Tag Archives: plastics

Overcoming our Brain: The Psychology behind a Lent Plastic Challenge

If you have ever started a diet, or told yourself you are never eating sugar or chocolate again, you will know how tough it can be and how all you think about is the forbidden items.

This can be the same, if you try to make changes to your lifestyle for the environment, like going vegan or plastic-free. In this blog, we will unpack the psychological factors at work and how undertaking a month challenge like Veganuary or the Lent Plastic Challenge can achieve long-term behaviour change. I will share from my own personal experience of hosting the Lent Plastic Challenge for 5 years, changing my lifestyle for the environment and from studying behaviour change.

Why giving something up is painful and daunting?

When we are told, or tell ourselves, that we can’t have something we experience ‘loss aversion’. And due to our human survival mechanisms, we are actually wired to experience loss twice as painfully as the joy of pleasure; so it actually hurts to give something up!

Also due to our survival instincts, we also struggle with long-term comprehension, but are more focused on the immediate future which is why, for so long, we have struggled to comprehend climate change as explained in the book ‘Don’t even think about it‘.

So how do we overcome this?

By doing a Lent challenge or a month-long challenge, we can tell our brain, it is not forever which is less daunting and painful. Rather than the loss, we can also focus on all the things we are going to bring into our lives and how we can replace the items we are giving up by finding recipes and solutions. And our brain will love this process because our brains enjoy solving problems, which is why crosswords and computer games are so popular.

The allure of convenience and plastic packaging

No, our brains are not wired to find satisfaction in unpackaging and throwing away plastic wrappers. However, our brain is constantly seeking out the easy option and the shortcut which is why convenience is king and plastic-packaged goods have become so indispensable.

Trying to overcome convenience can be challenging, but it is why when you seek out alternatives you need to find things that are quick and easy- which is all the recipes in the Lent Plastic Challenge are simple and straight forward (because I don’t have much time, and I actually switch off from a recipe with lots of ingredients).

How to change our plastic habits

Whilst we humans like to think we are rational beings making conscious choices, it turns out that most of the time we are going through life on autopilot because our brains like to automate as much as possible. This means that most of our day-to-day shopping behaviours and purchasing choices are because of habit or impulse, whereas shopping plastic-free requires more conscious thought and planning.

It is believed that we need at least 21 days to create or break a new habit, hence why month-long challenges work so well. To avoid overwhelm it is important not to take on too many new behaviours at once, which is why in the Lent Plastic Challenge we suggest doing a couple of items a week, rather than going all-out plastic-free at once, because this can be overwhelming and too much to remember for a life on autopilot.

The importance of public commitment

As humans, we are very social creatures and we care a lot about what other people think of us, so maintaining our public persona is important. This means if we make a public commitment, we are more likely to stick to it than if we just commit to ourselves.

So getting your friends, family and work colleagues involved in a challenge, or joining a public group and making a public pledge will increase your success rate. The Lent Plastic Challenge is set-up to support this, with a Facebook group, Instagram feed and a weekly email newsletter you can share with your work colleagues.

Joining the Lent Plastic Challenge

So if you are keen to change your plastic habits, then why not get involved in the Lent Plastic Challenge. There is a Facebook group, Instagram account and an email newsletter with weekly tips based on different themes.

This is of course completely free and furthermore this year, I am linking up my business consultancy, The Sustainable Sidekicks. The first 50 people to sign up will get free access to one of our workplace e-learning courses on Understanding Plastics and Plastic Recycling. To find out more head to the sign-up page for all the links.

Who is Livvy Drake, aka Green Livvy?

I am a sustainability and behaviour change consultant who works with events and businesses to reduce environmental impacts, offering consultancy and training and talks.

I studied behaviour change at Bristol UWE, focusing on plastic bottle consumption. I have delivered a number of waste and plastics behaviour change initiatives and have used that experience to create an online course for businesses.

As Green Livvy, I share my knowledge on waste and plastics reduction with individuals and households online and through face-to-face talks.

Lent Plastic Challenge 2019

Lent Plastic Challenge 2019

If you want to cut down on your plastics but feel a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start then the Lent Plastic Challenge is for you.

We host a group on Facebook, tips on Twitter and Instagram. Each week there is a different theme and items to focus on, so you can build up each week and get support and advise from the community.

From 6th March to 18th April have a go at reducing a few or as many single-use plastic items as you can.

Doing a 40-day challenge is less daunting than thinking it is forever.  Plus afterwards we hope you will have found some lifestyle changes that work for you and some fire in your belly to challenge the producers making all these materials that are difficult to recycle and are polluting our rivers and seas.

Get involved on:

What is the solution for ‘single-use’?

A symptom of our time-poor convenience-driven lifestyles is disposable packaging as we treat ourselves to pre-packed meals, Amazon deliveries and takeaways. So it is no co-incidence that when you look in the recycling bins on bin day they are overflowing and “single-use” was named the Collins word of 2018.

If like me, you have consciously tried reducing your packaging footprint, you soon realise that is necessary to go back to basics and find time. Time to go shopping in the greengrocers and the local zero-waste scoop shops. Time to prepare food from scratch, and time to cook. And if you want a fresh salad, you need time for gardening. Although, modern devices like blenders and slow cookers do provide some shortcuts.

The original marketing campaign for plastic, was emancipation for women from the kitchen sink, with the development of throwaway plates. And when you look at all the benefits of plastic, from microwavable meals, light-weight food protection and pre-portioned meal boxes it seems it has liberated everyone from the kitchen.

But surely if we can recycle then there is no problem? Well yes, if everything got turned back into more of the same then it wouldn’t be such a problem because there wouldn’t be a demand for more raw materials (think of all the trees being cut down for cardboard packaging) or materials being shipped around the world looking for a disposal route.

When we look at what recycling means, aluminium is infinitely recyclable with most cans containing 68% recycled content; although the strip mining of aluminium bauxite is highly destructive and polluting. Clear glass contains on average 30% recycled content whilst green contains 68%, whilst again the production is very energy intensive.

In contrast, plastic polymers have been deliberately made hard to recycle to prevent a secondary market. This means they are often ‘downcycled’ into other products like piping and furniture. PET and HDPE are the easiest plastics to recycle back into bottles and this practice is starting to increase with Fairy and Ecover producing 100% recycled bottles in 2018. But due to the cheap price of virgin plastics the demand hasn’t been present from producers for recycled content or for producers to take responsibility for the materials that they put on our shelves after use.

Producers aren’t responsible for their products end-of-life. Photo credit: Fotolia

 

This leaves councils and recyclers with materials that they need to find a home for, which is where the international commodity market comes into play and ‘recycling’ is sold around the world for ‘processing’. It can end up in countries that have significantly weaker environmental controls on burning and dumping waste. It is no coincidence, that the rivers that dump the most plastic pollution into the oceans are places like China where historically western countries sent their low-grade plastic recycling to. And since China banned plastic imports, UK recycling has been found dumped in illegal plants in Malaysia.

Finally; as our oceans are nearly at suffocation, legislation and initiatives are being put in place to reconsider the pitfalls of our single-use culture. The UK Government has 30% recycled content targets for packaging producers in its new Waste and Resources Strategy. And more excitingly, international schemes are being developed to make reuse more viable with delivery services like ‘Loop’ trialling reusable packaging with mainstream brands like Pantene and Hagan Daaz; and RePack, providing reusable bags for online retailers. There are also a number of reusable coffee cup and box schemes being trialled with multiple venues participating, on high streets around the world. These schemes are all part of the move to a more ‘circular economy’; meaning that materials stay in use for longer, either through reuse, repair or recycling.

 
The UK Governments ambitions for a Circular Economy for plastics

 

So could ‘reuse’, or ‘circular economy’ stem the tide of single-use? Could they even be the words of 2019? Through my own work with reuse schemes, the issues of time-poor lifestyles and convenience is a constant focal point for usurping single-use. It also remains to be seen how producers respond to changes in legislation and the requirements for responsible production and eco-design, without finding short-cuts. As well as if the UK Government will actually ban some ‘single-use’ items such as cutlery and straws or just consult on these issues.

Me, Livvy Drake in preparation for my talk- it’s going to be interactive! Photo credit: Cya Design

If you want to find out more about these issues: where are recycling really goes, what the circular economy alternatives are and how you can reduce packaging from your own business or lifestyle then join me for the Tipping Point: where does our waste go? On 21st March, at the White Rabbit in Clifton, Bristol.

The Tipping Point: Where does our waste go?

RECYCLINGLIVVY4

 

Do you ever wonder?

Why is recycling and particularly plastic recycling so complicated?  Is waste to energy a better solution to landfill? Why aren’t producers responsible for the packaging that ends up in our bin? What is the Government doing about it?

Well ‘The Tipping Point: Where does our waste go?‘  will answer all these questions and more. This will be a chance to:

  • Get an understanding on what recycling really means for many products and materials.
  • Understand about the plants and countries where our waste gets processed and how this affects their end of life.
  • Plus all the developments and positive changes that are afoot to readdress the materials ending up on our shelves in the first instance.
This talk is perfect for those who have committed to reducing plastics, are confused by recycling or want to make informed decisions for their business and product packaging.
The speaker, Livvy Drake has worked across the waste landscape, from managing waste systems at festivals to delivering food and plastic waste reduction campaigns.
Venue: The White Rabbit, CliftonDoors: 7pm / Talk starts: 7.30pm.

Tickets: £12 but if you use this code you can get £5 into your Funzing account to use against the ticket.

 

Why plastic ‘aint fantastic for Mother Nature

As we get ready for the Lent Plastic Challenge,today’s blog is all about the environmental impacts of plastics throughout it’s lifecycle.

Where does plastic come from?
Plastic is made from crude oil, which is mined/drilled around the world. Oil is a fossil fuel, meaning it was created thousands of years ago from fossil refinement and it is a finite resource that is running out.

IMPACT: This means the search for new oil reserves is heading into protected, virgin, delicate eco systems. Drilling for oil for plastics is directly implicated with Rainforest destruction in the Amazon.

How is plastic made?

Crude oil is mixed with chemicals to stabilise it. The process requires large quantities of energy and water.

IMPACT: Co2 emissions from production and transportation. Use of finite materials such as water and fossil fuels in it’s production.

Does plastic biodegrade or compost?
NO! Every piece of plastic that has been ever made still exists. It takes over 500 years for plastics to break down. Plastics in the oceans don’t biodegrade either they just break down into smaller particles.

IMPACT: Beaches and oceans littered with a fine glitter like layer of plastics.

But cant plastic be recycled?

The real meaning of recycling is to return a material to a similar state within a cyclical process (think paper and cans).
Plastic ‘recycling’ is confusing because:
a) There are so many types of plastics
b) Plastics get turned into other products in a downcycling process e.g broom handles, fleece jumpers.
c) In the UK, there is no consistent process, some could get recycled, downcycled, shipped abroad for incineration or buried in landfill.

What about all the plastic in the sea?
The 5 Gyres latest research suggests there are 268,000 tonnes of plastic in the oceans.
IMPACT: Plastic killing mammals and entering the food chain through fish and into humans.

impact-on-wildlife

How can you do your bit?
Whilst the prevalence of plastics shows no sign of abating (it is a cheap material), it is important that consumers and lobbying groups form to stand up against the plastics industry. Choosing to refuse and avoid single-use plastic items such as plastic bags, bottles, food containers and skin wash with microbeads in are a great start.

lent-plastic-challenge-960w

How does the Lent plastic challenge work?

If you think you could avoid plastic water bottles and microwaving meals in plastic tubs for 40 days you should join us on the Lent Plastic Challenge.

The Lent Plastic Challenge is not about throwing out every plastic item in your house.

Instead it’s about challenging your habits and shopping behaviours to see what single-use plastics you could ‘give-up’.

You could pick a couple of items and focus on those OR every week try and cut out another item, with the programme and support of the Green Livvy team.

What support is included in the Lent Plastic Challenge?

We will provide you with:

  • Weekly webinars containing advice, facts and motivation
  • Daily inspiration including videos and recipes
  • An online community to share your achievements, discoveries and challenges

How do I join?

Join the Lent Plastic Challenge Facebook Group or sign-up for email updates.

Want to find out more about plastics and health?

Further reading:

5 Gyres website
Plastic Coalition website

Hmm it doesn’t say plastic residue in the ingredients!

At Green Livvy we are getting ready for the Lent Plastic Challenge. Lent starts on 18th February, so not long now! We have received lots of questions and queries from our followers on why they should do it and what it entails. So in these blogs we will outline a number of issues with plastics and what is involved in giving up.

This blog is all about some of the health issues.

health-impact

What is the problem with plastics for our health?

Plastics are made from oil and a cocktail of chemicals which give them their consistency- hard, squidy, soft, colourful etc. These chemical compounds such as BPA’s and phosphates have been linked with various health conditions including fertility & hormonal issues, cancer and birth defects.

You may have heard that you shouldn’t drink water from plastic water bottles that have heated up in the car. This is because the chemicals leach out into the water. It naturally follows that microwaving plastics also can have the same impact.

Understanding all the different types of plastics and their safety is a minefield and  whilst the advise and levels of toxicity between different plastics is constantly being scrutinised, would you want to risk it?

Current articles

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How do I address the health implications of plastics heating up?

  • Avoid reusing plastic bottles and invest in a metal reusable bottle
  • Avoid food in plastic tubs
  • Do not microwave anything in a plastic tub

What are the side-effects of giving up single-use plastics?

It does take a little thought first of all to remember a water bottle, but like most habits if you do them enough they soon become second nature.

Some of the benefits include:

  • We save a fortune not buying plastic bottled drinks, and getting our reusable water bottle filled
  • We certainly feel healthier choosing to avoid foods in plastic pots especially microwave meals and vegetables. Have you ever noticed the chemical tastes on salads, chopped fruit and microwave vegetable sides- those are to keep the vegetables and fruit stable after they have been chopped up. Yuk!

lent-plastic-challenge-960w

How does the Lent plastic challenge work?

If you think you could avoid plastic water bottles and microwaving meals in plastic tubs for 40 days you should join us on the Lent Plastic Challenge.

The Lent Plastic Challenge is not about throwing out every plastic item in your house.

Instead it’s about challenging your habits and shopping behaviours to see what single-use plastics you could ‘give-up’.

You could pick a couple of items and focus on those OR every week try and cut out another item, with the programme and support of the Green Livvy team.

What support is included in the Lent Plastic Challenge?

We will provide you with:

  • Weekly webinars containing advice, facts and motivation
  • Daily inspiration including videos and recipes
  • An online community to share your achievements, discoveries and challenges

How do I join?

Join the Lent Plastic Challenge Facebook Group or sign-up for email updates.

Want to find out more about plastics and health?

Further reading: