It’s no secret that single use plastic is a major worldwide problem and a quick Google search will give you all the facts about how much we use, how little we recycle, how its production and use is killing life on land and sea and how the toxins are ending up in us. Instead of re telling all of the gory details I want to tell you about how my life as a plastic consumer has changed and why my company is spending extra money to avoid single use plastics.
Ironically it took 36 days sailing on a plastic kayak down the east coast of Australia for me to fully understand the impact of our plastic addiction and how it’s affecting a place my family and friends hold near and dear, the ocean and our beaches. Even in a relatively clean and underpopulated part of the world like Australia’s east coast, our crew was cleaning large amounts of plastic off remote beaches along the 500 mile stretch of coast from Byron Bay to Bondi Beach, Sydney. Each clean-up was counted and documented for the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (Tangaroa Blue). When you have to count and document every single piece of plastic you get a really good understanding of why it’s a good idea to ask for “no straw” at a restaurant or bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store or to get yourself a reusable water bottle and water filter in your home also consider purchasing from companies who go out of their way to avoid single use plastics by using biodegradable materials instead. I do my best to support those companies who care because it’s hard for me to erase the memory of dying and dead bird and marine life. As a surfer and dad of kids who also love the ocean we witness these things that could be avoided with certainly a small financial sacrifice but a larger ecological, environmental and health gain. Unfortunately these type of gains aren’t important to public companies unless people stop purchasing their goods. Only then do they listen.
** disclaimer – I still sometimes forget to bring my re-usable grocery bags and forget my water bottle!!
That journey down the coast was so influential to me that I wrote and recorded a song called “Stuff” and used footage of the trip showing the contrast of two worlds.
Footage and editing courtesy of NZ Greenroom Productions
It’s annoying to me how hard it is to avoid single use plastic. My first try at plastic reduction was at the grocery store. I was able to cut down by making some alternative choices like avoiding vegetables wrapped in plastic but in order to give my family a healthy well rounded diet and completely avoid plastic seemed almost impossible without growing all of our own food and starting a farm. Eventually I was able to reduce it by at least 50% by going to our local farmers market, switching everything I could to non-plastic packaging like glass and cardboard and then just recycling the un avoidable remainder. I’m not happy with 50% but I do have hope that somehow my lack of consumption with certain brands and a group of like-minded consumers will force businesses to be aware of how their actions affect us and to make a change for the good.
My little company has made the effort of get rid of almost all single use plastic. No more plastic tag connectors, we use a biodegradable string instead. No more plastic garment bags, we use a new nontoxic material made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. We also made it a re-usable bag. It’s biodegradable and will break down in a marine environment. We even stopped behind the scenes plastic by changing how our emblems are sent to our factories. Originally they were individually bagged. Thousands and thousands of small plastic bags that served no purpose. We asked them to use pieces of cardboard to protect them. An easy fix and even more efficient to handle in production.
We then started to see some companies making fabric from recycled plastic bottles and soon realized the benefits of actually making whole hats from something that is used once and thrown away. Using 100% recycled plastic means we use 80% less energy and 90% less water than what would be needed to make virgin polyester which is made from Oil. We purchase the thread from a USA based company who manufactures the material in China and we make the actual hats in Sri Lanka. The reason we ship the material to our factory in Sri Lanka is because they make the best quality hats of this kind. I realize the more we ship the larger the footprint but quality means they last longer and we don’t have to re make hats and that ends up a worse problem. We still require a third party company to confirm we are truly purchasing 100% recycled PET and the fabric is formaldehyde free and no AZO dyes. These new hats turned out beautiful with a soft feel, waterproof and wont shrink or fade. I get really excited at the idea of turning trash into a beautiful new functional hat but in the spirit of my song “Stuff” please don’t buy one unless you need a new hat. Keep using your old one even if it’s a little beat up, hats look great with a bit of character anyway. Truly – Will Conner