We’ve all seen the headlines about the huge environmental problems caused by single-use plastics. Big brands, supermarkets and the government have the power to make the big changes that are needed. But we can be powerful too. So read on for simple tips and affordable swaps to reduce your plastic footprint.
Of course, using less plastic is easier for some people than others. For some disabled people, for example, single-use plastic is essential to their health or quality of life. Plastic products should still be available for those who need them. But many of us could easily reduce the amount of plastic we use. Here’s our nine top tips:
1. Carry a reusable bottle
In the UK we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day! Carrying a reusable bottle is a great way to cut your plastic use and save money too! There’s even an app that tells you where you can refill your bottle for free!
2. Say no to plastic straws
Plastic straws are bad news for our oceans. Next time you order a drink, think about whether you need a straw – and if you don’t, just say no! You can also ask your local pub to stop adding straws to drinks as standard.
3. Take a reusable coffee cup
2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK – and less than 1 in 400 are recycled. Carry a reusable cup with you – some cafes even offer a small discount if you use your own cup (and if they don’t ask them why not!)
Two tricks for better habits
Make just one, or two changes at a time and build it up bit by bit. “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” Anne-Marie Bonneau, zero waste chef
Celebrate your wins
We lead busy lives and our different circumstances can affect our ability to change how we use plastic. If you forget your reusable bottle or cup one day, don’t feel disheartened and give up. Be proud of yourself for what you are doing.
4. Avoid excessive food packaging
Whether it’s making different choices in the supermarket or choosing a different place to shop, we can all try and cut down the plastic we buy. And as an added bonus, loose fruit and veg is often cheaper than pre-packaged alternatives!
5. Use refill stations for detergents
There are some products where it’s difficult to avoid a plastic container (for example washing up liquid or laundry liquid) – the good news is that there are an increasing amount of places where you can refill your old bottles. Find your nearest refill station here.
6. Say no to disposable plastic cutlery
We’ve all been there – caught out in a cafe or at a train station when we’ve bought a salad or a yogurt but the only cutlery on offer is plastic! Whilst it’s hard to plan for every opportunity, consider carrying a spoon or fork (or spork!) in your bag or keeping cutlery in your desk at work.
7. Get your milk delivered
Although the early morning sound of a milk float is not as common as it used to be, there are still lots of places in the UK where you can get milk delivered in glass bottles – which are then collected and reused. You can find your nearest milkround here.
8. Avoid microbeads
The good news is that the UK government have announced a ban on microbeads! However until the ban comes into force in 2018, there will still be products on the shelves, so keep checking those labels before you buy and avoid products containing polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and nylon.
9. Carry a shopping bag
Since the plastic bag charge was introduced in England, there’s been a massive 85% drop in their use. Many of us are used to carrying an extra bag with us – if you still find it hard to remember, try a foldaway one that you can carry in your normal day bag.
Making just a few small changes can have a big impact on the amount of plastic we use on a day-to-day basis.