Is it possible to live without plastic?

Photographer Michelle Cassar is passionate about surfing, animals and the ocean. Six years ago, this passion caused her to begin a ‘Plastic a lot less’ (PALL) journey, as she realised how much of the stuff we use in our daily lives, and how much ends up polluting oceans.

Easton-based Michelle takes the PALL lifestyle seriously. She avoids supermarkets, where plastic is everywhere, instead shopping in local greengrocers and bakeries such as East Bristol Bakery on St Mark’s Road, which use paper bags.

“Plastic is designed to be used forever, but we use it for moments”

Similarly, Michelle only buys clothes from charity shops, as new clothes from the high street are wrapped in plastic before reaching the shelves.

But avoiding plastic isn’t simple, as her recent experience at a fish and chip shop demonstrated. When they had nothing to serve her in except a polystyrene tray, Michelle ended up borrowing an old newspaper from a nearby pub to transport her chips in: “I refused to be beaten.”

“Plastic is designed to be used forever, but we use it for moments,” she explains. “Every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists, and much of it is in our oceans.”

Globally, we have produced more plastic in the last decade than during the entirety of the 20th century, and Michelle says that this trend needs to change. “We can’t keep waiting for the next generation to sort it out, we need to do it for them.”

“We need healthy oceans, every other breath we take comes from the ocean. That’s how much oxygen it produces.”

Three months ago, Michelle moved to Bristol from Portugal, drawn to the city by its European Green City Capital status.

“Obviously there are a lot of plastics in Bristol, but the status means people are thinking in the right direction. I thought there would be things happening here, and there are – like the Bristol Whales, the Litterati and the water fountain in Millennium Square.”

 

Michelle has just started working with City to Sea, an organisation which brings people from different career backgrounds together to address marine litter.

Michelle’s role in the project is to create a show for Made in Bristol TV, alongside Natalie Fee, which will begin on August 6 to coincide with the appearance of the Bristol Whales.

 

“It’s going to be full of things that are happening in Bristol, but also simple solutions that people can do. Obviously it’s brilliant to raise awareness of issues, but sometimes people just feel depressed.”

In fact, Michelle says that this is exactly how she felt when she started avoiding plastic.

“We’ve been led to believe that recycling is the solution, it’s not. Recycling should be a last resort, it’s the third in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ for a reason”

“It wasn’t ideal really because I was so obsessed about it to start, and I found myself getting quite depressed by it, because I just felt that I wasn’t making any difference. Other people who I lived with and loved the ocean and surfed weren’t necessarily having eureka moments, and I got a bit despondent. Everywhere I looked it was there.”

“But don’t get disheartened, every refusal adds up. You can”t change overnight, and don”t think that one person doesn’t make a difference.”

This is one of Michelle’s top tips for success. She also suggests shopping at Lush, where they use very little plastic packaging, and filling up water bottles instead of buying plastic ones. Even when travelling in India, Michelle took a steripen to treat water with UV light, rather than buying water in plastic bottles.

Michelle is obviously passionate about using less plastic, and it is clear where her motivation comes from. “It only takes one plastic bag to kill a turtle. I photographed one who died as a teenager, she should have lived until 100.”

This month is Plastic Free July, which Michelle encourages people to attempt. She says that using changing attitudes and using less plastic is the only solution.

“We’ve been led to believe that recycling is the solution, it’s not. Recycling should be a last resort, it’s the third in ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ for a reason.”

To read more about Michelle’s plastic-free journey, read her blog at www.being-pall.com.

Originally written for Bristol 247: http://www.bristol247.com/channel/news-comment/people/interviews/being-pall-plastic-a-lot-less-1436544287

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