Monday, 13 March 2017

Plastic Free February: A Summary

When I embarked on the Plastic-free February challenge I wasn't really prepared for how it would change my life. There have been some hugely satisfying surprises and dismal disappointments, it has certainly been an interesting ride so far.

When I started this year it had not crossed my mind that I would turn out being a nut about refusing plastic! While I've always despised litterbugs, and have in the past been a fan of recycling, I guess my interest in environmental protection (like many) had been more of a personal, quiet interest. I thought I did my bit and that was enough. Wrong. After a month of refusing single-use plastic I realized that I, that we, can do so much more. But just like quitting anything, we have to care enough first.

So what is single-use plastic anyway?
Straws, takeaway cups, plastic shopping bags, plastic water bottles, food wrap, and general plastic packaging. Pretty much anything that you would use once and then throw away.

Where single-use plastic inevitably ends up.
Reuse plastic, don't throw it away.

There were various levels of commitment for the challenge, go cold turkey and quit the lot, or just choose a few. I decided to focus on refusing three: plastic bags, plastic bottles\takeaway cups, and plastic wrap. Not wanting to set myself up for failure, I felt these three were realistically doable and anything above and beyond that would be a bonus pat on the back.

For the month of February in total I refused 54 plastic bags, 20 plastic bottles or takeaway cups, and 3.8 meters of plastic wrap. Actually the wrap figure is likely much more as half way through I got so used to not using wrap that I got a bit slack at taking record!

I am probably most proud of the fact that I haven't used a single piece of plastic wrap in the kitchen since January, nor accepted a single plastic shopping bag. It is now getting to the stage that I am running out of suitable shopping bags to put recycling in (I have however found a few ways around this which I'll expand on in future posts).Overall our plastic waste has halved. We are now putting out a bag every two weeks rather than every week, and surprisingly, our general 'burnable' rubbish has also halved.  So it appears that in general we are consuming less and therefore creating less waste overall. This was not something I was expecting to be honest, but as I've found it extremely difficult to find any snack foods that don't come in layer upon layer of plastic, our consumption of such items has decreased considerably.

Another surprising outcome is a result of  what I like to call the 'plastic-free diet', Eating more unprocessed foods, and less in general due to few plastic-free options, has had a noticeable affect on my waistline. Turns out I've lost 0.4% body fat predominantly around my midsection, and can now fit into clothes that I had 'outgrown'...ehem...

It has not however been without it's low points.
 For example, having to constantly repeat my wish for no plastic bag, sometimes not once, or twice, but THREE times (no I'm not exaggerating I had to literally take an item out of a bag in front of the cashier on one occasion), or to go to a supermarket and find that ninety percent of the fruit and veges are wrapped in plastic, or to do a shop and literally not be able to find one single thing on your list that is plastic-free (but you're so tired and you have to feed the rugrats so you give-in...defeated). While refusing all plastic is ideal it's really not practical or realistic in modern Japan, as much as I hate to admit it.

Despite the setbacks though, probably the best thing that has come of this experiment is that I've now formed habits that will likely stick with me for life, like carrying a reusable shopping bag with me ALWAYS, and having backups, containers, a cup, and utensils in the back of my car. I used to have ten reusable shopping bags that I could never seem to remember to take to the store with I have two in my handbag and two in the car (oh OK and a couple in the cupboard at home!) and they are finally getting used A LOT!
Take a reusable bag or if you must, ask for paper

DIY reusable beeswax wrap

What I now see cannot be unseen...and it is shocking and incredibly frustrating at times, but also hugely motivating. For the most part I am embracing going plastic-free as a positive change, in fact I cannot think of a single negative thing that would stop me from refusing plastic waste whenever I can, and it feels good to be doing something.


  1. Plastic bags are really becoming a thing of the past here now. A 5p charge per bag has been enough to significantly reduce the number of bags you see people carrying. I carry my reusable bag everywhere. Foldable and always in my bag. Looking forward to reading more about your efforts!

  2. That's great to hear Claire. I really thought that was the case in Japan, but it appears the 'eco' boom is stagnant here sadly.

  3. Well done and you deserve the credit for re-inspiring slackers such as myself! It's been great (and interesting) to watch your journey.

  4. It`s so annoying to constantly have to refuse plastic bags, no really I don`t need one, especially at the combini, but we must be strong! I think a national charge on them would help to reduce plastic bag use