This year the Plastic Free July initiative is celebrating its 11th year, and we are keen to join the cause once again and we would like to encourage you to do the same. But… not any old way.
At Sinplastico we believe it is important to delve a little deeper into the idea of plastic-free living. That is why we have dedicated this article to explaining how to go that one step further, and not get stuck floating around on the surface of this worthy cause.
The plastic-free and eco-friendly trend
11 years ago Plastic Free July got us all moving for the first time, and from those humble beginnings to what has now become an international movement, a lot of people have become more aware of how important it is to start using less plastic in our everyday lives.
Perhaps you personally started your journey with the Plastic Free July challenge, and you may have come across us through some type of initiative related to this topic.
The use of plastic-free and eco-friendly products has become more and more front and centre over the last few years:
- consumers are more concerned than ever about the sustainability of what they buy. 48% of those surveyed considered the way in which the product was manufactured or if the product was environmentally friendly before making a purchase.
- In a study, carried out by consultAccording to a study done by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) in December 2021ancy firm Ernest & Young (EY), the product feature most valued by study respondents was sustainability.
And what interests customers, becomes trendy.
We don’t want to say this is a bad thing (in fact just the opposite, if only it had been trendy and fashionable a long time ago), but we are concerned about the short-term connotations of the word «trend»: temporary popularity, that lasts a certain time, that comes and goes, that changes…
Because they are popular these days, the availability of plastic-free products has grown and this is an area of the market that is thought to have good uptake.
Unfortunately, many of these alternatives are not sustainable when it comes to social justice or being kind to the environment, and they don’t strengthen consumer awareness either.
How can you make sure you are more aware when making plastic-free purchases?
How do you ensure you don’t get left floating on the surface of this movement?
In this blog post we would like to propose 2 criteria that can help you to continue to make good plastic-free choices, but at the same time help you to look past what is simply a transient trend.
2 criteria to achieve a plastic-free lifestyle that goes beyond what is simply fashionable.
Ask yourself if you need it
Sustainable products, or those that are thought to be, can lead us to buying more than we need, in the same way that we tend to eat more of the foods that we think are healthy. That is why, we would like to suggest you ask yourself if you really need what you are about to buy.
It may seem a slightly cliché tip, but we know it is the best advice we can give you.
Before you go shopping, even if looking for a plastic-free product, ask yourself “Do I really need this?”
This can be applied in two ways.
- Firstly, ask yourself if you could use something else you already have. Sometimes we have plastic-free options at home, ones we can reuse or repurpose as they can do the same thing as the new products that have suddenly become trendy. For example, it may be that you already have a glass bottle at home you can reuse and that means you really don’t need to buy a new one for your office.
- But lets go a step further: ask yourself if you really need it, even if at the moment you are using an item that is not plastic-free. The planet doesn’t need us to keep manufacturing more and more products, not even if they are plastic-free. In fact, on July 28th we are going to hit the point at which we start to demand more than the Earth can afford to give us in 2022: we will have already used up what the Earth can regenerate in one year.
Use what you already have, because everything is manufactured with the Earth’s precious resources. Extend the life of things for as long as you can, because it is not about substituting a product with an new eco version and throwing it in the rubbish (when it is still usable), the most important part of the process is rethinking the way in which we consume.
Ask yourself where it comes from
With the growing trend for using plastic-free products (and other not so eco-friendly ones) many companies have spotted an opportunity to manufacture products that attract new customers, and as happens with many other products that are sold everyday, many of these are being manufactured 1000’s of kilometres away from where they are being sold and used.
Let’s consider what happens with a product that is exported far away:
- What a the manufacturing conditions?
Even though we don’t fall for the old trick of thinking that everything made in the west is best, in many places around the world minimum basic working conditions are not guaranteed.
For example, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO) across the world there are 160 million minors 5-17 years of age being used as child labour (although Africa is the most affected continent, the Asia-Pacífic region contributes 70 million towards this total).
Even though it is often overlooked, many of these products have a social cost.
- And what about the environmental cost?
Many businesses outsource their production, manufacturing in countries where the cost of labour is lower and environmental regulation is also less stringent.
The Yangtze river, the longest river in China, swallows up 40% of the waste produced by the textile industry nearby and on occasion it changes colour thanks to the dyes present in this waste water, causing major problems and damage to the local fauna of the surrounding ecosystem.
The UN, has shown that 1/3 of the world’s countries have no legally mandated outdoor air quality standards. A recent study indicated that 1 in 6 deaths around the world are caused by air pollution, and the country with the worst statistics is India. Amongst other contributing factors, a key contributor is the dependence on fossil fuels that are also used across the industrial part of the country.
The negative environmental impact from outsourcing the manufacturing of products (even if they are reusable or plastic-free) is often not taken into account and therefore those responsible are not having to pay for it nor are they being penalised.
- Transportation of products to the place where they are being bought and sold makes them less sustainable
CO2 emissions and the other greenhouse gases produced by one mode of transport or another differ greatly, even though in any case the distances concerned are enormous.
Imports from China, for example, involve a journey of more than 10,000km by air, road or sea, in order for those products to get to Spain from Beijing or Shanghai.
Before going ahead with your next purchase, ask yourself where that plastic-free product that you are about to buy comes from. It’s important because, as you can see, the social and environmental costs associated with both manufacturing and transport may even completely cancel out the potential benefits that the plastic-free product can offer the planet.
What we at Sinplastico hope, is that really thinking about sustainability is not just a passing fashion, but instead that it turns into a long-standing habit that permeates society and thereby becomes something we all consider when making a purchasing decision.
Hopefully these questions help you to experience this Plastic Free July in a more conscious way.
Get to know all the plastic-free options we have selected to help you when faced with day-to-day challenges.