How to treat plastic as the precious resource that it is
I accidentally made a pond. A plastic bucket filled with rain and wriggling living beings arrived at the house. I noticed them thanks to the ode to ponds by critter expert Collie Ennis. So I transferred the ecosystem to a plastic basin in a shady corner of the garden and surrounded it with logs and moss. The skimmers were already helping the water to breathe so that it smelled good rather than stagnant. The instructions for use of Ennis are here.
In our horror at the sight of plastic pollution, it’s easy to forget that plastic is a resource. It retains liquids (creating impromptu ponds) and doesn’t shatter like the apothecary-chic glass dispenser I bought to try and cut down on our bathroom plastic. Many medical devices would not exist without it. Hip and knee replacements have contained it since the 1960s.
Our main problem with plastic is its disposability, the way leftovers disintegrate in our ecosystems, lungs and bloodstream. We created 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastic, a fraction of which was recycled. We need to stop plastic adventures and get into a long term relationship.
Precious Plastic is a design idea from Dutch industrial designer Dave Hakkens to provide anyone with the tools to recycle plastic locally and turn it into useful products. Its Dublin branch https://www.preciousplasticdublin.org/ has collected bottle caps during the pandemic and will work with Youthreach to teach children how to use 3D printers with recycled plastic. They also plan to work with Cultivated clothing plant trees using recycled plastic to make tree guards.
Hopefully soon the idea of throwing away empty pump dispensers after just one use will seem absurd. There is already a change in detail towards refills. L’Occitane stores take back plastic cosmetic containers for recycling, and not just their own. You get a 10% discount. But their shampoo refill costs € 27.50 per half liter. In most drugstores there are discount shampoos in plastic dispenser bottles for a tenth of that price.
The best refills will be powders or concentrates to which we add water, the main component of all shampoos – even the elixirs that we hope will magically sprinkle good hair on us every day. The Wonderful West Cork Company Botanical Warrior puts deodorant in boxes. A tin can lasts for months and is the best plastic-free bathroom product I’ve used. (The less said about toothpaste tablets, the better.)
Finding out about the deodorant solution seems like a good step, no longer hearing all that noise of newly made plastic discouragingly in the recycling bin. And it’s called Warrior Sensitive, which seems pretty fitting.
Catherine Cleary is the co-founder of Pocket Forests.