Peter and Claudi Williams no longer buy plastic. [Photo/China Daily]
Claudi Williams and her husband, Peter, decided to drastically change their lives after going for a swim off the coast of Mallorca.
The British couple from Stroud, Gloucestershire, took their two sons on holiday to the Spanish island three years ago. After warming up on the beach, the family plunged into the sea and immediately noticed something was off.
"The water was like a strange soup, with plastic suspended under the surface and wrapped around our limbs," Williams said. "It felt very wrong."
Williams, who works at a college in Oxford, set about researching the global problem of plastic pollution.
"I felt we needed to do something at home. We couldn't wait for the manufacturers or the laws to change," she said. "I realized that every purchase we make is a vote. If you buy something that is wrapped in plastic, you are saying to that manufacturer'I like this product, please make more'."
On May 1, 2016, the Williams family decided to stop buying plastic. Two years on, their cottage in the Cotswolds is almost entirely free of the material.
Rice, pasta and grains are kept in glass containers. The family uses bamboo toothbrushes and makes its own toothpaste out of bicarbonate of soda, vegetable glycerin and peppermint oil. Toilet paper is ordered from companies that use paper wrapping, and cleaning detergents and shampoo are topped up at local stores that offer refills.
"Our rule was we wouldn't buy anything plastic－whether it was short-term use, medium-or long-term, in order to force ourselves to think about every single purchase," she said. "At the same time, we didn't throw out anything that we already had at home."
She said the family does not take a "holier than thou" attitude about the cause, and recognizes there are many crucial uses for plastic in modern society.
"Plastic is a wonderful and useful invention," Williams said. "It has important uses in almost every area of our lives. The problem is that we have gotten bad at distinguishing between the important uses and the unnecessary ones."
Their lifestyle is in stark contrast to that of the majority of Britons. The average European uses 100 kilograms of plastic a year, compared with 20 kg in Asia, according to the environmental organization Friends of the Earth.
Increasing awareness of the global problem of plastic pollution has led many Britons to seek alternatives. Companies that deliver milk in glass bottles are reporting record numbers of registrations. The government is also looking to phase out single-use plastics.
"I feel really positive about it," Williams said. "It has become so urgent and visible in the mainstream.
"Once we get this into legislation and manufacturers have to make changes, I'm optimistic we won't go back," she added.