6 March 2019

Africa: Common Myths About Plastic-Free Living Debunked

Getting started on a drastic new lifestyle can be daunting and often the myths associated with it can deter you entirely. Here we debunk some of the myths that surround plastic-free living to help you get started on an environmentally sensitive lifestyle.

A plastic-free lifestyle has a few main components: buying alternative products to replace those that contain plastic, buying packaging-free items, using and recycling reusable items and buying in bulk - all wherever possible and within the limitations of your environment.

Before you dismiss this as an unattainable ideal, here are some myths about plastic-free living versus the reality of it.

Myth #1 - Throw away all your old plastic

This is a big deterrent for most people. Many of us have accumulated a lot of plastic and items containing plastic and discarding all of them does not seem feasible.

Fact: You do not have to replace all your plastic items immediately. In fact, if you did they are likely to end up in landfill and cause the very environmental damage that a plastic-free lifestyle hopes to undo. What you should be doing is to make as much use as possible of all the plastic you do have to 'validate' the carbon effect caused by their production. The key is to exhaustively utilise the plastic and plastic-containing items you already own and to avoid buying new ones.

Myth #2 - Go 100% plastic-free now

This is an impossibility because of the extent to which plastic has become a part of our everyday life.

Fact: As is the case with any other new habit, you need to build it up over time to make it a permanent change. So, start with the easy replacements and develop from there. Once you foster a plastic-free habit and mindset, the change will gradually feel less overwhelming.

Myth #3 - All plastic products are off limits

Realistically speaking, a plastic-free lifestyle looks different for everyone because we all have access to different resources. People in developed nations have access to more plastic-free alternatives then we do on the continent. If you cannot find alternatives to all your plastic needs, that is not your fault, nor does it negate the efforts you are making towards minimising plastic in your life.

Fact: Any conscious minimisation of plastic use in your every day is worthwhile.

Myth #4- It costs a lot of money

Because alternatives are hard to come by, the impression has been created that it is expensive to make the changes needed to sustain the plastic-free lifestyle.

Fact: Not all reusable items cost more. In addition, reusable items as a whole cost less over time as they provide more use over longer periods of time than disposable items do. In addition, they are often better quality and more durable. Furthermore, packaging on average adds an additional 15% cost to any purchase. And let us not forget the saving that will stem from a decrease in impulse buying when you make more conscious purchase decisions.

The plastic-free lifestyle has led to a zero-waste lifestyle for many in the developed world. It has yet to be seen if a zero-waste lifestyle is possible in Africa, given the substantial differences in resources and ideology. But there is no doubt that a plastic-free lifestyle is definitely something everyone can aspire to.

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