We exist in a throwaway culture; expecting to buy convenience NOW, without necessarily
considering the dramatic impact that this might have a few stops down the environmental timeline.
Globally we are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, of which 50% is accounted for by single-use plastics.
With so many goods now packaged in single use plastics and unsustainably low costs attached to them, the price of the products seems to indicate that these products are not worthy of proper disposal.
Sadly, the ultimate cost of this cheap abundance has not been realised until relatively recently.
Huge islands of collected crap float in the flotsam, our streets are littered with bits of bottles and it was found recently that every ocean, every sea dwelling creature and almost every living person is now contaminated with micro-plastics.
It might seem that we're fighting a losing battle as more and more low quality products flood our shelves but there are simple changes that we can make in order to mitigate this level of production. Some are easier than others but it’s making steps towards reducing plastic consumption that is so important.
Plastic is not the devil, we just use it in devilish ways. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to be completely plastic free, it's impossible and in many ways, plastic is a beneficial addition to our lives. Just try to ditch the stuff that goes straight in the bin or can't be recycled.
1. Use reusable bags when going shopping
Years ago this was the widespread option to reduce plastic but it still stands as one of the
most beneficial changes for you to make. Even now, approximately 500 billion plastic bags
are used worldwide and more than 1 million bags are used every minute.
This over consumption of plastic bags needs to change. If you bring a tote bag wherever you go then you can feel prepared for all eventualities. You’ll save the 25p on the plastic bag AND feel
like you’re contributing towards reducing your environmental footprint.
2. Take a reusable coffee cup to your favourite café (Love Shack, Hackney)
In the UK we use 7 million disposable coffee cups every day, which equates to
approximately 2.5 billion every year. Despite what chain coffee shops might tell you, the
majority of take away coffee cups are not widely recycled. Even though they look like
they’re made from cardboard, the inside needs to be lined by plastic; the complicated
manufacture procedure means that these components are not easily separated. So why not
take your own cup? There are so many options out there; from insulated to light weight,
glass to stainless steel AND they can save you money!
3. Opt out of plastic-wrapped fruit and veg
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by the amount of plastic lining the shelves in supermarkets, not knowing what you should buy to reduce this, but it is getting better. Large supermarkets are offering increasing numbers of options of unpackaged fruit and veg. Instead of opting for the three wrapped peppers, why not choose the single red pepper that isn’t wrapped in plastic? If it is available to you, why not go to your local farmers’ market; it is much easier to buy unpackaged fruit and veg there AND you’ll be supporting local farmers at the same
4. Take a trip to the bulk shop
Bulk shops are popping up everywhere and are becoming increasingly more accessible.
Instead of going straight to the supermarket to buy plastic-clade dried goods, you could take
your own glass jar to the store. It’s simple, weigh the jar before filling it up, make a note of
the figure, then weigh it again once full. You can take these two values to the till and they’ll
be able to work out how much food you’ve got there! AND, no plastic!!!
5. Bring your own container
This is such an easy swap; having a reusable container with you at all times. If you fancy
going to get a takeaway; use your own container instead of getting a single-use takeaway box. This reduces your impact but also brings less clutter to your life; at least you’re not going to have loads of boxes cluttering up your draws, at best you’re putting one less piece of plastic into the environment!
(Greener Habits Co. Walthamstow)
6. Use a reusable straw
More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year and we often see
images of plastic straws interfering with wildlife circulated on the internet. Plastic straws
find their way into respiratory systems of aquatic creatures including turtles and dolphins
where they can cause suffocation. You can ask for your drink to NOT have a plastic straw or,
if you love a good slurp, you can bring your own metal or bamboo one!
7. Buy plastic free toilet paper
If you can actually get your hands on any toilet paper (when Corona crisis has calmed
down), it might be worth considering to take the switch to dit4ch plastic covered rolls.
Instead reach out to companies such as Who Gives a Crap who never use plastic, instead
wrapping rolls in colourful paper – maybe you can double this up as wrapping paper for your best friend’s birthday gift!
8. Use a bar of soap
It can seem so much easier to use a plastic liquid soap dispenser (and we have been told that it is more hygienic) yet using a bar of soap packaged in cardboard (or naked)
dramatically reduces your environmental footprint. These soap bars can last for AGES. Top
Tip to use less soap is to cut a larger bar into smaller pieces – it lasts so much longer!!!
9. Reimagine your dental hygiene regime
The simple act of brushing your teeth has hidden plastic at almost every step; from
toothpaste tubes, to dental floss, to the brush that you’re using. Yet there have become
many ways of reducing these. Instead of opting for a toothpaste tube, choose natural
toothpaste in a glass jar, swap to a bamboo toothbrush or use plastic free dental floss. This
will help to reduce the amount of plastic making its way into landfill.
10. Get rummaging
If the thought of ordering something new online, covered in packaging, fills you with horror,
it might be worth considering an alternative approach to purchasing. Why not take a step
pack to our hunter-gatherer roots and take some time searching in charity shops for a
bargain? This not only helps to reduce your plastic intake and makes sure that you’re not
releasing more plastic into the world but will help to reduce the amount of waste produced
from fast fashion. By searching in charity shops you can also give something back to the
Words by: Alice Harrison - Environmentalist & M*lkwoman