Spend it Better: How to treat plastic like the precious resource it is

Plastic is the basis of a lot of our domestic liquid holders – and that’s where we can use it better

Hopefully soon the idea of binning empty pump dispensers after a single use will seem preposterous

Hopefully soon the idea of binning empty pump dispensers after a single use will seem preposterous

 

I accidentally made a pond. A plastic bucket filled with rain and squirming living things made it home. I noticed them thanks to critter expert Collie Ennis’s ode to ponds. So I transferred the ecosystem to a plastic basin in a shady garden corner and surrounded it with logs and moss. The squirmers were already helping the water to breathe so it smells sweet rather than stagnant. Ennis’s how-to is here

In our horror at the sight of plastic pollution it is easy to forget that plastic is a resource. It holds liquids (creating impromptu ponds) and doesn’t smash into cutty shards like the apothecary-chic glass dispenser I bought to try to cut down our bathroom plastic. Many medical devices wouldn’t exist without it. Hip and knee replacements have contained it since the 1960s. 

Our chief problem with plastic is its disposability, how the remains disintegrate into our ecosystems, lungs and bloodstreams. We have created 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastic, a fraction of which has been recycled. We need to quit plastic flings and commit to a long term relationship. 

Precious Plastic is a design idea by Dutch industrial designer Dave Hakkens to equip anyone with the tools to recycle plastic locally and turn it into useful products. Its Dublin branch https://www.preciousplasticdublin.org/ has been amassing bottle tops during the pandemic and will be working with Youthreach to teach children to use 3D printers with recycled plastic. They will also plan to work with Grown Clothing to plant trees using recycled plastic to make tree guards. 

Hopefully soon the idea of binning empty pump dispensers after a single use will seem preposterous. There is already a retail shift to refills. L’Occitane shops take back plastic cosmetic containers for recycling, and not just their own. You get a 10 per cent discount. But their shampoo refill pouch clocks in at €27.50 for half a litre. In most pharmacies there are cut-price shampoos in plastic dispenser bottles for a tenth of that price. 

The best refills will be powders or concentrates to which we will add water, the main component in all shampoos – even the elixirs we hope will magically sprinkle us with good hair days. The wonderful west Cork company Warrior Botanicals puts deodorant in tins. A tin lasts for months and is the best alternative plastic-free bathroom product I’ve used. (The less said about toothpaste tablets the better.)

Discovering the deodorant solution feels like a good milestone, no more hearing all that newly-minted plastic clatter dispiritingly into the recycling bin. And it’s called Warrior Sensitive which seems pretty apt.

Catherine Cleary is co-founder of Pocket Forests.

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