My Plastic Bottle-free 2018

At the start of 2018 Guardians of the Deep project officer Zoë Stevenson set herself a challenge; try and use no plastic bottles for the entire year. This is how she got on.

Before we start, let’s have a chat about plastic. I am typing this right now on a keyboard made of plastic, I use a mobile phone that has plastic in it and my car is covered in the stuff. Plastic is great, it has literally revolutionised the way we live and many medical procedures would not be possible today without it.

My issue (and the issue we should all be concerned about) is single-use plastic, i.e., plastic that is used once and then recycled, or worse, thrown away. Many types of single-use plastic are unnecessary for the vast majority of the population and yet we continue to consume it like it is an infinite resource that does no harm. As a petroleum product, plastic most definitely is a finite resource, and as something that never turns back into oil, only smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, to act like it doesn’t cause harm is irresponsible on our part.

Plastic bottle

Throughout 2017 I had slowly been reducing my plastic consumption, replacing shampoo bottles with bars and trying to avoid plastic packaged fruit and veg in the supermarket (although shopping for 1 makes that quite easy) amongst other things. However, I decided that in 2018 I was going to step it up a notch.

As much as I love the zero-waste lifestyle there isn’t the infrastructure anywhere near me to live like that. My closest bulk store is over 45 minutes away and driving there would defeat the purpose of trying to lower my carbon footprint. Likewise, working a full-time job outside of the city meant I couldn’t just pop into the local butcher in my lunch break to get any meat I wanted in my own tub. Plastic bottles seemed like an easy step I could take to reduce my single-use plastic consumption.

After all, what did I ever get that I really needed in a plastic bottle? Fizzy drinks? Diluting juice? Certainly not milk, I got that delivered to my door in a glass bottle by a milkman just like when I was growing up.

Giving up plastic bottles for a year not only seemed achievable but a good starting point for conversations around plastic pollution and plastic reduction.

So the question you are probably all wondering now is; did I do it?

The short answer is no.

The long answer is mostly.

Plastic bottles

All the single-use plastic bottles Zoë Stevenson used in 2018

Throughout 2018 I bought 7 plastic bottles, was given 2, and finished products in 6 I already had. So in total, I used 15 plastic bottles in 2018. The photo shows the bottles that I used with 2 missing; a sun cream and mini soy sauce bottle.

The plastic bottles that I bought were the milk (x2), sun cream (x2), mini soy sauce (x2) and allergy medicine.

Both times the milk was an emergency purchase. Once when the milkman couldn’t make it to my house due to the snow, and the second time when I offered to cook last minute for a group of friends and forgot that the recipe needed milk, which I didn’t have enough of left.

I feel like the sun cream and allergy medicine is self-explanatory, although I have now discovered a few British brands which do reef friendly sun cream in metal tins, so will be investing in that once this stuff runs out.

The mini soy sauce bottles were a hit I took while grabbing Asian food on the go. Yes, I could have avoided them, but in those particular moments, I decided to trade the bottle for the pleasure of the food.

The cooking oil, honey, BBQ sauce, laundry detergent, and diluting juice (x2) were all bottles that I had bought in 2017 and finished in 2018.

For the oil and sauce I have managed to find in glass alternatives, the laundry detergent I have replaced with soap nuts (sustainable and natural), and the juice I have stopped buying because I invested in a water filter to get rid of the chalky taste in Kent’s tap water. Normally I buy honey in glass jars, but this bottle was left behind by an old housemate and I decided that using it would be a better use rather than avoiding it due to the plastic bottle.

The wine was a freebie on a flight, which I had already accepted before I realised it was plastic and felt I couldn’t hand back, and the hair product was given to me by a friend.

I also have to be honest, I have cheated a little bit on this challenge. I live in a shared house and things like cleaning products and washing-up liquid are not my responsibility to buy so I did not collect those bottles. If I was in charge of my own house I would probably try and find a refillable washing up liquid station close to me, and make my own cleaning products for other things. I hear white vinegar and baking soda are miracle workers.

I also have a few bottled sauces in my cupboard that I used in 2017, but didn’t finish so did not count them towards my total.

Reusable bottle

So what have I learnt this year? I think the biggest thing I have learnt is that even small steps can lead to good conversations. Flying back to England after Christmas, I had a conversation about plastic and the environment with the person sitting next to me after I asked the air steward if a drink came in a plastic or glass bottle.

I also learnt how even though I thought I was doing well on the plastic front there was still a lot more I could do. I take my water bottle with me a lot more places now after a few occasions when I became thirsty and there were no canned drinks available. If that had happened before I probably would have just bought a plastic bottle.  I’m also no longer shy about asking anywhere if they can fill my water bottle up, I never had anywhere refuse, not even the petrol station I asked at once!

Where to now? In 2019 am going to try to continue to avoid plastic bottles as much as possible but I won’t be so rigid about it. There were a few rare instances when I made someone else buy things for group events because it only came in plastic bottles…. That’s probably cheating too. I will continue to refuse and reduce as my first point of call, and reuse and recycle as back up plans.

I encourage you to do the same.

 

If you want to get involved in reducing your impact on the marine environment, why not take a pledge on the Guardians of the Deep Wish Fish?