An End To Plastic

How bad is plastic, really? We dive deeper into understanding why eliminating plastic from our households is the first step to going green, and how can we can adapt to a plastic-free life.

Did you know that plastic bags were actually invented to save the planet? They were created in 1959 by Swedish engineer Sten Gustaf Thulin as a significantly more durable alternative to paper bags, and in theory, could be used over and over again. Talk about irony…

Today, plastic is a staple, but billions of pounds of plastic end up in the sea, to the point that scientists have determined that not one square kilometre of ocean surface anywhere on earth is free of plastic pollution. This is just the tip of the iceberg: plastic sticks around for centuries before degrading, and when it finally does, it spreads toxins in the process. It also contributes towards global warming, as almost all plastics are made from chemicals that come from the production of gas, oil, and coal.

July 3 is International Plastic Bag Free Day, which encourages the world to look for safer alternatives while eliminating the use of single-use plastic bags. Here at CapitaLand, we've joined hands with F&N Foods and the National Environment Agency under the Recycle N Save initiative as part of our venture to reduce plastic waste and promote sustainability. Smart Reverse Vending Machines can be found in our shopping malls, offering a wide range of non-monetary rewards—such as Sentosa Fun Pass Tokens, a free 30-minute Anywheel ride, and 10 STAR$ from CapitaStar to exchange for shopping vouchers—when visitors recycle their empty plastic drink bottles and aluminium drink cans.

On an individual level, we each have the power to do more on our own by implementing steps to reduce our consumption of plastic. But when plastic always seems to be the most convenient option, what are some options out there?

Pack Light

We’ve still got a long way to go before eco-friendly brands cost the same or less than unsustainable ones, which is why we can understand why some people say that being able to make sustainable purchases is a privilege that can’t be afforded by many. However, there are small ways that you can reduce your plastic consumption without breaking the bank. Make it a habit to carry a reusable bag (or two) each time you head out, for both planned or impulse buys. With the many compact options available, there’s no excuse not to pack them into the most dainty of handbags. If you’re working from home and usually head to the neighbourhood coffeeshop to takeaway a convenient lunch, bring along your own container. It pains us (and the earth) when a styrofoam or plastic box is used for just an hour before it goes into the trash.

Be Like Grandma

Culturally speaking, many of us grew up watching our parents follow the ways of their own parents when it comes to reusing containers. Ice cream tubs never contained ice cream, and losing your mum’s Tupperware box that had been around since before you were born was the highest vice you could commit. There was also a tendency to hoard an entire collection of plastic bags that contained even more plastic bags—all used for throwing away garbage. We give our full support to this amusing—yet highly practical—tradition.

Alternatives Are Your Allies

With plastic waste constantly rising, it’s time to start thinking about looking for eco-friendly packaging that is either biodegradable, recyclable, or reusable. Some examples are biodegradable plastic bags for grocery shopping and reusable products made from durable sources such as bamboo, glass, aluminium, wood, or recycled plastic.

Zero or low-waste brands are slowly making waves as well, inspiring more to lead an environmentally-aware lifestyle. One such example is Your Sustainable Store, which was created to make a wide range of curated, stylish, and affordable sustainable products easily available, such as bamboo cutlery, and beeswax wrap as an alternative to cling wrap (which we had recently tried our hand at making!) There are other brands and stores that you can look out for that make tremendous efforts to stay plastic-free. 

Sun, Sand, And Sweeping

Despite the pandemic, our plastic consumption hasn't reduced much and many of our rivers and beaches are clogged with plastic items. Make an outing of it, and spend a few hours helping the local community clean up to help pick up plastic—you never know which bird might thank you. If you’d like to go deeper, look towards Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), which has made its home at Singapore Science Park. AEPW began the Clean4Change initiative with a 150-day programme to educate people on avoiding environmental pollution from plastic waste, and their choices regarding throwing away plastic. Signing up for the challenge will give you tips to effectively reduce plastic waste, as well as support to help participate in or organise cleanups.

Hidden In Plain Sight

Did you know that plastic is present in some seemingly harmless products that are used regularly? For example, tea bags have a thin layer of plastic used to seal the bags so that the leaves don’t spill out—try replacing tea bags with loose leaf tea and a tea infuser instead, to cut down on plastic consumption, and at the same time, protect your health.

Other items like envelopes contain plastic not just in the little window but also in the adhesive used to seal the envelope. While going digital is truly the best option, if you really need to send a hardcopy, look out for envelopes and postal packaging products that are plastic-free and made from environmentally-friendly or recycled materials, such as Envirolopes.

Additionally, something you might not have realised is that much of our clothing is made up of plastic materials such as polyester, nylon and acrylic. Each time they’re washed, they shed microplastics which find their way to the ocean,  marine life, and back to us whenever we consume seafood. There are some steps that you can take to reduce the amount of microplastics that are released by your clothes, but to truly break the cycle, make more conscious purchases in the future, and only when really necessary. Check the garment label to see what it’s actually made of—linen, deadstock, organic cotton, recycled polyester and more are all materials to look out for. 

It’s odd and even sad how something that started off with good intentions became one of the biggest threats to our world. Plastic bags were meant to save the trees and reduce pollution, and instead, became a necessary evil. However, with landfills and oceans filled with non-recycled plastic that will not disintegrate in the next 500 years, you can imagine how pressing the need for change is. Reusing plastic is the first step, but it’s not a permanent solution, as reused plastic eventually gets thrown away. What needs to come next is a collective decision, and a change in all our mindsets: to be more discerning in our choice of products we use, identifying where plastic waste comes from in our daily lives, and making a lifestyle change. 

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