The No-Plastics Challenge

I knew plastics were bad, but I didn’t know how bad…until I watched Blue Planet II on Netflix. It was truly heartbreaking to see our oceans coated with plastic slosh and the negative impact of micro-plastic snow on the marine life.


The cover image and this image are both from BBC Blue Planet II
Look at this plastic slosh, y’all ;___;

Historians and archaeologists are now dubbing our time the “Plastic Age” as an unofficial successor to the Holocene, the current geological epoch. Since the invention in 1907, plastics have been increasing exponentially in production. Now, they’re everywhere due to low cost and high convenience.


I’d heard of the no-plastics challenge a few months back. Honestly, I hadn’t thought much of it until after Blue Planet II. The no-plastics challenge involves trying to avoid using single-use plastic as much as possible during a set amount of time. Some people are brave and try the challenge for a week or even a month. I’m not very brave, but curiosity does tend to get the best of me; I thought it’d be a good idea to try it out for a couple of days.


Enjoy this carefree meme that I made 😀

It was harder than I had ever imagined. I woke up one morning, went to the bathroom to wash up, annnd…everything was in plastic. My cleanser was in a plastic bottle. So was my sunscreen. My moisturizer was in a glass bottle, but…the topper was plastic. My toothbrush was plastic; my toothpaste was in a plastic tube.


Already feeling defeated, I had my usual breakfast of fried tofu, spinach, and boiled eggs. I grimaced as I stared at the flimsy plastic tub that came with the spinach.


Being at work was worse. The entire site doesn’t recycle properly, and also (understandably) uses tons of single-use plastics as a part of aseptic practices. Oh, and I failed to bring a food container from home. I wasn’t even sure if the cafeteria ladies would accommodate my novel pursuit of helping the environment. At least I had my water bottle and my coffee thermos!


After work, I realized that I had no food at home for supper. Naturally, I went to HUB, completely forgetting that my usual go-to place uses styrofoam containers 😦 While I was waiting for my food, I learned that styrofoam takes at least 500 years to biodegrade naturally. Perfect.


I’m sorry, environment </3

At the end of the day, I had some time to reflect and plan better for the future. For example, I could get some bars to replace toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, cleanser, and moisturizer. I could pick up a toothbrush made out of bamboo when I finally destroy my plastic one. Also, I could pick up some large food containers to always have in my backpack.


Next day came, but I wasn’t feeling well 😦 So I stayed home all day, watching YouTube videos about cats and plastic pollution. I thought about different challenges that someone like myself could encounter while trying to avoid single-use plastics:


  1. Sensitivity
    • I have pretty bratty skin, which means that sometimes using a soap bar is not an option. Whenever I try out new products, I have to make sure that I can return them just in case.
  2. (Nosocomial) Infection
    • Hospitals and other public places use single-use plastics to be aseptic or hygienic. I mean, there’s a limitation to what they can clean and re-use, right?
    • I avoid buying bulk foods from those scoop-yourself bins, unless I plan on boiling the crap out of them.
  3. Personal Discomfort
    • My dentist really hates likes it when I don’t floss, so I floss once a day. But now that I know that micro-plastic particles are even worse than large plastics, I want to ask my dentist about alternatives, like a water flosser.
    • I’m also considering getting a couple of Lunapads just for when I’m home, because I don’t think I can commit to using them in public…for various reasons.
  4. Trade-Offs
    • Sometimes, the alternatives are actually worse than single-use plastics. For example, if I keep forgetting to bring my backpack for grocery shopping and I keep buying those reusable bags, that’s no bueno. Remember that a single reusable bag costs more resources to make than a single plastic bag does!



Lastly, I thought about grocery shopping. I think that this is an area in which we have one of the biggest opportunities to refuse single-use plastics. We can bring our own bags and food containers to farmers’ markets (my fave is City Market Downtown!) or even local grocery stores.


My visit to Safeway on the 109 Street

My challenge was a failure, but I did learn a lot in the process. Maybe I’ll try the no-plastics challenge again after implementing a few changes in my daily routines!


In case you’re interested, here are some YouTube videos that I like:

Why Buying Plastic-Free Groceries is So Hard

Plastic Pollution: How Humans are Turning the World into Plastic

Plastic-Free: One Month without Using Single-Use Plastics

12 Cheap & Easy Tips for Reducing Your Waste – Sustainable Zero Waste Hacks

The Plastic Age: A Documentary feat. Pharrell Williams
Are you up for the no-plastics challenge??

Julia Lee
The Plastic Age Noob

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