Reducing Plastic Pollution – Interview with Chantal Plamondon, Co-Author of ‘Life Without Plastic’

  • Every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form. 
  • 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled. And since most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, all that plastic waste could exist for hundreds or even thousands of years.
  • Nearly TWO MILLION single-use plastic bags are distributed worldwide every minute.

These are just a few facts you can read on the website earthday.org. If you do a real research about the risks of plastic pollution, you will definitely worry how livable will our earth be for the future generations.

There are loads of things that each of us can do. But sometimes we don’t know where to start, that’s why The Kangaroo Mamas interviewed Chantal Plamondon, Co-Author of ‘Life Without Plastic’, to guide us on what are the first steps we should take to help minimize plastic pollution.

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Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha, authors of ‘Life Without Plastic’

When did you decide to stop using plastic?

I haven’t stopped using plastics. It is not possible. The computer I use to write this text has plastic keys. I am surrounded by plastics in my daily life. I guess I started consciously reducing my consumption of plastics when I became aware of the dangers of plastic additives leaching into food and drinks when my son was a newborn. While I was most concerned with his health, I progressively became aware of the environmental nightmare that was unfolding as more and more plastics, especially the single use disposable kind, started to invade our environment and waterways.

The oceans are full of trash, how bad is the situation?

Since Jay and I started the online retail store LIfeWithoutPlastic.com in 2005, the global production of plastic worldwide has nearly doubled. There’s at least 8 billion kilograms of plastic that is dumped in the ocean every year and this number is increasing. It is estimated that by 2050 more than 30 billion kilograms will be unloaded into the ocean annually. By then, the mass of plastic in our oceans will exceed the mass of fish. Plastics break down into smaller and smaller particles which become more readily available for planktons to ingest. Planktons are at the base of the food chain. Micro plastics are already found in more than 80% of tap water and bottled water. Plastic is already killing an estimated 100,000 turtles and more than 90% of sea birds have plastics in their stomach. The situation is critical!

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Please state 5 plastic items that we use daily and can substitute with environmentally friendly materials 

I will skip the two most obvious: the plastic water bottle and the reusable grocery bag. Most people are aware that they should be avoided and replaced by durable and reusable alternatives.

1) I would start with the coffee cup. Too many people think it is made of cardboard and therefore it is compostable or recyclable. It actually contains a small waterproof plastic film within the cardboard layers that make it very difficult to recycle, so it is essentially a piece of garbage that goes straight to landfill. Many reusable mugs made of stainless steel or glass are available in the market and most coffee shops will even give you a rebate for bringing your own mug.

2) The second item is the ubiquitous plastic straw. So much has been written about the plastic straw the past few months that it makes sense to just refuse it or replace it with a glass, stainless steel or paper one. It is not recyclable and an enormous source of beach litter.

3) Try to avoid plastic utensils and replace them with durable stainless steel or bamboo ones. If you forget your reusable utensils at the food court, then use a plastic set, but KEEP it. Make it precious and reuse it over and over again. Do not throw it out after just one use.

4) Try to wear clothing made of natural fabric such as cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk. Every time a synthetic sweater made of nylon or acrylic is washed, it releases thousands of micro plastic particles that end up in our waterways. A random sampling of any river in a densely populated area will unavoidably show elevated concentration of micro plastics. That it why we find these micro plastics in our tap water. It is alarming.

5) Bring your own reusable container at the takeout restaurant or at your grocery store. Many takeout containers are made of polystyrene which is one of the least recyclable plastic out there.

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Stainless steel popsicle mold from Life Without Plastic 

Most of children’s plates and utensils are made of plastic to avoid breakage. What are the health risks they impose and how can they be substituted ? 

I would recommend a stainless steel dish set for children with no risk of breakage and the possibility to disinfect it completely during high temperature washing. Plastic dishes are porous and tend to accumulate bacteria more easily in their microscopic pores. Plastic dishes also tend to time release plastic additives such as flame retardants, dyes, phthalates, plasticizers, etc. which are dangerous for the health of growing children.

What are the most crucial principles that we need to teach our children to help them have a sense of responsibility towards the environment?

We should teach children to value everything that they acquire. Like the example of the plastic utensil I gave earlier, children grow up in an environment where things do not have much value anymore where it is completely normal to throw out valuable things such as plastic utensils, coffee mugs, plastic food containers, plastic pens, plastic toothbrushes…  We should teach children that the Earth is a living being and that if we love her, we would not feed her plastics. We would feed her nourishing products that help her grow things. We should teach children about the cycle of life and death and the importance of a circular economy to preserve the Earth for future generations.

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