Can you live a totally plastic-free life?

Our intrepid challengers have been trying to do just that for the month of July – with varying success!

Here's how they fared in Week 1, and watch the short clip below for a quick recap on how they did in Week 2:

And now for an update on Week 3:

Helen Lockhart, Two Oceans Aquarium Communications & Sustainability Manager

I really struggled this week. There are just not readily available alternatives to plastic packaging. I avoided outright some items simply because they are wrapped in plastic e.g. mushrooms. I bought a box of naartjies instead of a bag. I deliberated for about 5 minutes over spinach, looking for recycling codes on the bags (there were none). I recently planted spinach in my vegetable patch at home, so I can’t wait for the little plants to grow! Each time I shop I am stunned by the amount of packaging involved. So many products are double-, if not triple-wrapped! 

One of the plastic culprits found during beach clean-ups is the ear bud stick. Fortunately, there is an alternative to plastic ones – these claim to be biodegradable and flushable (although I don't advise this). But... they are still sold in a plastic bag! 

By participating in Plastic Free July I have realised that it is not only our relationship with plastic that needs to change but so many aspects of daily life. If we had more time we would be able to grow more of our own food and make more of our own products (soap, toothpaste, shampoo and household cleaning products).

If we changed our concept of wealth from having money and material things to having more leisure time, I think we would possibly see a reduction in having things "for the sake of convenience". 

Hayley McLellan, Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner

This challenge has taken me back to when I was following a strictly gluten-free diet, and not in a good way either. Like then, attempting a Plastic Free July has left me wandering the aisles with glazed eyes realising just how limited my options are. We purchase many plastic wrapped items to put into many plastic shopping bags. At least I have successfully overcome the plastic shopping bag addiction and so can you.

These items tripped me up this month. They are all skin health related, a regime which I must retain in order to cope
Finding carrots with stems intact cheered me up especially when, on chomping into one, I discovered a much sweeter burst of flavour than those wrapped in plastic!

Katja Rockstroh, Two Oceans Aquarium PA to the Head of Education

It has been a better week for me, but not plastic free by a long shot. We finally made it to a Fruit & Veg for our weekly shopping and it was a much better experience than the other supermarkets. However, looking at packaging with whole new eyes, I realised that Fruit & Veg is also not as good as I believed it was. I mean, unless you pull that turnip out of the ground yourself, you will most likely get it in a plastic bag.

I ended up buying a box of tomatoes. Luckily I love tomatoes. And then I realised that a large family shopping at Fruit & Veg would do quite well in terms of plastic free items. A single person or couple would rather go for the pre-cut quarter pumpkin (unless you really adore pumpkin).

Anyway, we did okay. In the photo above are the only items that were wrapped in plastic from our shopping. The usual conundrum items remain:

  • cheese, because I cannot live without it (although veganism is still an option I might consider one day)
  • pasta – show me pasta that doesn’t come in plastic. An option would of course be to make your own pasta, but who has time for that?!
  • carbonated drinks – they always come in plastic bottles. My better half will not give up his gin & tonics, so the search continues for tonic water in a glass bottle.

Then I had a major brainwave: Smarties and Astros still come in cardboard boxes! Hurray for me and my, clearly, sugar-addicted brain. 1 – 0 in the war against plastic.

Xavier Zylstra, Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Education Centre Senior Teacher

I experienced some "plastic paralysis" when shopping. I found I was avoiding lots of foods and products simply because non-plastic alternatives were not available. Where I simply had to get certain items, I had to take the plastic. The coffee I buy went from the individually wrapped ‘mono-doses’ to 500g (plastic!) packets.

I was able to insist on no carrier bags at both Clicks and Pick&Pay, and made use of paper bags for items that required barcoded stickers. I found that meat products had so much cling wrap around them that I could divide them into freezer portions and then cut up and reuse the existing cling wrap to parcel them… no need for any extra clingwrap!

As you can see for me, this month is more about being aware of what I am buying and the plastic free or friendlier alternatives; to question the decisions being made by the manufacturers and retailers and to insist on a plastic free alternative where possible… it’s a start!


Are you also doing Plastic Free July? How's it going? Let us know in the comments below. Alternatively, join us for a big Beach Clean Up event on 31 July.

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