Last night the Snail of Happiness said the following within her comment on my blog;
‘…I’m interested in what is going to constitute ‘single use’ for you. For example, I wouldn’t have immediately thought of a disposable razor as single use because you do use it several times before you bin it – not good, but perhaps not as bad as some of the other examples in your day. And then, what about something intended by the manufacturer to be single use, but which you extend the use of; for example, we have some 5l plastic water bottles that are 7 years old and are now used everyday to store rainwater for flushing the toilet…’
Ahhhh, good point! Such is my enthusiasm to get prepared for Plastic Free July 2014 that I have overlooked documenting a decent definition of ‘single use plastic’.
Now, I think I know what I mean by the term, but I decided to hop over to the Plastic Free July website to remind myself what is written there:
“Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then sent to landfill.
Ok, so this definition seems to be less strict than the one that existed in my head. It seems that I’d be allowed to use my disposable razor, but where does my shampoo bottle fit in? I use it several times before I send it to landfill but it only has one shot at fulfilling its purpose (i.e. holding a portion of shampoo).
It appears that there might be a hierarchy of single use plastics…
Because I have now come round to the understanding that plastic in all forms is ‘bad’ for the environment and because I have almost eight full months to prepare for Plastic Free July I am going to go for a very slightly more challenging description of singe use plastic than perhaps I need to.
So….for the purposes of this blog I will be defining single use plastics as:
Plastics that are used once and then thrown away or those that fulfil a very short term purpose – for example, to house a product that is used up, and then disposed of.
I have gathered some examples of each:
Use once then throw away
(bananas, kids rice cakes, bottled water, scones, tester paint, oatcakes)
Short term use
(margarine, shampoo, hand cream, cleaning fluid, kids bubbles, eyeshadow, deodorant, notebook)
As time goes by and this blog grows, my description may evolve and if that is the case I will of course update it. I am very interested in your thoughts on this matter.
To address the issue of The Snail of Happiness’ water bottle which was meant to be thrown away but was then reused for years, I think that according to my description it would graduate out of the ‘single use’ category. What do you reckon?
Of course, if plastic is terrible for the environment and our health, then my deliberations over a definition for single use plastics are a waste of time. I should instead simply be looking at ways of avoiding them altogether! However, that is just too much for me to contemplate now (or ever?) so I will stick with Plastic Free July alone at the moment.
As a related point, I think an attractive element of the Plastic Free July movement is that it encourages participants to think about plastics in the environment and take small manageable steps towards finding alternatives. There is even a ‘Plastic Free July – lite’ option:
If refusing ALL single-use plastic sounds too daunting this time, try the TOP 4 challenge (straws, plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cup lids).
I love that those interested in this challenge, who can’t contemplate the full package, can consider the Top 4 or even make up their own definition. What a positive approach to such a serious issue.