My failed day of being plastic free

On average everyone in New Zealand will use 208 single-use plastic shopping bags a year.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

On average everyone in New Zealand will use 208 single-use plastic shopping bags a year.

My quest was to go a whole day without using anything made of plastic to see if it could be done.

It was more than I needed to do. My challenge stemmed from a call by environmental group Para Kore Marae for people to commit to a limited plastic free day on Tuesday May 16 as a warm up to their plastic free July campaign.

I missed that Tuesday but didn't think it would matter doing it on Wednesday.

Taranaki Fairfax reporter Kris Boult failed in his task to lead a plastic free day.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Taranaki Fairfax reporter Kris Boult failed in his task to lead a plastic free day.

My challenge began at 5.20am when I turned the alarm off on my smart phone and it was then I realised I had immediately failed.

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Now, I justified reaching for my plastic smart phone because the alternative was missing work and that was one thing for which I was prepared to make exceptions. 

Trying to brush my teeth on plastic free day presented a few challenges.
123rf

Trying to brush my teeth on plastic free day presented a few challenges.

In the dark I stumbled out to the kitchen for some breakfast and it began dawning on me just how herculean this plastic free task would be. 

The light switch, the bag I got my bread out of for my five-year-old son's lunch,  the fridge door handle, the butter container, the peanut butter jar, the bottle of milk and even his lunchbox, all of it was plastic. Arghhh.

If I wasn't going to use plastic my son and I would have had to go without breakfast and lunch.  By this stage I was feeling pretty defeated and it was still only 6am. 

I still had to brush my teeth, get in the car and drive to work and who knows how many bits of plastic all that involved.

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My challenge lasted less than an hour before I conceded defeat. I wondered just how on earth people managed to do anything before life became so well... plastic.

So I called Teresa Ogle from Hawera's Tawhiti Museum to shed some light on the pre-plastic days.I wanted to know how people brushed their teeth, kept their feet dry before gumboots and picked up their groceries. Not all my questions were answered but I got the idea. 

Buttoning your shirt is easy unless you're on a plastic free challenge.
Mark Dwyer

Buttoning your shirt is easy unless you're on a plastic free challenge.

"Brown paper bags wrapped with string, biscuits were in tins and everything else was glass," she said.  

"China plates were also used to put on top of each other to preserve food and kept in food safes, not fridges."

Oh how times have changed. We now live in a very plastic world. 

In Taranaki 7500 tonnes of plastic ends up in the landfill, that's about 2 kilograms per person per day.
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

In Taranaki 7500 tonnes of plastic ends up in the landfill, that's about 2 kilograms per person per day.

It is estimated in New Zealand just over 20 million shopping bags are used each week, or about 208 bags for each of us every year. 

In Taranaki 7500 tonnes of plastic ends up in the landfill annually - that's about 70 kilograms for every Taranaki resident. 

Just a fraction of the plastic used in Taranaki ends up being recycled. About 12 per cent of our kerbside recycling  is made up of plastic and about 600 tonnes per year are recycled, or about 5kg per person. 

Para Kore Marae Inc general manager Jacqui Forbes admitted going plastic free was a huge task.

She advised people to focus primarily on four single use plastic items, straws, shopping bags, coffee cups and plastic water bottles.

"It's difficult, really difficult actually, so sticking with those four is far more manageable" she said. 

"But it is still possible," 

Her tips included using reusable shopping bags and keeping them in your car, using a reusable bottle or cup for your tea and coffee and instead of buying disposable plastic plates, cups and cutlery try opting for wood or bamboo.

My plastic free day fails

I tried to go a day without using plastic, I didn't get very far. Here's a list of some of the plastic things in my life:

  • Turning off my alarm
  • Turning on the lights
  • Brushing my teeth
  • Doing up my buttons
  • Opening the bread bag and using the milk
  • My fridge
  • Using the car horn
  • Sitting on my office chair, typing on my keyboard, using my phones - my whole desk
  • Using a pen
  • Can't use my eftpos card
  • Couldn't take a drink bottle 
  • Couldn't have lunch, good luck trying to find something not wrapped in plastic
  • TV is out and so is the remote

 - Stuff

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