Plastic Paradise – how to reduce our plastic consumption

by Behrooz Eslam

When I was young in the 1970’s I remember going to the supermarket and getting a large brown paper bag for our groceries. It was in the early 1980’s when the plastic bag became more popular and the end of the large brown paper bag. So how did this happen?


is made from oil and therein lays the problem. When I was young toys were made
from long lasting materials such as metal and wood. I still have a ‘Tonka tuff’
model car from the 1974 and it’s in good condition. Toys were built to last. More
and more toys are being made of plastic and not lasting very long, encouraging
people to buy more.
are around 120 000 items made from plastic. It is near on impossible to go
through a day without using something made from plastic. What are the alternatives?
What affordable options are available?
My parents brought me up to live within my means, to live frugally and to be a
minimalist. When something breaks, I fix it. I have shoes repaired, electrical
items repaired, the car repaired, have the bicycle repaired, have clothes
mended, change washers on taps, the list is endless. This year, I sanded the
front door frame because it had become rusty and repainted it. Much of this
seems simple, logical and cheaper than buying a new item. However, much of this is not common.


Through built-in obsolescence and cheaper disposable items, some people have resorted to buying another item when their previous one breaks. In our mass-consumer society, this is has become a more fashionable way of consuming. There was a time when repairing something was cheaper than buying a new one. However, this now is seldom the case.
We know the problems, so what are the solutions? There is a saying “Think global, act local.” There are lots of things each of us can do every day. We can start small by changing consumer habits.
Initiatives such as “Plastic free July” offer many alternatives.
Many people already take their own bags to the shops, have a reusable coffee cup and use a metal water bottle. What if you want to go a bit further?
Here are ten other things you can do to reduce your use of plastic.
  1. Look for cellophane plastic (made from plants) or corn plastic such as Biocup and Plantic that are biodegradable.
  2. Balloons, streamers and other party items. Have children and parents make their own party reusable Knick-knacks from wood, metal and cardboard.
  3. Gift vouchers – avoid plastic cards and purchase paper gift vouchers.
  4. Buying bread – select a loaf of bread not in a bag. Take your own bag and ask the shop assistant to put it in your bag.
  5. Gift wrapping – use paper or make your own from recycled paper to give an individual feel.
  6. Sticky tape – use glue or staple/drawing pins, or bind with string/rope.
  7. Cans of alcohol – (six holed plastic can grips). Purchase glass bottles which don’t have the plastic can grips.
  8. Hair brush – look out for wooden/bamboo hairbrushes.
  9. Toothbrush – look for wooden a toothbrush.
  10. Buy food in bulk. Take own containers to shops such as Planet Ark and Environment House to refill cleaning products.
I challenge you to make simple changes in your life.
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