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A week without plastic

posted by Tim Carmody   Mar 02, 2018

a week of plastic.jpg

The Guardian asked four writers to try to minimize their use of plastic and keep a diary of how much they used over a week. To no one’s surprise, it’s difficult to avoid plastic altogether, but I suspect anyone would be stunned at just how much of it there is.

Before going to bed I wash my face with micellar water (which comes in a plastic bottle), use an interdental tooth brush (plastic), and take out my monthly contacts (plastic). I’ve barely done anything today, but the pile in the corner of the kitchen is getting bigger. On day two, the plastic onslaught continues; now I’m looking for it, I see it everywhere. Thanks to a cold, I go through multiple plastic-wrapped packets of tissues. A pizza delivery arrives with unnecessary plastic cutlery and a plastic-wrapped chocolate bar. I get my (acrylic) nails done, receive some clothes from Asos which come in plastic packaging, as does the ink for my printer…

Five days in and I’m amazed to realise how much I have accrued, from the Amazon delivery which arrives wrapped in bubbles and film, to the balloons we blow up for my flatmate’s birthday (latex, not plastic, but very much single use). The morning after her party, the flat is full of plastic cups, straws and bottles; soon thrown away in several plastic bin bags. I need some help; I speak to Andrew Pankhurst, a consumer campaigns manager from Zero Waste Scotland. He takes a look at my diary and has a few tips, from sharing printer cartridges with flatmates to putting a recycling bin in the bathroom. Could I possibly remove plastic from my everyday life?

This reminds me of something materials scientist Deb Chachra told me once: that as petroleum gets harder and harder for us to find economically, we might start to worry less about peak gasoline than we do about peak plastic.