People often ask us about going “plastic free”. Have you tried it? I have and it really isn’t that easy. I lasted only one week. It can be expensive and time consuming and is particularly difficult if (like me) you live away from a big town or city. “Plastic free” is certainly a great strapline to motivate people, to help you think about your own impacts and to help you feel empowered to deal with the plastics mess we find ourselves in. But is going plastic free realistic and is it necessary? And if we go plastic free, what are the appropriate alternatives to plastic?
Yes, most plastic is made from fossil fuels (from specific fractions of crude oil that are not used for fuel) – and bio-plastics will have impacts in terms of land use for raw material. Yes, plastic often contains additives that can be toxic, with implications when it enters food chains. And, yes, plastic is a significant problem for biodiversity once in the environment – which is why FFI has been addressing this issue since 2009.
But, as a material, plastic has some significant benefits that have helped fuel the growth in its use. It is both lightweight and durable, creating new solutions for transportation (and thus reducing carbon outputs), potentially prolonging shelf life and enabling breakthroughs in medicine.