5 ways to be plastic free this July
By Monica Fatogun
Welcome to the month of July. We are six months away from another year, and I have a suggestion on how to best make it count. This month is also tagged as Plastic Free July. It is a month used to self-introspect and practice on reducing our plastic dependence. At the same time, this month is dedicated to sensitize and raise awareness on the dangers of most forms of plastic.
The plastic industry expanded all over the United States and later to the rest of the world after World War II. It became the cheaper alternative to use for everything like the steel in cars, and the wood for furniture. This optimism for plastic did not last long during the mid-60s as people started noticing plastic debris floating on seas and became more environmentally conscious, thanks to Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Springs’. The downside of plastics is that they live almost forever in our environment when they are discarded in our land mines or in the oceans. They cause more harm than good to our well-being and our ecosystems. That’s why this month is set aside to explore alternatives and steps we can all take to reduce our use of plastic and work towards living a plastic free lifestyle.
Some may wonder, ‘How is this applicable to us in Nigeria?’ I can assure you that most of these solutions have been tried and tested in Nigeria. So here are my top 5 ways you can reduce your plastic usage this month and beyond.
- Recycle your single use plastic bottles.
We use them every single day, whether we are stuck in traffic or on a ride to work. We buy bottles of water or our favourite fizzy drinks. They all come bottled in plastics and we discard them (hopefully in a bin). What would you say if I told you there is a way to monetize your plastic bottles or empower other local communities in your area? Thanks to the help of these established recycling companies that buy and/or pick up your plastics from you:
- WeCyclers – @wecyclers
- Recyclepoints – @recyclepoints
- Reswaye – @reswaye
- African Clean Up initiative – @acnigeria
The human race is moving towards a more plastic free world and we should all join in on this movement. Cocacola recently signed up to Recycle Points’ Corporate Recycling Program with a main and renewed focus on their entire packaging lifecycle – from how bottles and cans are designed and made to how they are recycled and repurposed. I have been making use of Recycle points for the past 6 months. I registered with them and every 2 weeks, they send a team to collect my plastic and glass bottles. I earn points every time I recycle – 1 recycle point per bottle – that can be redeemed for cash or several household items such as a frying pan or an iron! Pretty amazing I would say.
For more info on how I use recycle points, watch this video;
- Ditch your plastic straws for steel straws!
According to the world economic forum, Nigeria releases about 200,000 tonnes of plastic waste into the ocean and plastic straws take up a large portion of the waste. Why not create an alternative? That is what Seep n Save provides. Seep n Save is a Nigerian based brand of colourful eco-friendly and reusable stainless steel/glass straws founded by 23-year old Damilola Sanwo Olu. She believes in proffering solutions while raising awareness about plastic pollution. This is a neat solution and much kudos go to her. I bought both a smoothie and a telescopic straw that can be adjusted and I have been stuck on them ever since. The straws come in a neat biodegradable pouch that you can carry anywhere you go.
Please head on to her IG handle @seepnsave to order yours now
Pic1: The Telescopic Reusable Straw from Seep n Save.
P.C Seep N Save
- Ditch and Refuse Plastics for eco-friendlier products.
This will be a gradual process. I am still an apprentice at this but I believe conscious decisions like adopting cloth bags and refusing the nylon bags at shops are the way to go. It may sometimes feel impossible because everything has plastic in it. However, if this is your resolve, remember that this is your personal journey and there is no shame in being imperfectly green. Don’t be afraid or feel intimidated to explore it. Every little help matters. I will admit that it’s especially difficult and I have personally experienced some setbacks in fully adopting cloth bags when shopping in Nigeria, so if you ever feel stuck, you’re not alone. Ditch your plastic cutlery and carry a reusable one. If you have to use plastic, use that and don’t take up another, like our drinking water bottles; either adopt a steel one or maintain using just 1 plastic bottle.
Eco barter is an Abuja based company that provides eco alternatives to household products, fashion and lifestyle like cutlery, bowls etc. (@ecobartershop) or handbags (@ecobarter_wrep). They are also involved in plastic recycling too (@ecobarter).
Kindly do check them out and patronize!
Pic 2&3: Ecobarter Products; hand-made fashionable bags from plastic wastes, bamboo plates.
- Repair and Reuse more
I have noticed a pattern in Nigeria, we love to buy new things rather than mend or sew what is slightly torn or chipped. This is not to say that if it is totally destroyed and we are in desperate need of another one that you shouldn’t. You certainly can and should. Things like fashionable items, plastic furniture, etc. Manufacturing these plastic items use up a large quantity of raw materials and when disposed, they end up in a land mine and take years to decompose. If this is the case, why don’t we reuse it until they cannot be used any more? Here are some suggestions on how to maintain old items that are repairable;
- Sew a torn sweater that has mini plastic present in it
- Mend a broken plastic chair or table
- Turn a leaking plastic cup into a plant pot.
There are 2 organisations I’m particularly fond of because they encourage sustainability by upcycling plastic products into beautiful furniture and household items. I would urge you to take an interest in and patronize if you can.
- Foundation for a Better Environment (FABE)- @fabenigeriafoundation
- African Creative Hub- @african_creative_hub
Pic 4: Reusing broken plastic arms and tyres to create Indian Stools ‘Morahs‘
- Volunteer with NGOs dedicated to eradicating Plastic Pollution; Be part of beach clean-ups
All the above mentioned companies organize and host beach clean-ups from time to time. However, The Kidsbeach garden (@kidsbeachgarden) consistently hosts beach clean-up days every last Saturday of the month. These are coordinated by the the Recycling Scheme for Women and Youth Empowerment (RESWAYE). RESWAYE is founded by Doyinsola Ogunye and is in partnership with Coca Cola foundation to empower Women and Youth through recycling in Coastal Communities! You get to weigh the plastics accumulated, play games, learn more about plastic pollution with these experts who work alongside 4Oceans; an international organisation dedicated to cleaning our oceans. This is a step in the right direction to saving our planet.
By participating, you get to learn and help save the planet while empowering underprivileged communities. What’s not to like about that?
Pic 5: Founder of RESWAYE, Doyinsola Ogunye has organized several beach cleanup initiatives in Lagos.
I hope you found my 5 tips helpful. I’d love to hear your top 5 tips you are adopting for this month, in the comments section below. You just need to make the switch gradually and start imperfectly this July… I’m rooting for you!
*Monica Fatogun, a conservationist, writes from Lagos.