Sunday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, an event that has occurred annually since 1911. It’s a time for ‘celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity’.
So, we’re pausing for a moment in our fight to reduce plastic waste to hail the work of some amazing women, who are leading global initiatives to rid the world of this toxic substance. So, fill an rCUP (the world’s first reusable cup made from used cups) with your hot drink of choice, get comfy and read about some of Earth’s excellent eco-heroes!
Rendy Solomon is an Environmental Health Officer for the Ministry of Health in Gizo, on the Solomon Islands. In 2014 she spent three months in Japan studying environmental education, which planted the seed of an idea in her mind about improving waste management in her country. Unfortunately, the Ministry’s budgets wouldn’t sustain any large projects but Rendy didn’t stop looking for ways she could help.
In 2017, a chance meeting with a woman keen to start cleaning local beaches inspired Rendy. She began by organising a group which cleared plastic, mosquito nets and other waste that had washed up on the shoreline. The group, named Plastic Wise Gizo, then expanded to further activities which promoted the goal of cleaning up their part of the country, as well as collaborating with others on school projects, radio programs, competitions and fundraising to help raise awareness. They also took part in World Oceans Day.
The group initially encountered the problem of what to do with all the plastic they had gathered. Thanks to the creativity of some of their members, they were able to turn it into something positive. By making it into handicrafts and selling their designs to visiting tourists, the women receive an income, as well as ensuring their cause is acknowledged.
The group is now proactively lobbying their government to take action on responsible waste management, as well as continuing to educate local residents on what happens when plastics clutter up the ocean.
UK-born Emily Penn founded not-for-profit organisation eXXpedition in 2014. The company runs all-female, multi-disciplinary sailing research trips to seek out, and find ways to lessen, the plastic pollution found in the world’s oceans.
It was when Emily, a former architect, travelled to Shanghai in 2007 for her dissertation research that she discovered a love of slow travel (she used trains, horses and camels to get to her destination). A year later, she hitched a ride on a boat to visit Australia, and it was during the journey that she witnessed the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’.
It was this that spurred her on to begin researching the effects of plastic at sea, including how it breaks down into microplastics and then enters the food chain. She set up eXXpedition in 2014 and the first voyage took place the same year, with the aim being to explore how much plastic was in our oceans, and where it was gathering. The success of this mission led to Emily’s group carrying out further journeys, including looking at the impact of plastic on both marine life and humans; the types of plastic in the oceans and possible ways to stop it reaching the water in the first place.
Each crew is made up of 10 diverse women, selected both for their individual skills and for the impact they can make when they return to their communities with their new-found knowledge.
In 1997, Isatou Ceesay, along with four other women, started up the Recycling Centre of N’Jau in The Gambia. Isatou first became interested in a proactive environmental role after watching women in her village use plastic waste to light their stoves: she knew how poisonous the fumes were to those that breathed them in.
After meeting a USA Peace Corps Volunteer who taught her how to reclaim plastic waste, Isatou and her four friends began visiting local markets every Sunday, to teach the village residents how to effectively deal with the plastic in their community. They also empowered the local women to change their role in society by helping them achieve financial independence through reclaiming and recycling plastic waste. Through this, Women Initiative - The Gambia (WIG) was born.
It’s now recognised as an official community-based organisation: there are over 2,000 members across 40 communities in the country (mostly women but it does include men) and it receives support from the Brikama Area Council, plus NGOS such as WasteAid UK and Concern International. Isatou says that a particular highlight for the group was when the Gambian government consulted them regarding the use of plastic bags, before then voting on a complete ban on their importation.
WIG members are shown how to make bags, wallets and children’s balls from the plastic waste they collect, and then sell them for profit. They receive 18-36 months of training in plastic recycling and waste management and are also taught how to budget, save, and plan for personal development projects.
Last year Dianna Cohen received the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association’s Waterman’s Environmentalist of the Year Award for her work with Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), the group she co-founded and is the CEO of.
A visual artist of many years standing, Dianna works with plastic – mostly bags - to ‘make a visual and social impact’ with her artwork. In 2007 she became aware of the Great Pacific Plastic Patch and began learning more about how plastic is polluting the Earth. Rather than looking how to clean up that which was already there, she began to consider how she could prevent more being added to it.
With her sister, Julia, Dianna created PPC, a global alliance of over 1,000 businesses, organisations and individuals collaborating to rid the world of plastic pollution. Their vision includes the adoption of zero-waste values and the reduction of single-use plastic; for non-governmental organisations to work together to drive demand for systemic solutions, and for governments and businesses to enforce the practices of a circular economy.
There are members from 60 different countries (including Let’s Go Plastic Free’s sustainable bamboo product suppliers, Bambaw!) and many prominent names are involved: Jean-Michel and Fabien Cousteau (son and grandson of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau), and actors Chevy Chase, Rosanna Arquette, Bette Midler and Jane Fonda have all signed up, amongst many others.
Current projects the PPC are involved in are The Last Plastic Straw (exactly as it sounds: a drive to rid the world of single-use plastic straws) and an alliance with Hannah4Change, an environmentalist and animal rights activist who is concerned with climate change, animal rights, plastic pollution and ocean health.
How inspiring are these brilliant women? Caring for our planet doesn’t always have to involve something that huge, however. You can help reduce plastic waste by making a few simple swaps in your everyday life: ditch supermarket rubbish sacks and stock up on compostable ones, take Clingfilm off your shopping list and replace it with beeswax food wraps, and stop buying your coffee in a disposable cup and ask the barista to fill up your rCUP instead!
Demonstrate how much you care this Valentine’s Day by shunning the mountain of tacky plastic tat that fills the shops, and choosing an eco-friendly gift instead.
Read on for plastic-free swaps that prove it’s the Earth you love the most on February 14th.
We are bombarded by the colour red on Valentine’s Day but in order to find to ways to reduce plastic we should be thinking green instead.
Flourish your flowers
Flowers are the obvious Valentine’s Day present but often come wrapped in cellophane. Those enclosed in paper are better but how about giving a bunch in something even more environmentally-friendly? When you visit the florist, take A Bee Green Wrap with you and ask them to put your stems in that instead. The recipient then gets to enjoy the blooms and the wraps can be reused over and over again.
(Camellias, snowdrops, witch hazel and early flowering daffodils blossom in February, so if you have these in your garden you can be even more sustainable and make up your own bouquet.)
Soap yourself silly
With no plastic wrapping and no nasties inside, these heart-shaped, home-made vegan shampoo bars are a fabulously eco-conscious way to celebrate your love. Whether you give sandalwood, lavender or tutti frutti (a blend of sweet orange, blueberry, grapefruit and apple) it’s guaranteed that special someone will smell amazing on your next date!
The quickest way to anybody’s heart is through their stomach but rather than heading to the supermarket for a ready meal, try a delicious plastic-free feast instead.
Who doesn’t love chocolate? There are few occasions when chocolate doesn’t go down well as a gift but it’s especially popular on Valentine’s Day. Many boxes are covered in cellophane, but there are brands that go for a cardboard-only approach, so seek one out and then make sure the wrapping gets recycled. Or, if you have a zero-waste shop nearby that sells chocolate, decorate and fill up your own container for plastic-free cocoa indulgence.
Start the day with love
There’s nothing like getting Valentine’s Day off to a good start, and you don’t need to stay in a fancy hotel to have a romantic breakfast. Simply arm yourself with a cookie cutter and conjure up a loved-up brekkie treat of heart-shaped toast or pancakes. And if you really want to make your point, buy a heat-resistant cutter and fry up some heart-shaped eggs as well!
Bake your way to passion
Nobody will object if you serve up a slice of supermarket cake with a cuppa, but you’re more likely to stimulate somebody’s senses if you invite them over when there’s a sweet smell emanating from the oven. Get your apron on and make your own cakes and biscuits: not only will you seduce your beloved with the taste, you can also decorate your baked goods with some loving - or cheeky – iced-on words so they absolutely get your message!
Thrifty but thoughtful
The retail commercialism that drives Valentine’s Day means that a lot of items come with a high price tag. If you don’t want to fork out a fortune to show someone you care you can still make the 14th special, with some low-price but personal plastic-free swaps.
Craft your own card
Shop-bought Valentine’s cards can be expensive, and many of them are wrapped in plastic, as well as coming with nausea-inducing lovey-dovey wording inside. It will mean far more to the receiver if you make your own and all it will cost you is a little of your time. You can repurpose card you already have (e.g. from a cereal box or similar) by covering it with heart shapes cut out from unwanted fabric and adding your own adoring love-note.
Concoct your own cologne
The perfect perfume on a soulmate can send you into a starry-eyed spin. But while love can be intoxicating, it shouldn’t be toxic…which is exactly what some shop-bought chemical-ridden aromas are. Creating your own scent out of base oil and a personalised mix of essential oils is a whole lot healthier, much cheaper and will be completely unique, too.
Say it with songs
At one point in time there was nothing that said ‘I love you’ more than buying a TDK 90 (remember those?) and spending hours putting together a mixtape of your favourite tunes for the person you wanted to impress. Nowadays, technology makes it a whole lot easier: for a free, but big-hearted, Valentine’s Day gift why not create an intimate Spotify playlist, full of tracks that make your feelings clear?
Don’t forget to love yourself
Of course, not everybody will or, indeed wants to, spend Valentine’s Day with a significant other, but you can still show yourself some zero-plastic love on the 14th. Perhaps making yourself a card is going a bit too far but you can certainly make use of the ideas we’ve suggested here, or spoil yourself by taking your favourite tipple and a good book for a luxurious soak in the tub, accompanied by the splendid Kinn Bath & Body Oil Gift Pack.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Making plastic-free swaps is a simple way to reduce your plastic use. Our shop is full of
stylish, practical and eco-friendly products for you and your family.
It shouldn’t have escaped anybody’s notice that the Earth is rapidly filling up with things we’ve bought, used and discarded. From toothbrushes and disposable coffee cups to bank cards and mobile phones, our daily lives are surrounded by, and covered with, plastic.
We urgently need to reduce our plastic waste, whether it’s through buying environmentally-friendly products, reusing as much as we can or disposing of un-recyclable items responsibly.
Keep reading to see why recycling plastic plays a crucial part in the planet’s recovery, what the different types are (and what they can be turned into) and some examples of what’s being done to turn unwanted plastic into something wonderful!
Why do we need to recycle plastic?
Horrifying footage from around the world has shown us the very real consequence of plastic finding its way into rivers and oceans, where it pollutes coastlines and endangers wildlife. It’s also full of hormone-disrupting and carcinogenic toxins that enter the food chain as it degrades.
Recycling helps to reduce plastic waste, and it also diminishes the demand for the creation of new plastic. Employing recycled, rather than raw, materials during the manufacturing process uses far less energy, positively impacting carbon emissions as well.
Not every plastic can be recycled, of course, which means a lot of it will end up in landfill. Here it will either get added to the mountain that’s already there or get incinerated. Both outcomes end in the release of harmful pollutants into our atmosphere, giving us a powerful incentive to stop purchasing it in the first place.
A brief guide to plastic recycling
There are seven basic types of plastic, some of which are easy to recycle and some of which pose more of a problem.
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
This material is used for nearly all plastic bottles and food punnets. It’s easy to recycle back into the same thing so anything made from PET should be washed, dried and put in your recycling bin.
- High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
HDPE is used to make cartons, cleaning products and yoghurt pots and is easily recycled into more cartons, garden furniture and pipes. Into your recycling bin it goes!
- Polypropylene (PP)
Another one for your recycling bin: margarine tubs and microwave meal trays are turned into clothing and carpet fibres and more food containers.
- Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Food and shopping bags, and magazine wrappers are made of LDPE. It can be recycled into bin liners and floor tiles but it won’t generally be accepted in your bin. However, many supermarkets will accept it.
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC is used for windows and pipe fittings, thermal insulation and car parts. It’s tricky to recycle so councils won’t take it, but some specialist places can reuse it to make more PVC.
- Polystyrene (PS)
PS is the go-to for takeaway boxes and plastic cutlery, as well as protective packaging and insulation. Councils don’t want it but there are some specialist places that will turn it into more packaging.
This category includes plastic that is extremely difficult to recycle, such as composite. This is because it’s made up of more than one type and can’t be satisfactorily separated. Off to landfill it goes.
You can check which plastics your council accepts for recycling here.
The power of plastic positivity
There’s so much work still to be done to reduce the plastic footprint we’re stamping onto the planet that it often seems like an un-winnable battle. But taking a look at some amazing global initiatives should re-motivate us to continue the fight!
In July 2019 UNICEF announced their collaboration with Colombian social enterprise Conceptos Plasticos, taking plastic waste from Ivory Coast landfill sites and converting it into modular bricks. These are then used to build something the communities there desperately need: classrooms.
The brick production has three valuable outcomes: the construction of safe teaching spaces for children who currently can’t attend school; the reduction of the plastic waste that contributes to unhygienic and unsanitary living conditions in many areas of the country and income provision for the women living in poverty whom UNICEF are empowering to lead the scheme.
And then there’s Ecobricks: a project that ‘gives value to what was once value-less’, i.e. un-recyclable plastic. By filling bottles to a certain density with plastic that would otherwise be dumped, the Ecobrick community is creating thousands of solid blocks that can be constructed into walls, garden furniture, art installations and even buildings. Because the plastic is packed tightly inside the bottles Ecobricks also prevents its toxins from leaking into the eco-system.
Reducing our plastic waste is a task that we all need to take on. While awe-inspiring ideas, like those above, strike important blows in the war against unwanted plastic, there’s a very simple concept we can all adopt that helps enormously too.
‘Conscious consumerism’ means understanding how what we’re buying impacts society. We need to ask questions every time we purchase plastic: do I really need this? Can I recycle it? What are the consequences if I can’t? Is there an eco-conscious alternative? Practicing mindful purchasing is key when considering how to care for the environment.
So, before you next grab a handful of plastic bags at the checkout, take a look at our fabulous Onya collection. Made from reconditioned PET plastics, Onya’s range of re-useable produce bags are almost all 100% recyclable themselves. You can also pick up one of their gorgeous stainless steel water bottles at the same time: say goodbye to one-use plastic!