23 May 2017

My Year Without Plastic

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:26 pm on 23 May 2017

Three years ago Merren Tait vowed not to buy any plastic for an entire year. Her experiment has almost become a permanent way of life, and she is still living as plastic free as she can.

Living without plastic.

Living without plastic. Photo: 123RF

Tait, a Raglan resident, initially gave up plastic as a stunt to raise awareness around Plastic Free July, a month-long campaign to live without plastic.

But rather than just giving up plastic for a month, Tait said she wouldn’t buy the stuff for a year – a move she says was pretty extreme.

Her biggest motivation in ditching plastic was to set an example for others to change their behaviour.

Tait said there were rules around her plastic-free lifestyle – if there was something she absolutely had to have, it had to either be second hand, or if it came in packaging, the packaging had to be sent back to the producer with a letter suggesting that they explore more sustainable options.

“If I needed to replace a car part that was plastic, I couldn’t do it.”

Tait wasn’t prepared to compromise on her health, or that of her animals, and plastics for that were allowed.

The biggest challenge she faced was around food shopping, ‘that’s a big one to find alternatives for’.

“Such a huge amount of the groceries on the shelves come in single use plastics… it’s a big one to find alternatives for.”

But after Tait finished her year without plastic, and the habits she made had become entrenched, she had no desire to go back to supporting plastic production.

“It’s an environmental hazard – unfortunately we’re not very good at disposing of it.”

Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, every piece of plastic ever produced still exists somewhere in the world, in some form, she says.

“That’s a huge issue – particularly when we’re producing 225 million tonnes of it a year.”

These days Tait says she’s well practiced at avoiding plastic in her day to day life, but for those looking to cut down on their usage she recommends taking simple steps first.

“Focus on changing one thing, which might be using reusable shopping bags instead of getting a plastic one, or buying a takeaway coffee cup instead of getting a plastic takeaway.”

She says once people start to form behaviours around living with plastic, it becomes a lot easier.

“If every single one of us was willing to make one change in their habits as a consumer, our collective impact would be really big.

“It’s a great stepping stone to making further change down the track.”

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