31 July 2018

Plastic Free July

Plastic Free July

Did we pass the test?

The VOICE team is as diverse as any, our lives are chaotic and unpredictable, just like anyone else's. Our work lives fit around family routines and for many it can be a juggling act with other part time or freelance jobs. Many of us, particularly our recycling ambassadors are fine tuned to on-the-go being on the road for workshops across the country.

Taking on Plastic Free July hasn't exactly been a walk in the park, but it has been a positive experience overall considering it's highlighted small ways we can all reduce plastic and opened our eyes to the great initiatives in zero waste and package free both locally and further afield. 

Aoife, who lives in Donegal, noticed a particular improvement in the variety of plastic free produce available in supermarkets and was relieved to have some home grown to replace plastic packed herbs and salad. "As a working mum of two, working around play dates, nap times and collection times meant that often shopping is done in a rush. Living in rural Ireland there as some veg markets which generally have less plastic and health food shops here and there, but spread over different towns it could take the whole day if you were to try and get around to all of them for everything you need. It has been an eye opening experience and one bonus from country living is that we eat our neighbours eggs and jams are made from locally grown berries." Aoife also makes her own soap which is one less plastic item going into the shopping trolly.

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Tad, living in Cork, had a few victories. He found the refillable options were actually cheaper and better quality than what he had been buying previously. "When I explained what I was doing to cashiers and shop attendants they were generally quite supportive, it was really heartening. It did take quite a bit of organisation, and the odd weekend away did throw me off course. Many of the shops offering plastic free closed earlier than most supermarkets so I would often have to take time on my lunch break to pick up my shopping." One thing Tad couldn't get around was plastic free meat, he just couldn't convince the local butcher to put meat in his own container. 

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Suzie, who lives somewhat off-grid on an organic farm in Co. Wicklow, is a pro at package free food and making her own jams. For products that cannot be easily made at home, Suzie has set up a bulk buy group so she and her neighbours can come and refill products like washing detergents and various dry goods. "Although I have some experience in avoiding plastic, I did try to look at what I haven't yet mastered for Plastic Free July. I have tried all sorts of concoctions for washing hair including egg yolks in cold water, and even going with nothing for a while but I find I can't manage these days to get a good conditioner. I've heard about the Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, but haven't tried them out yet."

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Whether or not you feel you succeeded or failed, Plastic Free July is about participating and becoming more aware of the plastic around you. Plastic is one of the biggest issues we are faced with today, it is not only harming our natural environment, it's also harming our health. Sometimes plastic free isn't possible, the choices are not available to all of us all of the time. You could even go so far to say plastic free is a privilege, not everyone has the time or money to seek out alternatives. Although many shops are providing loose produce, they are still giving out plastic bags to put those tomatoes or cherries into (I thought we banned plastic bags?). Until supermarkets and producers provide customers with real alternatives to single use plastics, as consumers all we can do is try our best and continue telling them we want them to do better. 

Things you can do now;

Join the Conscious Cup Campaign - get your workplace on board and ask your local cafe's to give discounts to customers who bring a reusable cup.

Support the Waste Reduction Bill - ask your TD's to support this bill calling for a ban or levy on single use plastics and to introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic and aluminium drinks containers.

Joing the Sick of Plastic Campaign - form a local group and get your supermarkets to reduce plastic and provide better alternatives.