ISWA YPG UK Blog-Writing Competition: Consumerism 2.0

Wiam Machmachi, The University of Manchester

2 Jun 2018 -

By Wiam Machmachi

 

A growing number of people around the world are becoming more aware and preoccupied with the increase of plastic pollution and its impact on our oceans, wildlife and human health. When you think that all ever produced plastic still exists, plastic recycling is replaced with the word down-cycling as recycling encourages the continuation of plastic production keeping the plastic around, giving some, a false-sense of sustainable living. Once we throw our used plastic in the bin, it is collected and sent to landfills and part of it is sent into the water systems and ultimately reaching the oceans where plastic outnumbers sea-life with a 6:1 ratio.

Other than being ingested by marine animals and birds causing them to die, studies have found that BPA plastic is absorbed by the body and linked with risk of cardiovascular disease, brain, breast and prostate cancer etc. This is just to give us an idea of some of the consequences of our, at times, quite careless lifestyle.

 

When you talk to people about the impact of our garbage, they have different reactions but many of them seem to have a tendency to place the blame on “governments not doing their jobs”, “on some people, not recycling” or even on “the previous generation” but the truth is that this is the responsibility of each individual. We need to shift our mindset from just being consumers who buy and throw away things, to environmentally aware consumers who keep in mind the consequence of everything they choose to buy. As a consumer myself, I need to start thinking about where everything I buy (or at least some things) will end up after I no longer need them. It’s incredible the positive impact you can have by just refusing a straw every time you are offered one.

 

If current trends are kept, by 2050 plastic would out-weight fish in the waters and that’s not a World anyone would want to live in. Governments around the World are becoming more and more aware of the damage and responding with new regulations and bans with more than 200 cities worldwide placing a ban on disposable plastic bags and other plastic made products. More can be done by the governing bodies, however, each one of us can make a change just by doing something simple like using your own refillable water bottle instead of buying a plastic each time you’re out and by just avoiding disposable plastic products (which is more than ⅓ of all produced plastic ).

 

When reading around this topic and realising how very small changes to my lifestyle could help reduce the problem, I decided to avoid non-reusable plastic bottles and see where this would take me. After a couple of months, I not only stopped buying plastic bottles but I would also avoid other disposable plastic products. I have become slightly more aware of the potential extent of my actions. In the end, it made me a much healthier person and it saved me loads of money too, which is always great.

An increasing amount of people is adopting a more #environmentallyaware approach to consumerism opening the way to what I like to call Consumerism 2.0. Finally, there are many blogs and websites that give tips on a more plastic-free lifestyle but my personal advice would be to just read around on the topic to become more aware and make small gradual changes into your life to help the situation. Just being more aware and opening conversations on the matter is in itself a step closer to being #environmentallyaware consumers and finally to a more sustainable society.

About the author:

Wiam Machmachi is currently completing a BSc in Environmental Science and has previous experience in remediation contracting as summer intern. Wiam is passionate about waste reduction and management as well as using current technology to build a world with virtually no waste. Wiam is the current head of external relations of the Manchester Energy and Environment Society.

 


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