relationships

Plastic down the sink hole

Our sinks are blocked in our house at the moment. First it was the kitchen sink; but once we bought a plunger we were able to fix it pretty quickly. 

But then the bathroom sink got blocked. 

So I thought: "I know! I'll just go and get the plunger and then it'll be fixed". I was so naive. 

Well, I did get the plunger and I did plunge the bathroom sink and to my actual horror and disgust (I could see my facial expressions get more and more emphatic in the bathroom mirror), murky and dirty water started coming up out of the plug hole. 

This really wasn't supposed to happen. 

My boyfriend's shaved facial hairs were swimming around the oh-so-recently clean sink. 

The plunger is meant to move things around and then it all goes down again. 

Well that didn't happen and this dirty dirty water was sitting in my sink now. 

 

Anyway, I did the only thing a rational-minded person would do: I kept going. 

Before I knew it, stuff started coming out. (hahaha - my first impression was to say "shit" started coming out. Not to refer to faeces, but to refer to rubbish. But upon reflection, the context of this situation would have made that confusing). Like non-liquid stuff. 

I couldn't identify most of it, but then an ear cleaner came out. Like a cotton bud. 

I can't tell you how horrified I was. 

I thought everything was going to go DOWN the sink. 

The actual most disgusting part of this story is that I know for a fact that my boyfriend doesn't use ear cleaners, and I have NEVER in my life put one down the sink hole. 

So that was someone else's ear cleaner. 

PUKE! 

There's just no way to make that story better. Let's move on.

But it does take me to an interesting place. I actually went on a tour of the water treatments plant recently, and this issue of the ear cleaners actually did arise. 

Heaps of people put them down the sink. That and baby wipes. 

I took a photo of the most common plastic stuff people flush down the loo. (hahahaha - I love talking about this. It brings about the most ridiculous sentences. For example, I wrote this sentence in error: "I actually have a picture of the most common stuff people flush down the loo". Woops.)

I actually have a picture of the most common PLASTIC stuff people flush down the loo.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

ear cleaners, plastic toys, condoms, plastic key tags, plastic lids, band-aids.

7 tonnes of plastic stuff is sent down the sinks and loos into the sewage each week, from just this particular water treatment plant I visited. 

All of that goes into landfill. 

Some of this stuff - the plastic toy, the plastic key tag, the bottle lid - could otherwise have been recycled. Some of it can't. And I don't even know about ear cleaners, neither does the Sustain Me app. Better research that one. Golly damn it. It is so confusing trying to keep track of what is and isn't recyclable. On our end, we are actively trying to make the app as comprehensive as possible. 

The tour guide did tell us the most convincing reason why we probably should just dispose of this stuff correctly. 

Because it blocks your sinks.

And blocked sinks have a tendency of spewing stuff back at you at the most inconvenient times. 

ba-dum tshh

We fight over plastic bags.

My boyfriend, Laurence, and I agree on a great many things sustainable. We agree on all the good reasons we should take the train to work; we agree on the problems with eating meat, with buying from supermarkets, and so on. We aren't ideologically opposed. It's just one of us - I won't say who - is a little more, let's say, pro-active about sustainability than the other. 

Imagine supermarket check-outs, imagine shiny floors and packaged goods. Imagine the odd loose lemon: everything piled high in our supermarket basket. It all begins with a question:

"Should we get a plastic bag?"

"No, we don't need one". Comes the reply.

"Really? There's too much here to carry"

"It's fine, look: I've picked up everything now anyway. Can you grab the milk?; and we're done". 

 

I lost the argument the other day when we had gone shopping right before I was getting on the train to the city. 

"We're going to need a plastic bag". 

"You know what I think about single-use plastics," I say jokingly, not really thinking about it. "Look, it's fine." I flexed my dexterous fingers. "I got this". 

"How am I going to get it all up the stairs?"

"I'll help - ..." My eyes shot to the left, like they do when I've just realised something. "Oh."

Laurence picks up the plastic bag, triumphant. "Thank-you-very-much". Never before has a plastic bag been so cherished. 

That is, until we used it as a bin liner. (Couldn't resist, sorry Sweetheart).

 

I read a blog a little while ago that said "Break Ups on the Rise: Over Tissues". Apparently, according to this blog, people are reporting breaking up over trivial sustainability measures, such as whether or not to recycle tissues. Looking at Laurence's and my supermarket routine, I can see how the regular, everyday-demands of living sustainably in a non-sustainable culture can be heavy demands indeed. Especially if one partner is really pushing it more than the other. This is a source of tension among families, I'm sure, and among friends. The relationship space is not immune. 

In my view it is the good old not-seeing-the-forest-for-the-trees syndrome; people can get caught up over trivialities like recycling tissues and the odd single use plastic bag without recognising that, as a society, we live in a unsustainable way. We are raised to consume heaps, buy more, buy bigger. We are guilty about the rotting food in the fridge, but too busy to do anything about it. Broadly speaking there are large changes we need to make in our lives to help us be more sustainable. In Laurence's and my own situation above, we've actually tried to not shop at the supermarket at all, and have a CERES food box delivered to our house. This forgoes the need for plastic bags (it's delivered in a cardboard box that we recycle in our kerbside recycling bin); and the food is locally sourced. Going even broader, it would be great if Victoria went plastic bag free like SA, NT, NSW and Tassie. (According to this blog, Queensland is committed to being the next). So, government leadership would be great. Right about now.... :/ 

Failing that, there are some useful sustainability initiatives popping out of the ground like daisies in spring time. Take One Step, run through Greensteps at Monash University, encourages people to think up one thing they can do that lessens their impact on the earth, and the program then encourages people to then act out these steps. Similarly, Climate For Change seeks to create a climate for change in Australia's politics-scape; they (also) help you identify and then act on achievable actions that help us unite to create a social mandate our leaders can't ignore and thereby bring about good action on climate change. 

Here are a few ideas about how we can avoid the matrimonial warnings not worth ignoring about plastic bags and all things sustainability. 

 

EDIT: Laurence has just googled whether or not you can recycle tissues. Answer: yes if unsoiled. Compost it (or worm farm) if it is soiled.