HomeZero WasteWaste FreeHow I Eliminated Plastic From my Life in 1 Year (part I)

How I Eliminated Plastic From my Life in 1 Year (part I)

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How it started?

For many years, I’ve heard of people doing their ecological transition and never really knew what it meant. Since 2015, I started having a healthier lifestyle, buying biological food, consuming more responsibly, avoiding waste and giving up on over-consumption habits. At that time, I was 100% certain I was living in a way that respects Nature.

In 2018, I worked on a student project to analyse how to influence consumers to behave in a sustainable way. One of the professionals I interviewed raised my awareness about plastic use and the damage it has on the environment. He explained that it is hard for a person throwing away a plastic bottle in Paris to imagine the negative impact this action has on the environment. This same person wouldn’t throw that plastic bottle in the ocean because s/he is less distant from the environmental impact it would have. But from an ecological point of view, throwing a plastic bottle in the garbage in Paris can also have a negative impact on the environment since that bottle might end up being incinerated (1) .

Further research made me realise that some developed countries sell their trash to other developing countries and the trash (especially plastic) ends up in the ocean (2).

I understood, I was ignorantly polluting the environment every day. Therefore, starting in 2019, I gradually stopped buying water plastic bottles and habituated myself to always care my own bottle with me.

Later, following a very intense trip in Ecuador where I was completely immersed in Nature, in between volcanoes and the jungle, and after several conversations with local guides and hosts explaining the extinction of so many animals and destruction of natural habitats,


I realised that I can’t keep living in a way that hurts Nature.

They said “animals hate noise. They like to live in quiet places far from human civilisation. Because industries around make noise and pollute the air and water, animals either die or leave to other places. This weakens ecosystems”. “Yes, I remember when I was a child it was possible to observe animals in this zone but today there are none”; “Industries around extract raw materials”; “Yes, so that you can get a new smartphone”.

After this trip, I committed to change the way I live. What can I do to lower my own negative impact on the environment? Among several options, I chose to focus on the plastic problem. Therefore, I decided to use 0 plastic for a full year.

September 29, 2019 was day 1 of my personal plastic-free project

At the end of the day I went to ‘Galleries Lafayette’ to buy a barrette – a simple hair clip. Once there, I realised that all affordable ones (about less than 30 euros) were made in plastic. I didn’t want to spend 100+ euros on a plastic-free barrette. I knew I had several brand-new barrettes at home, so I decided not to buy a new one. Walking back home, I was impressed with myself for resisting that temptation.

Day 4, I went to the supermarket and noticed for the first time in my life THE PLASTIC INVASION. Almost every single product had a plastic packaging: salads, yogurts, cheese, pasta, rice, lentils, tea, liquid soaps, solid soaps, dentifrice, Q-tips, cotton, toilet paper, toothbrush, everything.

PLASTIC INVASION. I was looking around and my heart was thumping. I left the supermarket breathless. Great, what am I going to do now? Am I supposed to starve? Should I really give up on everything I like? That special yogurt, my favourite mint sweet, pasta without grated cheese?!

I didn’t want to stop my project after only 4 days. It would have been a great disappointment. I committed to do this project for a full year. Let’s find ways to replace all those products.

(The steps to reduce plastic from my life are described in Part II)

Feedback after a year living without plastic

The hard things about my plastic free journey were:

  • Greenwashing: brands have very confusing messages. Moreover, there are so many contradictory opinions in so many blogs and books. At the end, sorting things out was a full-time job.
  • Learning process and time needed: learning how to prepare things took me a considerable amount of time. For example, to make my own cosmetics, I needed to find a recipe, then source ingredients, later test the recipe and finally improve my “production process” to get a better product.
  • Generalisation (/scale): replacing a few products was feasible but generalising to all products in a short timeframe was very difficult.

Consequently, during my project, I decided to have some flexibility and keep purchasing goods that are highly important (for me) and for which I cannot find an alternative in the short term.

However, I committed to never throw out the plastic I use. Therefore, my project turned into a 0-plastic trash one. For a full year, I stored all the plastic I would have normally thrown away. And I can tell you: accumulating trash in a cupboard was a great incentive to rapidly decrease, stop using and replace plastic products!

Why not throw out this plastic? First, it is important to mention that the plastic I kept was not dirty at all – dentifrice tubes, old shampoo bottles, plastic films… I was also aware that the recycle logos one can see in product packaging are misleading. They do not mean that the product will be recycled but that “the producer has made a financial contribution towards the recovery and recycling of packaging in Europe (3). Finally, I asked professionals working in the recycling industry and they confirmed that only a very small proportion of the sorted plastic is indeed recycled (4) .

Therefore, I knew that if I trash the plastic I had used, it was unlikely that it would be recycled and more likely that it would end up in the ocean or in an incinerator. I tried unsuccessfully to look for a solution to recycle the plastic I stored. I guess recycling the plastic I stored this year will be my next challenge.

How to reduce the use of plastic in our societies?

When I started my personal 0-plastic project my goal was to decrease my own negative impact on the environment. I wanted to learn and explore alternatives to products packaged in plastic. As a result, this project has been an opportunity for me to do my ecological transition.

My project helped me find meaning. Eliminating the plastic whether in food or cosmetic brought me closer to my essence. I learned about how to prepare things myself, I discovered what ingredients I needed and where to buy them, I got to know more about short-distribution channels, and I found out more about old traditions and cultures. My project also changed my relationship with time. Instead of being a fast consumer, I acquired knowledge and became a “producer” at my own pace.

The key for this project was to be open to changing the way I was living and to give up on things I really liked. I did so for the sake of Nature because Nature was so important for me. However, this argument is not enough to influence mass consumers to change their own habits, even though plastic is a major pollution source and there is a real emergency to stop this disaster. How to change mass people’s behaviour towards plastic use?

I often wondered: Is it about changing mass people’s behaviour or changing what is available to them? To massively change what is available to people implies transforming the whole economic and societal model, doesn’t it? That forces us to think about the “how”, and the question becomes even harder to answer.

“Think big, start small,” they say in the innovation world. If eliminating or decreasing plastic use has a very large impact on companies’ operations and business models, some companies could at least eliminate the unnecessary overuse of plastic. For example, vegetables/fruits in plastic bags or a 10-biscuit pack having each biscuit packaged in an individual plastic film. Likewise, at the individual level, if we apply the Pareto principle (5), why not start by eliminating or replacing just 20% of the unnecessary plastic products we buy each day?

To see change around us, we need to embrace it. Change is easy. Don’t do. Be.


(1) Read article: https://www.captainforest.com/how-to-influence-consumers-to-behave-sustainably/

(2) Read article: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/07/29/opinions/by-exporting-trash-rich-countries-put-their-waste-out-of-sight-and-out-of-mind-varkkey/index.html

(3) Read website: https://www.recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained

(4) For more information, read the book of Flore Berlingen “Recyclage le grand enfumage” where she describes how the circular economy has become the alibi for disposables

(5) Pareto principle states that 80% of the effects come roughly from 20% of the causes


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