Living without plastic is not only skipping packaging

We probably all know about the problems with plastic. It never breaks down and in the sea, it falls apart into smaller and smaller pieces and harms our health as well as marine life. According to the Plastic soup foundation 5% of the annual oil production is used to produce plastic. In this way, plastic also contributes significantly to climate change and it would be beter living without plastic.

Luckily, living without plastic is popular

If I search for living without plastic I get 437 million hits in Google.

The many tips I found are almost all about plastic packaging. Refill your water bottle; buy food in bulk, use solid soap instead of liquid. The tips range from relatively easy to implement to more difficult.

The milk package is a tricky thing for me.

Finding groceries in the supermarket that are not packaged in plastic is quite a challenge for us in the mountains in Spain. Simple because there is almost nothing to choose. The milk package is a tricky thing for me. Milk should disappear completely from my pattern because of the enormous climate burden.

1900 kilotons of plastic in 1 year in the Netherlands alone

But today this blog is about plastic. Research by CE Delft (unfortunately the report is only in Dutch) on behalf of Greenpeace in May 2019 showed that in the small Netherlands in the year 2017 alone 1,900 kilotons of plastic were put on the market. That plastic is used as follows:

  • 40% large and small utensils
  • 30% packaging
  • 15% building material
  • 11% clothing and textiles
  • 3% cars and electrical and electronic devices

There is justifiably much attention for packaging, which represented 30% of the total in 2017. In addition, the number of plastic packaging had increased by 10% in the previous five years. And they are of course often unnecessary.

living without plastic

Apart from packaging, there is much more to cut back on plastic

40% of the plastics is used in large and small utensils and 11% in clothing and textiles. We, as consumers, may not be able to do something directly with building materials (15%), but apparently we can do something about large and small utensils and textiles. I start with something that is easy for myself. but apparently much harder to others.  

20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes per person annually

According to the Dutch environmental consumer site, Milieucentraal, people in Holland buy an average of 20 items of clothing and 6 pairs of shoes annually. I am shocked.

I hardly buy clothes, but apparently I am an exception. Maybe it’s easier for me because I live far away from clothing stores?

organic cotton is not really sustainable

But if I do need clothing or textiles, what do I buy? So far I am mainly looking for organic cotton. It does not contribute to the plastic soup and no pesticides are used for it, but it is not really sustainable either, due to the large demands on land and water.

Acrylic, lycra, polyamide and polyester are apparently the substances that account for 11% of plastics. That’s almost half of the amount of packaging.

The most sustainable is the reuse of textiles. And of course take good care of your clothes and not buy new ones if that is not necessary. According to Milieucentraal, Tencel or lyocel is also doing well.

The shepherd can’t get rid of his wool, that’s double waste

Like silk, wool is doing terribly badly on almost every environmental aspect but plastic. I think not everyone comes up with that. A shepherd in my neighbourhood has his shed full of raw wool, he can’t get rid of it. That is double waste. Let’s see if I can do something with it later.

I think I score reasonably well on clothing, but not on all plastic

On my land there is a large piece of black plastic to get rid off some stubborn and invasive plants before the lavender arrives. That is approved in organic agriculture, but plastic. Was that the right choice then? A lot of stuff to find out, it’s not so easy to live sustainable. But necessary. So I will continue to figure out how to live a more sustainable life. Here you can read why.

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