How to have yourself a plastic-free Christmas



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Paper not plastic.
Adina Habich/Shutterstock.com

Manuela Taboada, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Queensland University of Technology; Hope Johnson, Queensland University of Technology; Leonie Barner, Queensland University of Technology, and Rowena Maguire, Queensland University of Technology

Research shows that waste can double during the Christmas period, and most of it is plastic from gift wrapping and packaging. The British, for example, go through more than 40 million rolls of (mostly plastic) sticky tape every year, and use enough wrapping paper to go around the Equator nine times.

We love plastic. It is an amazing material, so ubiquitous in our lives we barely notice it. Unfortunately, plastic waste has become a serious worldwide environmental and health issue. If we don’t love the idea of a planet covered in plastic waste, we urgently need to reduce our plastic consumption.

Yet old habits die hard, especially over the holiday season, when we tend to let go and indulge ourselves. Typically, people hold off until the new year to make positive changes. But you don’t have to wait – it’s easier than you might think to make small changes now that will reduce your holiday plastic waste, and maybe even start some enjoyable new traditions in your family or household.




Read more:
Five ways to spend with more social purpose this Christmas


Here is our list of suggestions to help you transform this indulgent time into a great opportunity to kickstart your plastic-free new year.

Gifts

The best option is to avoid or minimise gifts, or at least reduce them to a manageable level by suggesting a secret Santa, or a “kids-only” gift arrangement. Of course it’s hard to justify giving no gifts at all, so if you must give…

  • Make a list of presents assigned to each person before you hit the shops. This will help you avoid impulse buys, and instead make thoughtful choices.

  • Look for gifts that will help the recipient eliminate plastic waste: keep-cups, stainless steel water bottles, worm-farm kits, and so on.

  • Gift an experience, event tickets, massage, or a donation to a charity the recipient believes in.

  • Consider making gifts for the natural environment: bee hotels, possum and bird boxes, and native plants are all enjoyable ways to encourage nature.

  • Where possible, avoid buying online so as to avoid wasteful packaging.

  • Consider whether the recipient will treasure their gift or end up throwing it away. Here’s a handy flowchart, which you can also use for your own (non-Christmas) purchases.

Decisions, decisions.
Manuela Taboada, Author provided

Gift wrapping

Not only do we buy gifts, we wrap them in paper and decorate them with ribbons often made of synthetic materials. It might look fantastic, but it generates a fantastically tall mound of waste afterwards. Here’s how to wrap plastic-free in style.

  • Ditch the sticky tape and synthetic ribbons. Instead, use recycled or repurposed paper and tie up with fabric ribbons, cotton, or hemp twine.

  • Try Japanese fabric wrapping (Furoshiki). The big advantage: two gifts in one!

  • Choose gifts that do not need wrapping at all, such as the experiences, event tickets or charity donations mentioned above.

Furoshiki: sustainable and stylish.
Katorisi/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Tableware

Disposable tableware is convenient – perhaps too convenient. Plastic plates, cutlery and cups are handy if you’re hosting dozens of friends and relatives, but they are used for a minimal amount of time and are often non-recyclable. So, when setting up your table:

  • Use “real” tableware. You can easily find funky second-hand options. Mixed tableware is a trend!

  • If your dishwasher (human or mechanical) can’t handle the strain, consider a washing-up game instead. Line up the guests, time their washing, and give them a prize at the end.

  • If disposables are essential, opt for biodegradable tableware such as paper-based uncoated plates and cups, or wooden or bamboo plates and cutlery.

  • Beware of plastic options labelled as “biodegradable”. Often they are only degradable in industrial composting facilities, which are not available across most of Australia. Check your local recycling options.

Toys

Last year, tonnes of plastic waste were found on Henderson Island, one of the most remote places in the world. Among the items were Monopoly houses and squeaky ducks. Toy items are usually non-recyclable, and eventually end up in landfill or scattered throughout the environment.

  • Choose wooden or fabric-based toys. Alternatively, look for toys or games that teach children about the environment.

  • Many board games have dozens of plastic accessories, but not all. Look at the list of contents, and choose ones with less plastic.

  • It might be hard to stay away from Lego or other iconic plastic toy brands. In this case, consider buying second-hand or joining a toy library.

Packaging

This is by far the hardest item to avoid. Lots of non-plastic items come packed in plastic, including most of our food. So, simply…

  • Refuse it: find alternatives that don’t come wrapped in plastic. This might mean changing how and where you buy your food.

  • If there are no other options, choose plastic that can be recycled locally and avoid styrofoam, also called expanded polystyrene, which is not recyclable at most facilities.

  • If you are buying online, you can often ask for your items to be packed with no plastic.

  • For party food leftovers, use beeswax wraps or glass containers, or ask guests to bring their own reusable containers.




Read more:
‘I am not buying things’: why some people see ‘dumpster diving’ as the ethical way to eat


There’s a lot going on at Christmas, and it can be easier simply to follow the path of least resistance, and resolve to clean up your act in the new year. But you can avoid getting caught in consumption rituals created by the retail industry.

Make some changes now, and you can have a reduced-plastic Christmas with the same amount of (or even more) style and fun!The Conversation

Manuela Taboada, Senior Lecturer, Visual Design, Queensland University of Technology; Glenda Amayo Caldwell, Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Queensland University of Technology; Hope Johnson, Lecturer, Queensland University of Technology; Leonie Barner, Associate Professor, Queensland University of Technology, and Rowena Maguire, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Plastic-free campaigns don’t have to shock or shame. Shoppers are already on board


Louise Moana Kolff, UNSW

With Coles and Woolworths supermarkets phasing out single-use plastic bags at their checkout counters, and Queensland and Western Australia bringing in bans on single-use plastic bags for all retailers from July 1, a long overdue step is being taken towards reducing Australia’s plastic waste.

However, it is only a small step, and much still needs to be done to tackle the problem.

It is therefore useful to explore what strategies might be effective in informing the public about the issue, and in changing people’s consumption and littering behaviour.




Read more:
In banning plastic bags we need to make sure we’re not creating new problems


Research shows that fear or shock tactics, or strategies based on shame and guilt, are generally not effective, and can even be counterproductive. High-threat fear appeals can be effective provided that the target audience is already taking positive steps toward the desired behaviour change, or feel that they can easily do so. Crucially, this means that campaigns not only need to tell people about an issue, but also provide straightforward advice on what do to about it.

In this context, campaigns such as “Hey Tosser!”, run by the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, are ill-conceived. The problem is that encouraging the public shaming of “tossers” creates an unhelpful stereotype that doesn’t actually exist. One study found that Australians are often unaware of their own littering, meaning the campaign might prompt people to identify themselves as “non-tossers” and therefore ignore the message.

Tosser shaming.

The author and social behaviour change expert Les Robinson has suggested that rather than try to scare or shame people into changing, it is more useful to create a positive buzz around change, make new behaviours easy to adopt and sustain, and foster supportive communities to help with change.

This means that whether we want to tackle littering or reduce reliance on plastic bags, it is important to make people feel that they are part of an inclusive movement that is supported by the community and relevant to their own lives.

One example is the WA government’s “What’s your bag plan?” campaign, which urges shoppers to decide how they will carry their shopping after the demise of plastic bags, by becoming either a “bagger” (reusable bags), a “boxer” (cardboard boxes), or a “juggler” (neither!).

The good and the bad

A recent action by Greenpeace, in which overpackaged fruit and veg were labelled with a sticker saying “I’d like this product to be plastic free” and “We love plastic-free fruit and veg”, makes it easy for consumers to view those changes as positive. There is no blaming or shaming, but rather a focus on making it easier for consumers to ask supermarkets for more environmentally conscious options.

On Instagram and Twitter Greenpeace is encouraging consumers to share photos of excessive packaging, under the hashtag #RidiculousPackaging. This is a proactive way for consumers to take action, and for others to start noticing the overuse of plastic in supermarkets.

A sticker campaign by Greenpeace Australia Pacific encourages consumers to choose plastic-free fruit and veg, and puts pressure on the supermarkets.
Instagram/Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Consumers are encouraged to post images of excessive plastic wrapping.
Twitter

In contrast, other campaigns seek to emphasise the destructive effects of plastic waste. These can be eyecatching, but without a strong message that customers have the power to make a positive difference, they are unlikely to be effective in implementing sustained behaviour change.

The UK Marine Conservation Society’s campaign, showing a drinking straw lodged up a child’s nose (echoing a horrific viral video of a sea turtle enduring the same fate), is both shocking and thought-provoking. But with no clear, positive information showing people how they can directly address the problem through changes in their own lives, viewers may simply disengage.

Eye-watering stuff.
Marine Conservation Society UK

Winning the war

One of the most powerful campaigns in Australia in recent times has been the ABC documentary series War On Waste. Its success can be attributed to a clever mix of shocking information tempered with entertaining and engaging storylines; a lack of blaming and shaming of individuals (although some corporations and politicians have received their share); clear and tangible solutions that viewers can implement; and a feeling of collaborative empowerment.

In combination, these elements have had a positive impact, with the sale of reusable takeaway coffee cups rising sharply after the series aired. If my experience at my local supermarket is any guide, shoppers have taken the message about recycling soft plastics firmly to heart.

Soft plastic bins overflowing at Coles, Murwillumbah, June 2018.
Louise Moana Kolff, Author provided

The ConversationFew people would argue against the reduction of plastic waste. Most people are ready and willing to change, and the agencies that are designing campaigns on the issue would do well to remember this. Positive encouragement and advice are preferable to fear, shame or shock tactics.

Louise Moana Kolff, Lecturer, UNSW

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.