Cutting out the plastic
Our tips for cutting down on your consumption of plastic, and wasting less.
The planet is at a crisis point with plastic waste. You can't have escaped the news articles and documentaries that have been in the media this year, highlighting the impact of human plastic consumption (and subsequent waste) on wildlife, rivers, oceans and entire Eco-systems. David Attenborough literally brought it home to us, when his Blue Planet II documentary was broadcast to millions of homes in December 2017.
The problem of plastic pollution comes from micro-plastics as well as larger plastic items (such as bags and bottles). Microplastics are in lots of personal care products such as face scrubs and toothpaste, in the form of 'microbeads'. Manufacturing of these was banned in the UK from January 2018, with a sale ban supposedly coming into effect this month. However, a harder problem to fix is that pretty much all synthetic clothing items shed microscopic plastic fibres when they are washed. Every time you wash your fleece jacket, nylon underwear, sports bra or football shorts, the result is that these tiny particles end up in the waste water, and eventually in rivers and seas, and into our food chain.
Short of wearing nothing but natural materials (cotton etc.) or not washing your clothes, there are some more realistic ways in which you can reduce your consumption of plastic, as well as to reuse and recycle it. Whilst it is the product manufacturers that are producing the very plastics that end up in the stomachs of marine life, it is we - as consumers - that have the power to reduce the demand for it, and therefore change the shape of the future.
Here are our top tips for cutting down, or cutting out, plastic in your home or workplace:
1. A good start is to be observant about just how much plastic you are using each day. Every time you pop some plastic in the bin, think about if that item could be purchased minus the plastic wrapping etc. The average household in the UK produces over a tonne of waste per year, with much of this in the form of plastic food packaging.
2. First REDUCE, then REUSE, and then RECYCLE.
3. Ditch the single-use plastic water and drinks bottles. Try purchasing a glass or BPA-free plastic drinks bottle from your local supermarket and re-fill as often as you like with your favourite drink. UK tap water is some of the purest in the world so lap it up while you can! Even better, using a water filter or distiller, to remove any nasties. For a little flavour, add cucumber, lime or berries to the water for a subtle infusion.
4. Consider shopping at zero or low waste shops. Glossop Wholefoods offers options to refill Bio-D cleaning liquids from their large 15 Litre dispensers, into your own plastic bottles that you can keep on reusing. There are also many other places popping up that offer zero waste food items, where you can take your own containers and fill up on oats, rice and cereals etc.
5. The 'bag for life' is now synonymous with supermarket shopping, and thankfully since the introduction of the compulsory 5p levy for plastic bags, plastic bag usage has dropped by at least 70%. Get in the habit of keeping re-usable bags in your car and handbag, so you're never 'caught short' without one.
6. Buy your fruit and veg from a greengrocers. 🍊🥑🌽. Supermarket fresh produce is almost always wrapped in unnecessary plastic. Even if you go down the organic route, it's sold in plastic trays and bags so it can be separated from the non-organic produce. Doesn't this just defeat the object of trying to be a little more ethical with your purchase choices? Buying from local greengrocers, markets or wholefood shops means less plastic, with the added benefit that it's also very often cheaper, and you're also supporting a local small business. Win-win!
7. Bin liners are one of the most common single-use (or short life) plastics we use around homes and workplaces. Consider using only the compostable liners we usually use with food caddies. These will fit most pedal bins, and there are larger sizes available on lots of online retailers. Alternatively purchase liners that are made from biodegradable plastic. That is, plastic that is much quicker to degrade than the usual 1000 years! D2W manufacturer such bags and they can be purchased on the likes of Ethical Superstore, Big Green Smile, or Amazon. You can buy them in bulk and they often work out much cheaper than the supermarket non-biodegradable bags.
8. In Tameside (where we are based), there are no facilities to recycle plastic wrapping, yogurt pots and trays etc. Plastic bottles are probably the only plastic item we can recycle here. Some other boroughs/councils can recycle other plastics, but it's important to be familiar with what exactly you can put into the recycling waste bins. Many plastics are deemed to be non-recyclable and are burned at the waste plants. We're not sure burning materials made with a cocktail of chemicals is the best thing for the environment though!
9. Learn to love cooking. 👩🍳 A large proportion of plastics are used for processed foods. Consider those microwave meals, which usually have a plastic container, plus plastic film on top. If you were to instead make the meal from scratch at home, there would be much less plastic waste, especially if you've sourced your veg from the local greengrocer. Not only are you helping the plastic problem but you're most likely getting a healthier meal, that you've also enjoyed making!
10. Refuse plastics when you're out. If you're at a supermarket till and the cashier asks if you'd like a bag for your deli items or clothing, or you're in a bar and the staff put a plastic straw in your drink, politely refuse them. These items are single-use and will often end up in landfill (or worse, on the streets or in rivers). If you think about it, you really do not need them, and we generally only use them because they have become part of a bad societal habit. The more often people refuse plastics with retailers, the more likely those businesses will make positive changes to their plastics policies.
11. Throw a tupperware party. We're only joking of course, but tupperware - or plastic food storage boxes - are a kitchen essential that will help you to cut down on plastic waste. We recommend any of the BPA-free boxes, such as Systema. Use them to store meals you've made at home (in the fridge or freezer) or to take lunches to work or school (thus avoiding the purchase of convenience food).
12. If you love your caffeine, switch to using your own reusable mug for those coffee house trips. We always have a mug on our trips out, and lots of places are now giving incentives to use your own, with many offering money off each drink if you use your own. This saves the coffee retailers money, it saves you money, and it prevents those awful plastic lined 'paper' cups from going to landfill.
13. Ditch the anti-bacterial wipes. Not only do these often contain harsh chemicals, with the purpose of annihilating every last bit of bacteria (even the good stuff!) from surfaces, but they are single-use plastics and ultimately end up in landfill. Manufacturers lead us to believe that we have a NEED for such items, but we really don't. A clean, re-usable, washable cloth with water is often all you need, or try a natural plant-based liquid cleaner.
14. If you use baby wipes, consider purchasing the eco-friendly versions. That is, those made from natural biodegradable materials, free from formaldehyde, parabens and SLS...which, lets face it, are not very baby friendly! There are many brands on the market but our personal faves are from Naty.
15. Finally - and this is an obvious one - never, ever, ever litter. Whether this be spitting gum out on the street, drunkenly leaving a takeaway container on the pavement, or flushing baby wipes down the loo. When our waste is not contained, it is more likely to make it into our rivers, canals, seas, and into the bellies of the lovely, innocent marine animals.