The Challenge!

To raise awareness about plastic waste in our oceans I’m proposing to give up plastic for lent. We live in a throwaway society, where single-use plastics dominate our shops and supermarkets. Plastic can preserve our foods and reduce waste; however our recycling efforts have not kept up with the plastic explosion. The results of this can be seen floating in our oceans; entangling, polluting and spoiling an already over-exploited environment.

I want to investigate how easily a consumer can live without plastic, what items we can replace and what are the benefits of doing so. This will be a real challenge; I’m going to have to dramatically change my lifestyle to avoid pre-made meals, last minute supermarket shops and eating and drinking on the go. 

This blog will track my daily experience, sharing my results and raising awareness about the impacts plastic has in our seas.

What is plastic free?

I will not purchase any items containing, wrapped and packaged in plastic. 90% of my monthly shop is plastic ridden, consisting of single-use items such as food and drink. Remember not all plastic is bad and throughout lent I will continue to use multi-use items such as tupperware and my toothbrush!

Why only give-up single use items?

Here is the problem with single use items: Purchase a bag of apples in film, the apples get eaten and decompose quickly. The plastic film is not currently recyclable and takes an estimated 450 to 1,000 years to degrade at sea. Purchasing apples in a film bag is a 'convienent' option for us, yet the long term consequences of this are already showing.

Why go plastic free?

Plastic beaches:

Yuck - plastic is littering our beautiful coastlines. Unfortunately thousands of plastic litter is washed up on our coastlines each year, this pollutes our picturesque beaches, entangles and engulfs our amazing marine life. The following images say it all:

Image Source: Patrick Joel, MCS

We can go to huge efforts to clean up this waste, however there is always more to follow – we need to change our plastic lifestyle to reduce, re-use and recycle to give our beaches a break!

Gloopy gyres:

When plastic reaches our seas it gets transported by slow moving oceanic currents called gyres. Over time, plastic accumulates in the centre of these gyres creating floating ‘garbage patches’ (Great pacific garbage patch ring any bells?). Bacteria and sunlight break down this waste (at a very slow rate!) until it becomes tiny plastic pellets. Not only is this plastic ingested by marine life, it absorbs toxic materials such as pesticides and hydrocarbons. Therefore, these huge ocean garbage patches (larger than the UK!) contain highly toxic, plastic soups, potentially waiting to be transported to the top of the food chain – us!

Image source: The University of Waikato (

Image source: Surfrider foundation and rise above plastics


  1. Good luck with your challenge Emily. I'll be following your progress and trying to cut down on the plastic I use.

  2. Good luck Emily, I shall watch you every day, it will be very interesting research. Love Mutti xx

  3. Just emptied my "waste paper basket", full of plastic wrappings from sweets, chocolate, CDs, and stationery, not one piece of paper. Good luck. David.