A couple of weeks ago we had the honor of hearing a talk by Monica, one of our volunteers, whose mission in life is to reduce the amount of plastic used in the world. In the picture above you can see the items she travels with, and below, all of the rubbish she accumulated in 8 months of travelling. We were ridiculously humbled as it’s less than we make from one typical trip to the shop.

In the whole time she traveled she didn’t use one disposable water bottle, instead asking restaurants and cafes to refill her metal bottle. In south east asia many bottled drinks also come with a disposable straw, which comes inside its own disposable plastic wrapper, instead of this she travels with a glass straw. Plastic bags here are everywhere, you get one for every single thing you buy and sometimes street food comes in a bag, within a bag, even for fruit that comes in its own skin. Instead she had reusable fabric carrier bags, and a metal box with a lid for street food along with a metal spork.

Instead of buying personal care products in plastic, she had bar soap bought off the block, made her own toothpaste using coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint oil and had a metal razor designed to last a lifetime.

Plastic is a problem because we globally use over 5 billion plastic bags per year, more than 1 million per minute, last year over 50 billion plastic water bottles were sold in America, and Americans threw away about 3.6 million tons of plastic waste (sorry America, most of the statistics are about you..). Only about 5% of this is recycled. A really small amount is burned, releasing harmful chemicals into the environment and into our lungs, a larger amount gets put into landfill sites, and an enormous amounts ends up in our rivers and then to the sea. There is the equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic going into the sea every minute, breaking down and gathering in great plastic soups, or being eaten by animals, which die and are then eaten by other animals. The amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh fish within 30 years.

The problem comes that we use a non-biodegradable material for disposable packaging, designing things to be used once that will then never break down into the environment. Monica’s dedication to her cause is just incredible and can inspire everyone to be just a little more aware and a little more organised in order to make a huge difference to this planet.

You can follow Monica in her quest at @grlforacleanworld on instagram.