Plastic waste floods our environment and is likely to last for generations. Thus, it’s no surprise that we – and our children – may have unknowingly ingested plastic. How can we take action? Mummyfique presents some companies trying to reduce plastic waste and consumption, and how we can cut down plastic use in our own homes. By CRYSTAL CHAN
Plastic: its origins and effects
Initially, we embraced plastic as a good substitute for materials such as paper because of its durability and non-biodegradable nature. However, over the years we have accumulated a staggering amount of plastic waste. Survey results from Singapore Environment Council (SEC) in a 2018 Straits Times article found that “Singapore uses at least 1.76 billion plastic items a year.” This is akin to one plastic item per person a day. Yet, alarmingly, less than 20 per cent is recycled.
In 2018, National Geographic compiled Great Britain’s Royal Statistical Society’s statistics on global plastic pollution. It highlights, “Some 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.” In other words, it equates to “five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world”.
Furthermore, the trash contaminates potential water resources and destroys ecosystems. Marine life ingests the microplastics – plastics broken down into pieces smaller than 5mm. In turn, we and our children consume these microplastics when we eat seafood. In addition, our reliance on bottled water means we might be ingesting a credit card sized amount of plastic weekly. Ultimately, plastic can also negatively affect our children’s health and our fertility.
While this seems disheartening, countries and companies are starting to take action by imposing plastic bans or banning plastic straws. Here are some companies working on making a difference – and tips for you too.
1) Recycle whenever possible.
The Body Shop’s #CommunityTradePlastic programme in Bengaluru, India, focuses on recycling existing plastic. The programme aims to drive social change and empower people through India’s marginalised community of waste pickers – the Dalits (Untouchables). They believe that plastic can be sustainable if used responsibly.
At Bengaluru, The Body Shop teams up with Plastics for Change and local social enterprise, Hasiru Dala. The partners create employment opportunities for waste pickers, while simultaneously working hard to fight for their rights. These enterprises ensure the quality of the recycled plastic being collected and produced, and help to stabilise the wages of 1.5 million waste pickers.
By the end of 2019, The Body Shop will have purchased up to 250 tonnes of Community Trade recycled plastic. These will then be converted into approximately three million 250ml hair care bottles. Yang Kean Hye, The Body Shop’s General Manager for APAC Brand & Singapore Market, assures that the quality of the recycled bottles are “tested and certified to high food grade standards”.
Additionally, The Body Shop will also be launching a local recycling initiative coming July 2019, where customers can return empty rinsed-out bottles at their outlets.
Tips: Support other skincare brands with recycling initiatives
Apart from The Body Shop, there are a few brands who are actively reducing their use of plastic. Lush, famous for their recyclable black pots, has a wide collection of solid shampoo, cleansers, facial oils, all free from plastic packaging.
2) Substituting with other materials
Since the usage of plastic is still prevalent in our society, we need to reduce our reliance on it. Check out some the innovations developed to tackle this problem.
A better way to drink
Taiwanese students, Mickey Wu and Gang Shih, came up with the idea of Float. Float is a straw-less bubble tea glass cup that offers a more environmentally-friendly way for people to drink the much-loved beverage.
Taiwan’s widespread bubble tea drinking culture inspired these designers to create a cup that eliminates straws. The main cup is made from Spring Pool Glass’ recycled glass while the internal container holding the toppings is made from Tritan material (a BPA-free plastic). While the cup isn’t entirely plastic-free, it’s still a creative way to help reduce plastic waste. Float is set to be launched in Winter 2019.
Tips: Use reusable containers
An avid coffee or tea drinker? Bring a reusable tumbler along the next time you head to Starbucks or any coffee or bubble tea joint. Some places will give you a discount. Ask for your drink without a straw, or use reusable metal, glass or bamboo ones.
A conscious company
Luxury travel company, andBeyond installed 18 water bottling plants across Africa and South America to reduce plastic waste. These plants bottle purified water in recyclable glass bottles to be used in its lodges and central offices. In addition, andBeyond substitutes plastic straws in their island lodges with paper or metal alternatives.
Tips: Use recyclable bottles
Make sure you and your children stay hydrated by bringing a reusable water bottle with you. Preferably, we will suggest an aluminium or glass bottle to reduce plastic use. If you prefer the taste of mineral water, Evian, Borsec, San Bandetto and San Bernado have glass bottles, available in supermarkets. Just be sure to reuse them.
Boutique Fairs Singapore promoted the concept of BYO bags, bottles and cutlery for guests attending their event. They encouraged vendors to use paper bags to bag their customer’s items. Guests could also refill their water bottles in every exhibition room at the cost of a small donation to a clean water charity in the region.
Tips: Invest in an eco-friendly bag
Following Boutique Fairs’ example, when shopping, bring along a reusable tote bag and opt for eco-friendly options. Ultimately, let us work hand-in-hand to secure a better future for our children to live in.