I heard a report on the BBC World Service a couple of days ago about a little sea turtle named Kai which made me so sad that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day.
Kai had been found floating helplessly on the sea surface because she had ingested so much plastic waste that her belly had become bloated and she could no longer control her buoyancy. After being found by fishermen, Kai was taken to a Kenyan turtle hospital, where for two weeks, she was given laxatives to help remove the plastic from her system.
But believe it or not, Kai is one of the luckier marine creatures. As a result of the estimated 270,000 tons of plastic floating on the surface of the ocean, a recent study by researchers at Plymouth University has predicted that 700 different marine species are under threat.
Single-use plastics are an environmental nightmare. Every second, 20,000 single-use drinking bottles are sold around the world, which works out at about a million pieces of non-biodegradable rubbish produced every minute and it is estimated that up to 13 million metric tons of plastic trash drift into sea each year.
The fact we can no longer ignore is that the plastic problem is out of control and something needs to be done and now.
It was recently reported that governments are being asked to move towards a legal treaty banning plastic waste from entering the sea and a plan for zero tolerance of plastic pollution of the oceans may be agreed by nations at a UN environment summit.
Here in Kenya action has already been taken. On August 28th the Kenyan Plastic Bag Ban came into force. This means that anyone found selling, manufacturing or even carrying plastic bags could face fines of up to $38,000 or prison sentences of up to four years. This has meant that now I never go shopping without my cloth bags. I have also started to omit plastic bags from disposing of my rubbish and now empty trash directly into the outside bin… admittedly there are more flies and my garbage is a bit (OK a lot) more stinky but it is a step in the right direction.
It is sometimes difficult to know where to start with reducing or recycling plastic, but I have had an idea which I would like to share with you all – making crochet snowflakes Christmas decorations from old plastic bags.
How to recycle plastic bags in to ‘yarn’
Step 1: First lay out a plastic bag.
Step 2: Cut off the very bottom of bag and the handles with scissors.
Step 3: Next cut the bag into a long continuous strip about 1.5cm wide, by cutting round and round the bag. You can also fold the bag and cut it into strips, then join the strips together, but for the smaller snowflakes this looked a bit too bulky, and I felt that a continuous strip of plastic ‘yarn’ worked better.
Crochet Snowflake Pattern
All instructions are in UK crochet terms, and the stitches you will need are chains, double crochet (dc) and slip stitch (sl st):
- sl st: insert hook, yarn over, pull the loop back through the stitch, then through the loop on your hook.
- dc: insert hook, yarn over, pull the loop back through the stitch (two loops on hook), yarn over and pull through both loops on hook. [this is equivalent to a US sc]
You can use different sized crochet hooks depending on the thickness of plastic and also the size you want your snowflake to be. For the plastic snowflakes in this blog post I used 3mm and 4.5mm crochet hooks.
START – To begin chain 5 and join to make a ring. You will work the first round out of this ring.
ROUND 1 – Chain 1 (counts as 1dc), 1dc, then chain 3 *2dc, chain 3* Repeat the *2dc, chain3* four more times, creating little pointy chain-loops. Slip stitch into initial chain-1 to join. You should have six chain loops, which you will be working out of in Round 2.
ROUND 2 – To begin, slip stitch into the first chain loop, this makes sure you will be starting the round in the right place. In the first chain loop, work the following – chain 1 (counts as 1dc), 1dc, chain 3, 2dc. In the second chain loop, work the following – *2dc, chain 3, 2dc*. Repeat four more times between **, working out of the four remaining chain loops. Slip stitch into initial chain-1 to join. As in the previous round, you should be able to clearly see the six pointy chain loops you’ve just made and you’ll be working out of these chain loops in the next round.
ROUND 3 – To begin, slip stitch into the first chain loop which makes sure you will be starting the round in the right place. Now work the following, all out of the first chain loop – *1dc, chain 3, 1dc, chain 5, 1dc, chain 3, 1dc, chain 2*. Repeat five more times between **, working out of the five remaining chain loops. You should have ended the round with a chain-2, now slip stitch into the first dc you made to join the round.
TO FINISH – Fasten off, and weave in the end on the reverse.
In our modern lives plastic surrounds us and it is everywhere, so cutting it out can admittedly seem rather daunting. However, here are some ways to get started (aside from the crocheted snowflakes!).
Here are 12 easy ways to start to reduce your plastic waste
- Bring your own shopping bag and boycott plastic bags completely.
- Stop buying bottled water or plastic bottles in general.
- Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop.
- Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags.
- Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants.
- Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
- Skip the disposable razor.
- Switch from disposable nappies to cloth nappies.
- Re-think your food storage and try not to use plastic bags but reusable containers
- Shop in bulk and purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container.
- Check personal products like toothpaste and face-wash for Microbeads and use products which don’t contain them. Microbeads are also called polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon.
- Give up chewing gum – gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic.
Finally, think about your daily routine and see if you can replace any or as many disposables as you can with reusables. If everyone does something about single-use plastic, then it will make a difference – so kick plastic out of your daily life, today!
Merry Christmas and happy crocheting 🙂