Plastic.Isn’t it crazy to think that when my grandmother was my age in the 1950’s, she would have just been discovering the wonders of plastic as it became more readily available to the common consumer. Prior to that she would have barely had any plastic in her house at all. And she already had four kids by my age!
Now days. plastic is literally everywhere! It’s in my kitchen cupboards, packages most of my food twice, insulates my walls, the carpet I walk on, fabric of the clothes I wear, the whole interior of my car and even all the gear I use to grow my vegetable garden. Almost everything that starts with poly is a plastic derived from petroleum. There are a few exceptions and new materials coming to market every year… but mostly plastic is bad news.
Why is it bad news? It starts with the extraction of petroleum which comes from crude oil pumped out of wells from deep underground – often under oceans. We don’t need to explain why that’s catastrophic. When it’s being used, plastic products don’t last as long as their predecessors. If it breaks, it’s not as easy to fix and when we’re done with it they hold very little sentimental or cosmetic value so they get thrown out. As I’m sure you know plastic just doesn’t decompose back into the earth like many other natural materials so it just takes up space in landfills or causes digestion problems for ocean life. IF the plastic type is able to be recycled and isn’t soiled with food or contaminants AND successfully makes it way into the recycling system, well great that’s better than nothing… except for all the energy and fumes it takes to regenerate that plastic into something else which is a whole other story.
Wouldn’t it be better if we could simply use less plastic? It’s hard to imagine how my grandmother lived. But there’s little point looking backwards. Plastic is here to stay. Plastic is so fully integrated into our lifestyles it really would be impossible to live free of plastic entirely.
Fortunately second hand shopping helps us in a small way to reduce the amount of plastic that we use in our daily lives which in turn reduces the plastic demand put on the shelves by retailers of new products and reduces the amount of plastic heading for the landfill or oceans.
Here’s a few examples:Buy a second hand wooden toddler bike instead of a new one that comes wrapped with an equal volume of polystyrene and plastic wrapping.Buy natural fibre clothing like cotton, wool or viscose instead of polyester. Recently there has been a resurgence of new clothing on the market made from natural fibres but often it’s very expensive. If you can afford it, go for it. You’ll know they last many years longer and when you’re done with it, someone else can continue to wear it until it finally can be turned into rags or decompose naturally (if disposed correctly of course). Besides this, second hand clothing often provides more selection and better quality selection than what’s available in most clothing retailers.Buy real timber furniture from a second hand store, not composite wood like MDF or anything with vinyl on it. Although, if you do have anything of MDF or vinyl at least it’s being used and not wasting space in a landfill.Buy second hand gardening tools with wooden handles, often the steel is better quality too and will last much longer than new tools.
Basically the goal is to buy and use things made of other materials instead of plastic, e.g. wood, metal or glass. Beyond that, buy plastic things that are second hand to give them a longer life span and save them from landfill.
And always, always bring your own bag when you go shopping. Happy treasure hunting for real things not plastic things.