do your research and choose accordingly.