Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Why Being Sustainable is Important
Sustainability is not just about our actions, it's about our thinking patterns as well. Choosing to be sustainable covers a whole range of decisions we make every day, both for the long term and short term.
From picking out food that uses plastic free packaging, to travelling via methods that reduce our carbon footprint, being sustainable is crucial to our future.
In this blog, we're going to look at why exactly being sustainable is important, and the science behind every point.
What is Plastic?
When choosing alternatives to plastic, it's important to know why going plastic free leads to being more sustainable.
When referring to plastic, we are talking about conventional plastic such as HDPE (high density polyethylene). Conventional plastic has two properties that make it unsustainable: it is produced from fossil fuels, and it cannot biodegrade.
If a material is not biodegradable, it cannot:
"break down into carbon dioxide, water and biomass with the aid of microorganisms".
If we are thinking about an apple core thrown into a field of long grass, the process of the apple degrading is through biodegradation.
If the field has enough of the necessary organisms required to break the apple down, it will decompose into biomass, CO2 and water.
Plastic cannot biodegrade, so it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic.
There are seven types of plastic in mainstream production today. They are each assigned a number from 1-7, with number 1 (PET) being the easiest to recycle, and number seven (non classified plastics) being hardest to recycle.
Plastic in the Marine Environment
Plastic, since its invention in the early 1900s, has become an intrinsic part of our society today.
Seemingly everything, from our cars to food packaging, is made from plastic. Due to the ever increasing amount of plastic being produced, 300 million tonnes every year, the environment is now under huge threat from plastic pollution.
The marine environment in particular has seen population numbers dwindle. Widely recognised, turtles are unfortunately victims of floating plastic debris in the ocean. With a turtle having a 22% chance of dying from coming into contact from just one piece of plastic in the ocean, the threat is very real.
Plastic pollution has come about from a mass failure to dispose of plastic correctly.
When we talk about plastic in this blog, we are referring to conventional plastic such as PET. As previously mentioned, conventional plastics are produced from fossil fuels, and cannot biodegrade.
This results in plastic being present in the environment for hundreds of years, all the time being a threat to wildlife.
As well as larger pieces of plastic debris entering the marine environment, microplastics are a threat to aquatic life as well.
Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm in size.
They can either be produced below that maximum size (primary microplastics), or are formed from larger pieces of plastic debris breaking down (secondary).
Microplastics are still being researched, due to the potential dangers they can cause in both animals and humans.
Microplastics enter the food chain at the lower trophic levels.
Marine organisms such as zooplankton consume microplastics, and then pass the plastic content onto it's predator. This is due to the predator consuming the zooplankton, as well as the contents of its body, which now includes plastic.
This process is known as the trophic transfer of microplastics, and it continues all the way up the food chain, eventually back to us.
Alternatives to Conventional Plastic
There are alternatives to conventional plastics, and they come in the form of bioplastics.
Bioplastics are similar to conventional plastics, but they are produced from biobased fuels, they can biodegrade, or both. Some bioplastics, such as PLA, are compostable as well.
The first priorities should be to reduce and reuse, but sometimes it's not possible. Taking large events for examples, single use cups and cutlery will be necessary to serve customers with food and drink.
In this case, single use alternatives to conventional plastic should be used to reduce the events impact on the environment.
There are a few different options to consider for alternatives to conventional plastics, some more sustainable than others. In order to be a viable alternative, they must be more sustainable in terms of their production and their disposal.
Biobased non biodegradable bioplastics plastics are attracting attention for their reduced carbon footprint. Bioplastics such as biobased polyethylene are produced from renewable resources, which is commonly sugarcane.
The reduced carbon footprint is a result of the sugar cane fixing CO2 from the atmosphere.
As a result, some bio based bioplastics including bio based PE actually have a negative carbon footprint. This means as a result of producing biobased PE, more carbon is removed from the atmosphere than is emitted.
The bio based PE items such as packaging, will contain the carbon until specific end of life processes, such as incineration.
For many of the items in our Eco-Friendly Picnic Hampers, we use PLA.
Polylactic acid is bio based, as well as having the ability to biodegrade. PLA is compostable also, meaning it can be fully composted with zero waste going to landfill using LFHP Zero.
Plastic in Landfill
Plastic in landfill is also a source of danger to the surrounding environment.
Leachate, a toxic liquid produced from rainwater combining with plastic, causes the surrounding area to be negatively affected.
A landfill near oxford leaks a significant amount of ammonium into the nearby river Thames.
When the ammonium enters the river, nitrogen is a resulting product. This newly formed nitrogen triggers dangerous amounts of plant growth and decay, which means the local aquatic life is starved of the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
More worryingly, blue-green algal blooms are formed. These blooms are capable of killing wildlife, domestic pets and livestock. In humans, they can cause nausea, stomach pains and fever.
Many of our Eco-Friendly Gifts are based around the premise of reducing waste sent to landfill.
Our Pampering Gift Set For Her is an example of this, due to minimal, or no, plastic being used in both products and packaging.
If you would like to find out more about our Pampering Gift Set For Her, there is a segment further into the blog.
Is Recycling Plastic Sustainable?
Being sustainable is about not just choosing alternatives to single use plastic, but reducing and reusing as well. These processes are crucial to keep plastic away from being recycled, as well as from landfill and incineration.
Recycling was invented by the same companies who were creating the single use products in the first place.
Keep America Beautiful was a masterstroke of public relations, designed to put the onus of where the waste ends up on the consumer. Since then, large companies producing thousands of tonnes of single use items every year can just blame improper disposal on the customer.
Recycling is not working, and never really has done. With only 9% of all plastic ever created being recycled, the current system is not efficient. There are several reasons for this.
Recycling contamination means that plastic that could have been recycled, is now not able to be. Recycling contamination results from types of plastic being incorrectly mixed together, resulting in the whole batch being sent to landfill or incineration.
A common example of recycling contamination is PVC being incorrectly mixed with PET. PET needs high temperatures to break it down, in order to soften and mould it for recycling.
PVC, at these temperatures, starts to break down into hydrochloric acid. This means the PET is damaged from the inadvertently created acid, and is now below the quality required to recycle it.
The source of plastic pollution is mainly from the Southeast Asia region. Three of the biggest producers of plastic waste entering the natural environment are China, Malaysia and Indonesia.
This is not to blame those countries, though.
Much of the waste entering the ocean from these countries is actually imported from developed nations such as the UK. The reason for this mass export of plastic waste is because it's cheaper to send plastic waste abroad, rather than process it at home.
In 2018, 611,000 tonnes of plastic was exported from the UK to other countries.
One of the current countries which is (were, to be more accurate) accepting the most plastic waste is Malaysia. This was until recently, when the Malaysian government started to send plastic waste back to the developed nations that send it.
Is Incineration Sustainable?
Incineration, or energy recovery, is the process of burning plastics to dispose of them. Incineration is dangerous for surrounding communities and environment, as the gases formed from burning plastics can be toxic.
If PVC (polyvinyl chloride, number three out of the seven) is burned, for example, hydrogen chloride is formed.
This gas is dangerous to both animals and humans. In developing countries, where much of our waste is exported to, burning plastic is not done in a closed, safe area.
Open air fires burning plastic can mean local villages are covered with toxic fumes, risking the health of residents. When these open air fires are put out using water, hydrochloric acid is formed. This acid can be lethal in high enough quantities.
Sustainable Gifts: Pampering Gift Set For Her
Our Pampering Gift Set For Her is designed around being sustainable, as well as being an amazing luxury gift.
Reducing waste sent to landfill through using reusable and plastic free packaging, shows that sustainability can go hand in hand with luxury relaxation.
Throughout this blog, we've covered some of the main reasons why choosing to be more sustainable through cutting down on conventional plastic, is a choice for good.
Looking at the science and data behind the effects plastic is having on the environment, makes the decision to live sustainably by reducing plastic, single use in particular, is a decision worth making.
Gifts For Eco Warriors
Our growing range of gifts for eco warriors look to provide environmentally friendly alternatives to several niches, as well as celebratory gifts.
Some of the niches included in our collection of gifts for eco warriors are festival survival kits, biodegradable glitter gift sets and picnic hampers.
If you would like to read more about living sustainably, and the data behind the choices we make, feel free to subscribe to our email list at the bottom of the page.