The problem with plastic


Our family is taking part in Plastic Free July (PFJ). Our pledge is to attempt to not purchase any plastic at all and go completely plastic free for the month. The panic really set in last weekend on how we were actually going to do it. We all know that plastic isn’t so fantastic but it takes something more to get motivated to make the conscious effort everyday to make it a priority. I think the tipping point for us was this video taken at a really magic snorkelling spot we had been to and snorkelled there as a family. It really was quite devastating for us to see.

While we were in that same part of the world we went on a full day coast walk and came across a secluded beach that had quite a lot of plastic on it. There were no tourists there and it made me wonder how sanitised the beaches are on other parts of the island to hide the plastic that gets washed up on shore. Plastic is such a ubiquitous material that it’s not really noticed until you try to avoid it or see the rubbish like that.

The problem with plastic isn’t just the mess it creates. Plastic will usually end up having one of three journeys. Most plastic isn’t recycled and ends up in landfill. The plastic gets layered and compressed with other materials and as it rains the rain filters through the landfill it collects harmful chemicals. Those leachates seep into the soil and contaminate the water table which in turn affects the plants and animals.

The second journey is via wind or water into waterways making it’s way to the ocean. The ocean has very powerful and predictable currents that keep our planet habitable. These plastics have been accumulating in the ocean, most notably in the great pacific garbage patch. There is real risk that the patch will impact the currents that transport the cool water from the poles to the warmer equatorial waters and will interrupt the earths cooling system.

Finally, a small fraction of plastic will be recycled. However, plastic always eventually fatigues and breaks. It can only get down cycled it never goes away and will either end up in landfill or the ocean eventually.  While some scrunchable plastics can be put into REDcycle bins, it’s unclear if these end up in landfill or actually do get recycled. The ABCs War on Waste put a tracker into one of those soft plastic recycling bins and unfortunately found it went to landfill.

In the lead up to PFJ I also got the family to watch Plastic Ocean on Netflix which seemed to do the trick on re-enforcing the message to the family that plastic is not so fantastic. So in the words of Maya Angelou “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better”. This is easier said than done, plastic is absolutely everywhere, but I think half the battle is making it a priority when life is so busy. So here is how our first week of plastic free july went.

Most plastic consumed in our house is via the kitchen. So on Sunday 1 July the five of us sat together and planned out our plastic free meal plan for the week. We also did some food prep and cooking for the week to make it easier.

Weekday breakfast:

  • homemade sourdough fruit toast with butter
  • toast with jam, peanut butter, honey or eggs
  • porridge or homemade muesli

Weekend breakfasts:

  • Pancakes with maple syrup
  • Arepas with abuelitos eggs and honey


  • Seasonal fruit – eg apples, mandarins, oranges
  • homemade hommus or guacamole and vegetable sticks.
  • Date and ginger cookies
  • Apple and walnut cake


  • Fish fingers with mashed potato and silverbeet
  • Spinach and ricotta ravioli with porcini sauce
  • Baked pakora with mango chutney
  • Baked lentil pasta
  • Heading out for dinner
  • Massaman curry
  • Minestrone soup


  • homemade preserved apricots with macadamia mylk custard
  • dehydrated orange slices dipped in melted chocolate
  • hot chocolate

I always grow herbs, lettuce and silverbeet in the garden as this is pretty hard to get plastic free in the shops. I also have jars of homemade preserves and jam handy, but this is easy to buy in glass jars. The porcinis I collected and dried myself and store in glass jar, I don’t think dried porcini can be purchased plastic free. Part of the panic that set in on first day of plastic free july was having some meals the kids could cook that were quick and easy mid week meals, but we found some things they could manage.

We have almost run out of toothpaste so I had a go at making my own but it was a bit of a disaster. I found all the ingredients plastic free, mixed coconut oil, calcium powder, baking powder and peppermint essential oils and it set quite hard. It felt very good on the teeth when I used it before it set, so I am going to remake it without the coconut oil and use as a tooth powder and dip the wet brush in the container to pick up the powder.

On one of the days I forgot my keep cup for my almond milk cappuccino I treat myself to at work. I just grabbed a mug and took it to the coffee shop, without skipping a beat they made me a small cappuccino and off I went. Some cafes make their own nut milks for coffee and I’m hoping this becomes the new norm so that less waste is produced by us all. We also went to out to dinner one night. I just checked out the drinks in the fridge to see which ones were plastic free before ordering and made it really clear we didn’t want straws – easy.

I did have a couple of plastic free fails. I went to the kids uniform shop and was rushed and had about 10 other things on my mind and only realised when I got in the car that I had the clothes packed in a plastic bag, doh! I had also been making macadamia mylk from macadamia nuts I’d foraged. I love it but clearly noone else in the house does. They had been tucking into a can of powdered milk that we bought for a multiday hiking trip. So they decided that they would buy b.d. farm milk again. I’m determined to work on my nut milk recipe and try and make sure it doesn’t split and stays delicious and creamy and will try and win them back on that one.  Hopefully the plastic free gods will forgive us for the plastic bag and the 2L milk container. Wish me luck for week 2!