Chris volunteered for a year at Heartline Bali FM in East Bali. He is now working full time as the Managing Director of Bottle for Botol
The Big 4 and secret behind the scenes plastic
On the first day of my week to profile some of the challenges of attempting to live plastic free, I headed out to the warehouse where a friend Pete had kindly agreed to store our new delivery of Australian water bottles over the summer holidays. Schools had started to head back so it was time to organise delivery to John Septimus Roe in Perth, Bega high school as well as our two Melbourne schools Cornish and Kingswood College.
Like many of the challenges that we face at Bottle for Botol, logistics was one that I had very little experience with. Luckily, Pete knew all the right companies to call that would get our bottles to where they needed to be at the best price. We had them all laid out on the school respective pallets when Pete came back with one of the biggest rolls of plastic shrink wrap you have ever seen. Not ideal for Plastic Free July. Apparently sending cartons "unsecured" costs around three times as much sending them plastic wrapped. Looking at our available options we decided to settle with packing tape. Still single use plastic but a lot less in volume than we would have otherwise used. Will have to look at some more eco options for next time. Perhaps some natural string. This experience made me stop to think about the amount of plastic that must be used behind the scenes everyday to transport goods around the country.
I really enjoyed the challenge of Plastic Free July and did a pretty good job of avoiding the Big 4 plastic waste items. With my re-usable shopping bags, Keepcup and Bottle for Botol water bottle I managed to avoid using plastic bags, bottles and take-away coffee cups all month. I did accidentally order two drinks with straws and was given a plastic wine glass at a Melbourne Development Circle event I attended representing Bottle for Botol. For me participating in Plastic Free July highlighted the fact that whilst plastic is currently abundant, with a little conscious effort it isn't too difficult to avoid. Once you start, you don't miss it.
Meet Baci, my mum's pet labrador. He's six months old, and has taught himself to hold his breath underwater such that he can retrieve (and subsequently chew) filtration bedding from the pond. He also has a soft spot for teddy bears, pillows, mattress's, metal chairs, rugs, curtains, our pet cat and it seems, plastic Keep Cups...
I brought my brand spanking new Keep Cup to work last week (I'm getting great at remembering it!) and walked to the cafe with a spring in my step, excited to get my afternoon "fix". I'm a coffee addict, and have recently cut down to just two (double espressos) a day. As a poor student who volunteers most of her spare time to this charity, I have also decided to try and cut back on my spending on food. So, while looking through the glass cabinet at the delicious treats and debating whether or not to fork out $5 for a muffin, I let the barista get to work on my coffee...
Moments later, I looked up briefly from my daze only to notice that the barista was extracting my coffee into a take away cup... I'm not one to get upset over many things, but this act pushed me over the line.
"what are you doing?" I cried,
he scrambled to turn the machine off, a token effort a little too late. "It's okay, I'll make you another one in your cup?"...
"That's not the point!" I wailed, my emotions clearly getting the better of me, "I'm trying to save the environment!" (maybe a little over the top; one take away cup won't make that much difference).
I changed the topic, there's no point staying upset; what's done is done. He handed me my coffee in my beautiful new glass keep cup and I asked him for just one more favour "can you add a little more hot water"...
BAM! While I scrambled through my wallet trying to scrape together $3, the barista filled a take away cup to the brim with boiling hot water,
"Say when" he stated as he filled up my coffee.
I looked for the tell tale muddy brown sign that he was reusing the previous cup but instead I watched as crystal clear boiling hot water escaped from a brand new cup. Defeated, I dragged my heels back to indoor pool deck to mull over the recent events.
“I don’t consume very much plastic”……
“This should be a piece of cake”…..
Wrong and wrong again!!
Day one is like catching a not so flattering glance of your own reflection in the mirror. Well I guess this experience is serving a purpose and things can only improve from here.
For my second day of this challenge I decided to take a serious look at my plastic consumption and how it can be improved. I concluded this process of self-analysis by admitting that I am far from perfect but my plastic use and consumption is far better than those around me (i.e. housemates and workmates). This I believe is where most people’s complacency stems from. I take the step of self improvement by taking a trip to the supermarket with my two reusable green shopping bags which I thoroughly fill with plastic free goods. The loose fruit and vegetables make for an interesting push bike home but the loaf of bread protruding from my bag allow me to imagine I’m riding through the streets of Paris rather than Alice Springs. I finished the day wondering why it took this challenge for me to really take a self reflective look at something I am so passionate about.
Today my focus shifted away from my own plastic consumption and turned to the world around me. This came about after watching my housemate placing plastic milk cartons along with all other plastic waste directly into our general waste bin. As there are no formal recycling collection systems here in Central Australia I am still readjusting to throwing plastic waste away with all other refuge. It reminds of me of when I was growing up on the east coast of Australia during a time when recycling services were not provided so people didn’t even consider the ramifications of their actions. When recycling services became available it seemed to take quite some time for people to really embrace it. This situation made me consider how long it might take people to begin to genuinely consider living without plastic, as recycling has shown anything is possible if the infrastructure and support is provided.
Today I battled to find a replacement for plastic cling wrap to keep my lunchtime sandwiches in one piece. Plastic is everywhere.
As I begin to feel a little isolated and saddened by this journey into a plastic free existence I am encouraged by the wonderful people in social media. There is a growing wave of support from people, organisations and businesses attempting to live without plastic and it took my Facebook and Instagram accounts to remind me of these people. Inspirational individuals like ‘Walk Away Dave’, who has embarked on a month long coastal journey cleaning beaches of plastic and documenting what he finds along the way, are the perfect reminder of why it is important not to lose faith. I just hope this cyber enthusiasm and good intentions spread into the general population’s consciousness before too long.
The weekend brings a chance to escape the daily grind and a camping trip into the beautiful and ancient MacDonnell Ranges. Camping in these ancient landscapes is a truly inspirational experience and it feels good to be away from world of consumption and plastic use in town. As I go for a late afternoon explore I can’t help but notice the plastic and other waste left behind by previous campers in the area. In this timeless setting the plastic seems to stand out even more than spilling out of bins in crowded streets. It might not be my plastic but I somehow feel responsible for this mess simply for being a human in this place that must have existed for so long without anything like it.
My final day of this challenge is relatively uneventful but it is hard to ignore the lessons I have learnt through few days of paying close attention to my use of plastics. I have decided that I will continue this challenge for the remainder of July and as long as it is practical for me to do so. The overall conclusion I keep coming back to is that if I pay a little more attention and am a little creative I can cut out a huge percentage of my plastic use. It is the social situations which can be challenging as people like to share their plastic goods around. I figure why not use these situations as a chance to share your journey with others and get them thinking about their own plastic consumption?
Day One. Easy. I’m onto this.
Day Two. After a late night of work and little sleep, I made my way to a local café and hazily ordered a juice. Out it came with a straw – wow, I lasted one day?! This is plastic-free 101 – these are the easiest ones to avoid. I’ll have to switch on from the second I prong these sleepy eyes open each morning.
I slapped myself on the wrist and tried to make up for it by speaking with the waiter about the option of replacing plastic straws with reusable glass or bamboo straws that are available in Bali. She promised to speak with her boss about it during Plastic Free July.
Day Three: Would you like your fresh coconut in a bag? Nggak (no), Pak.
Would you like your banana in a bag? Nggak, Mbak.
Would you like your suitcase wrapped in plastic? NGGAAAAK, PAAAK!
Plastic. Is. Everywhere.
Day Four: Today I saw a man purchase a packet of cigarettes, which the shopkeeper put in a small plastic bag. He paid, walked out of the store and threw the plastic bag on the ground before scooting off on his motorbike. I picked up the bag and gave it back to the shopkeeper. A ridiculous exchange.
Day Five: Today a shopkeeper saw I had brought my own bag and said, “Go Green”. “Yes! Go Green.” I smiled. He smiled. It was nice.
Day Six: You know what the nice thing about Plastic Free July is? By just taking a few minutes to Google what’s around you, you find absolute gold mines – like the teeny tiny organic produce store selling cheap fresh fruit and veg and all natural soaps just around the corner. And – you guessed it – they did not feel the need to wrap it all in plastic. What’s more, they even make their own bags out of recycled newspapers. Resourceful, creative and cost-effective – this is what we love to see.