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Portrait of environmental pollution caused by the use and disposal of single-use plastic. | Supplied photo

Single-use plastic challenge leads to sea change

We have been trying to minimize our single-use plastic waste for a long time. Now we realize that we were generating more than we imagined.

Fernando Gómez Soria
First-person source
Fernando Gómez Soria changed his way of living to help the environment.
Background
The United Nations Organization stated that each year more than 400 million tons of plastic are produced in the world and only nine per cent of the waste produced is recycled and 12 per cent is incinerated. Most alarmingly, around 13 million of this waste is released into the ocean each year.

In the study entitled “The single-use of plastic,” they warn that if consumption and waste management patterns continue, by 2050 there will be around 12,000 million plastic garbage in landfills and in the environment.

Greenpeace carried out another study that showed that between 21 per cent and 54 per cent of all microplastic particles in the world are suspended in the Mediterranean. Spain is the country with the most waste from plastic objects with 75 per cent. 

Every day 30 million cans and plastic bottles continue to be abandoned in Spain, which goes on to contaminate the land, coastal and marine environment.

MADRID, Spain — I accepted the challenge. 

For six years, I have lived — together with my partner — without using any single-use plastic. 

Climate change is a reality, and the planet needs us.

In 2015, when climate change was not as on the agenda as it is now, Patri, my partner, brought me this concern: living without consuming single-use plastics.

It made me uneasy, but after that talk, our life changed.

Challenge accepted

It seemed inevitable to us to avoid this material that wraps any supermarket product.

We have been trying to minimize our waste for a long time, but now we realize that we were generating much more than we imagined.

We felt very guilty every time we had to throw it away.

That had to change.

Artist's rendering of the toll plastic waste takes on sea life
Artist’s rendering of the toll plastic waste takes on sea life. | Submitted photo

Why avoid it

Plastic is a beautiful material.

It introduced significant changes in the modern world in the field of medicine, transportation, or technology.

It is one of the noblest material of all and with it, we can create infinite objects.

But instead of being grateful for all its advantages, we have become addicted and use it without giving it any value.

That is a source of confusion.

Fernando Gómez Soria with his partner Patricia.
Fernando Gómez Soria with his partner Patricia. | Fernando Gómez Soria

Week zero

Trying to eliminate plastic from our lives made us realize how much we depended on it.

We used it a lot more than we thought.

We were laminated.

My first change was to bring a cloth bag when shopping. When I went to the grocery store, I asked that instead of using plastic bags, they put the vegetables in my cloth bag.

I remember they looked at me like I was an alien. That was the first look of many.

In other businesses, they had to ask for authorization to do so. 

The wait was eternal. They made me wait for something that suited them, and I still have a hard time understanding it.

The use of plastic was everywhere: bottles, wrappers, bags, among a thousand other benefits.

All plastic would end up in the trash after fulfilling its primary function.

As the days went by, it became frustrating. To achieve our goal, we had to change the routine.

I started researching smaller businesses that sold individual products. Once I got into a routine, everything was more accessible.

A sea of plastic bottles
A sea of plastic bottles. | Submitted photo

The transformation

Along with our routine, the house also changed.

We only have the light switches and some toppers that we bought before making our change of life.

The cupboard today is another. We replace plastic bags with glass containers.

Even now, it seems more orderly. It allows us to make food visible and, in this way, we avoid wasting it.

With organic waste, we enter the world of compost that helps us convert it into fertilizer.

Day after day, we see how our waste volume gets lower and lower.

Our community

When we started this challenge, we created a blog to intensify our engagement.

Every day we receive messages from more people who are joining the cause.

Some ask us for advice on how to do it, while others give ideas to us.

Telling our experiences on this blog helps us see ourselves from the outside and commit ourselves to continue sharing our learnings, mistakes, and evolution towards a less plastic life.

At the same time, it is a way to meet other people with the same concerns.

This process is how we continue to drive change.

The more voices we unite, the stronger we are.

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Natalia Medina is a journalist and producer who works in graphics and radio who is always looking for stories to tell.