The story of a blue turtle
Twenty years ago in the Pacific Ocean 28,000 bath toys fell off a cargo ship. There was a red beaver, a blue turtle, a green frog and a yellow duck. On the packaging in colourful letters were the words ‘The first years. Floatees. They float in tub or pool. Play and discover. Made in China. Dishwasher safe. Having fallen off the ship the toys began an incredible journey, some washed up in Hawaii whilst countless others circumnavigated the globe.
As a new parent I quickly realised that babies are plastic magnets. Very soon the house fills with plastic bottles, a mass of containers, a vast array of toys, a baby bath, the list goes on. Plastic is the perfect material for these products as it is light, safe, colourful and durable – what is not to like?
Unfortunately, everything that makes plastic such a brilliant product for babies creates a problem at the end of its life. If it is not properly disposed of plastic can become a real environmental problem perfectly demonstrated by the toys that fell off the cargo ship.
Virtually all floating litter in the sea is made of plastic. Sooner or later this will wash up on a beach or land. This plastic will be baked brittle by the sun. It will turn into shards, then splinters, then particles, dust and eventually molecules. These molecules are a super pollutant of the seas. No one knows exactly how long they will persist in the sea – 500 years is a good guess – but what is known is that we are producing 300 million tonnes of plastic a year so the problem will only increase.
Four simple steps
What is a struggling parent to do as a life without plastic is unthinkable? Here are a few simple suggestions
Certain types of plastic can be recycled increasing its longevity and value. To make this an economically viable option a market needs to be created for recycled plastics. JoJo Maman Bébé is taking a leadership role in this. The Polarfleece All in One http://www.jojomamanbebe.co.uk/sp+Polarfleece-All-In-Ones+b2382 is made from recycled plastic bottles and is a perfect example of how you can create a beautiful product from waste.
Reuse and Share
Your baby may soon get bored by or grow out of the toys that they have. Passing them onto other parents is a great way to make sure that other children benefit and increases the lifecycle of the plastic.
Recycle where you can
Globally just 5% of plastics are recycled. In the UK a growing number of facilities exist for plastics recycling. Using these facilities is good for the environment. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles (about 25,000) saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon.
Only buy what you need
Perhaps the easiest thing to do is only buy what you really need. It sounds easy but as every new parent knows there is real pressure to ensure your baby has absolutely every accessory available. I quickly realised that a lot of the plastic we bought wasn’t really needed, costing me money and not helping the environment.
Plastics have undoubtedly made life far easier for parents but the very things that make them so useful also cause problems if they are not disposed of carefully. These four simple steps will help you become a greener parent and also save you some money.