World Oceans Day: A Plastic Planet’s Frederikke Magnussen on how to live a low-plastic life
by Zoe Dickens
June 8 marks the annual World Oceans Day, a global initiative to educate the public about the crisis facing our oceans and raise funds to help the organisations tackling it. One such organisation is A Plastic Planet, which was co-founded by Frederikke Magnussen and Sian Sutherland after the pair met while working on the influential documentary A Plastic Ocean. A Plastic Planet is currently campaigning for supermarkets to offer plastic free aisles and, on June 5, 2018, organised the first One Plastic Free Day encouraging the public to give up all products packaged in plastic for 24 hours.
Read on for her insight into the plastic pollution crisis and tips for how to transform your habits and live a low plastic life. To hear more from Frederikke Magnussen register to attend the Ocean Talks on June 13, where she will be speaking alongside environmental experts and superyacht industry insiders including Blue Planet II’s James Honeyborne, designer Espen Øino and REV project manager George Gill.
Tell us a little about the One Plastic Free Day campaign.
One Plastic Free Day set out to make people aware of how much single-use plastic is being used in the food and drink industry. The campaign stemmed from a conversation we had with Iceland MD Richard Walker after I told him about my frequent experiences of being unable to find any fruit or water not packaged in plastic. We decided it should coincide with World Oceans Day to really get people thinking about whether they could part with plastic for good and realise how integral it has become to our everyday lives. We’ve become addicted to plastic but a big part of the problem is that we’ve got no other options.
What is the easiest way people can cut plastics out of their lives?
Identify the low-hanging fruit. Do you really need a plastic straw in your drink? How hard would it be to keep a canvas tote in your handbag for your shopping? Another big one is the plastic cutlery given out with lots of to-go salads and meals. Don’t take it unless you really need or, better yet, bring reusable cutlery with you.
Which initiatives have you been impressed with so far?
I’m a big fan of Pret’s scheme to reduce the number of single-use coffee cups. If you bring your own reusable coffee cup they give you 50p off your drink which, for someone like me who drinks three coffees a day, really adds up. Not only am I saving three cups, three lids and three stirrers everyday, I’m also saving myself £1.50.
Are there any plastic products which many people assume can be recycled but cannot?
Cling film. Of all the plastic in your home cling film is probably the most harmful to the environment as it takes hundreds of years to break down, is bad for your health and almost impossible to recycle because it is almost certainly going to be contaminated by the foods it is used to wrap.
What is the best way to ensure plastic products are being recycled properly?
It’s incredibly difficult for anyone to ensure the plastics they use are being recycled which is why we advocate for swaps. Using a bar of soap instead of body wash, for example, and a number of companies now offer toothbrushes with bamboo handles and cotton buds with paper stems – you just have to be willing to put in a little effort. If you really can’t avoid buying plastic, and for things like shampoo it is almost unavoidable, then buy in bulk as the plastic to product ratio is much smaller.
Which brands would you recommend for people looking to reduce their plastic consumption?
I really like Ecover as its bottle are created entirely from recycled plastic and its cleaning products are some of the most environmentally friendly on the market. Soaper Duper is also a great alternative to traditional soaps and body washes. Its packaging is either recycled or recyclable and the products are free from microbeads and harmful chemicals.
How hopeful are you for a plastic-free future?
People are really starting to talk about the problem now, which is great, but change is slow. It is our responsibility as citizens and campaigners to lobby governments to effect real change through policy. It is happening in some countries. India has just pledged to be single-use plastic free by 2020 and selling, manufacturing or carrying plastic bags in Kenya now carries a prison sentence. This year’s children’s word of the year (an annual survey which looks at the words most commonly used in speech and writing by children) is ‘plastic’ which makes me hopeful for future generations. It’s a big task but I think it can be done.