Meet the Team: Throughout the summer we will be introducing the Last team and sharing our own personal journey to plastic free living. Next up – Rachel
How long have you been on your plastic-free journey?
I’ve been mindful to limit my plastic consumption for over 5 years, but it’s been during 2021 that I’ve really cracked down on my plastic use.
What motivated you to start your plastic-free journey?
I started to take my plastic-free journey more seriously when I found out that the plastic we put in recycling bins doesn’t always get recycled. An investigation by Greenpeace found that UK plastic put in recycling bins was sent abroad where it was dumped or burned. I also learned that plastic degrades during the recycling process, so in the event that your plastic bottle does make it to a recycling plant, it will likely become a synthetic fabric that won’t be recycled again. All of this information made me realise that the best way to reduce plastic pollution is to not buy it.
What items did you start with and why?
I started by cutting out plastic bottles because I realised that buying a bottle of juice here and there really built up a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. I started carrying a reusable water bottle with me and chose to only buy drinks sold in cans or glass bottles. It turned out to be an easy switch. Next was food containers. I still have my old plastic ones, but I now make sure to buy glass or bamboo food storage containers instead of plastic.
What are some realisations good and bad that you have had?
I realised that my kitchen was full of unnecessary plastic items, simply because I didn’t take the time to question my habits. Why do I need to put half an onion in a plastic bag or cling film? I don’t… I really don’t. On a positive note, I realised that changing my habits isn’t all that difficult. In my experience, once you know which plastic-free products you’re switching to, it becomes routine.
What has surprised you on your plastic-free journey?
How much we don’t question why staple products have plastic packaging when it’s not needed. I personally had the mindset of “it’s dishwashing liquid, this is what it looks like, this is what it’s always looked like.” There are so many alternatives now, I don’t really know why it took me this long to seek them out.
How did you feel at the start of your plastic-free journey?
A bit overwhelmed, honestly. Once I started to change one thing, I started to notice more and more plastic in my home that I needed to switch out with alternatives. I also struggled with feelings of powerlessness. I found it difficult to comprehend that I could make any difference in the world when huge international companies create vast quantities of plastic every day. It took some time to realise that feeling overwhelmed is completely normal, that each little change builds up to something worthwhile and that more people every day are starting their own plastic-free journeys.
What do you wish you knew at the start?
That once you find your new favourite plastic-free staples you’ll have done the hardest part. By taking a few minutes out of your day to pick one or two plastic-free items to switch to, you will hugely reduce your overall plastic consumption going forward. Shampoo bars and soaps are a great place to start. Repeat ordering is easy, right?
What would be the most helpful to you on your plastic-free journey and why?
Systematic change. We have the technology to remove plastic from our supermarkets and replace it with eco-friendly alternatives. It’s time we build the necessary infrastructure and make that happen.
What are three beliefs you had about going plastic-free that turned out to be incorrect?
- That it’s all or nothing. This isn’t true at all. Everyone starts somewhere. Starting is the important part.
- That it would be incredibly expensive. Certainly when it comes to kitchen items, I don’t find the prices of eco-alternatives to be much different. Also, by swapping disposable items like plastic food bags for something reusable like cotton bags, I’ve actually saved myself some cash in the long run.
- That a single person’s actions don’t matter. As consumers we hold more power than we believe we do. By collectively rejecting plastic we can force change, and a collective is just a bunch of individuals after all.
What are three pieces of advice you would give to anyone starting their plastic-free journey?
- Start with a small change that isn’t overwhelming, whatever that means for you.
- Take some time every now and then to research plastic-free alternatives. New products pop up all the time that make plastic-free living easy and convenient.
- Talk to your peers and friends about their favourite plastic-free tips. It’s good to get a dialogue going and to remember that you’re not the only one trying out there.