Friday, 3 March 2017

Look No Pura!

For the last few years I flagged the New Year’s resolutions, I mean who really keeps them anyway ?
But this year something changed….the world is in shock and awe over the inauguration of an unlikely President (you know who I’m talking about, so let’s just leave that right there).  By this point I’d had enough of the theatrics, ‘this shit can’t be real’ I thought, time to refocus my energy into tangible action and pull myself away from the drama. And that’s when I decided, albeit a little late in the year, that the only resolutions I needed for 2017 were to love more and to do more.  Yeah yeah pretty vague I know, doesn’t fit the SMART goals framework, but it’ll do!

So in the spirit of ‘doing more’ I set out to tackle a bugbear of mine since the very first time I visited Japan (over 20 years ago), the ridiculously excessive and wasteful use of single-use plastic.
For a country that prides itself on not being wasteful, the often boasted concept of ‘mottainai’, there is a staggering amount of thoughtless waste going on. From the individually wrapped confections, the wrapping of fresh fruit and vege, or the Japanese love of the poly bag, (if it’s naked, cold or hot, it must have a poly bag) plastic is EVERYWHERE you turn.

Plastic rubbish day
Produce packaging madness

‘So what?’, you say, ‘doesn’t matter if it’s all recycled, and Japan is super wonderful at recycling'. Indeed the recycling system here is extremely complex and efficient, with over 70% of PET plastic bottles being recycled, and rubbish being sorted into detailed categories for collection. The successes of recycling are espoused with vigour here, but it would seem the less desirable stuff, like the fact that most plastic wrapping (low quality film/ wrap etc.) is simply incinerated, or that historically Japan has produced the most garbage per person, or that a huge amount of resources (which are finite I might add) and energy are used in producing these one-time-use-throw-away-conveniences, are quietly swept under the carpet. Of course despite our best efforts a lot of plastic ends up in drainage systems which in turn flow out to the sea. Plastic pollution is now such a problem that by 2050 bits of plastic polluting the sea will outnumber fish in the sea!

I found myself starting to fall into the zombie like state of plastic acceptance, and when you snap out of it you are startlingly aware of the plastic society we now live in. Don’t get me wrong, plastic is extremely useful and versatile, but we need to value it more and use it responsibly, we are literally suffocating in the stuff! 

I’ve started this blog to record my personal journey out of the plastic fog. ‘Pura’ is the Japanese word for plastic and the name is a bit of a play with words. It reflects the standard response I often get of shock and disbelief at not wanting a plastic bag, as if I was doing something deemed uncouth or socially unacceptable. The title is also reflective of my own shock when finding the rare item not wrapped in plastic, and discovering how easy giving up single-use plastic has been for the most part.
The sooner we can get back to living more simply (before it’s forced upon us) the better things will be for us and the planet.

Stay tuned for my upcoming posts where I’ll be breaking down my plastic-free month which I undertook in February 2017. I'll go into details of the unexpected challenges, as well as some surprising benefits, of avoiding single-use plastic.

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