As an ED doc, I’m skilled in suturing lacerations, setting broken bones and reading ECGs; what the heck do I know about recycling plastic or building a business?
About 2 years ago, I was sick of seeing the barrage of photos of dead sea turtles, dolphins, albatrosses; I read an article about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (one of 6 giant garbage patches in our oceans!) and this all became too much to ignore. I felt a calling to do something about it, but what could I do?
Some research led me to Precious Plastic, where I got super inspired by individuals around the world working on this problem, and turning plastic waste into better things. I got an idea that I could do the same, and came up with my first of many plans. I found a plastic shredder for sale in New Zealand, and started posting on FB about my new passion. Friends and neighbours started bringing me their used plastic, which I then sorted, cleaned and shredded on my days off. I have spent (and continue to spend) many hours jamming away on my head phones while feeding plastic to my shredder.
It was months before I settled on what to make with this plastic, divided by colours and plastic types. It couldn’t be just ornamental, as such things are rarely valued for the 100s of years this plastic will be around. I needed whatever I made to be functional as well. For a while, I focused on reusable containers for liquid soaps/shampoos, and even pitched this idea in a business building competition (I was way out of my comfort zone!) I did not win, but the experience gave me a new confidence and some new contacts.
Then I went and saw the Rubbish Trip talk. It was mind-blowing to me and I had many pivotal realizations, including a very important one which changed my plans: to eliminate plastic, we must ditch the liquid shampoos and soaps. Because even if you’re using refillable containers for these liquids, there is still a lot of plastic involved upstream, in the manufacturing and distribution of it. Hence, starting with soap dishes, which are beautiful but also functional.
Shockingly (to me), some of the most valuable skills I have used in this journey are ones I hadn’t really recognized before. Reading ECGs doesn’t help here, but being a multi-tasker, being willing to try desperate measures when the situation calls for it, and adapting to changing circumstances sure does.
What skills can you bring to the table to help solve our plastic problem?