Andrew Bentley, Chairman of the Isle of Man Green Party, took on the challenge of Plastic Free July and writes about how he fared:
The Plastic Free July challenge originated in Western Australia as a local government initiative in 2011 and has spread around the world.
The objective is to have a zero-tolerance approach to single use plastic for a whole month and this duration is enough to be habit-forming and, therefore, result in a long-term change in behaviour.
I’m a member of Douglas Borough Council’s Environment and Services Committee, where we try to increase recycling rates, However, in the waste management hierarchy, recycling comes third below reuse and reduce, and that’s what this challenge is all about.
In many ways, the challenge is more about the person than the plastic. Are you prepared or able to modify your diet, take bags and Tupperware to the shops, visit more shops rather than the convenience of one supermarket and send off for products unavailable on the Island?
So how did I do it? 31 days without single use plastic. Well, the challenge is primarily that of buying food, something that initially seems daunting but is surprisingly easy to overcome and there are plenty of local retailers and producers willing to help.
When it comes to shopping avoid packaging wherever possible, buy fruit and vegetables loose rather than in bags and adjust your recipes so that you don’t need products that are only available in plastic.
Take containers with you to buy from the deli counter or refill at Top Banana in Saddlestone and, finally, change brands, products in plastic may also be available in glass, foil, tins and cardboard.
Some changes were easier than others. Spinach and cheese are two of my staples that appear to be very difficult to divorce from plastic and initial concerns about fuelling my crisp addiction came to nothing, the occasional bowl of fresh popcorn dealt with night-time cravings for salt and fat.
So where do I go from here? Well, I have a new set of recipes where the ingredients are easy to find plastic-free and I have the containers ready to refill. This is the new normal.
The world is changing and as public awareness grows those that adapt will flourish. This is a great opportunity for local producers and retailers.
Close Leece Farm hardly use any plastic and Noa will be launching new plastic-free packaging for their bread and coffee in the near future.
To conclude, plastic-free living, when combined with composting and recycling, simply becomes waste-free living. There is almost nothing else left, so the next challenge is find a new use for the Energy from Waste Plant. Giant fun barn anyone?
Let’s do this!
Andrew Bentley is Chairman of the Isle of Man Green Party, a Douglas Council Member for Derby Ward, part of the steering group of the Isle of Man Climate Change Coalition and an architect.