12 things you can do to reduce your plastic footprint
I've been thinking a lot about plastic recently. Did you know that UK consumers use around 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year but more than three billion of these are not recycled? Every year, 2.5 billion take away coffee cups go straight in the bin, because the layer of polyethylene (I've gone a bit sciency for this post) that makes the cup waterproof also makes it non-recyclable. That’s 5.5 billion cups and bottles every single year, from the tiny little island that is the UK. China doesn’t want our rubbish anymore and we’re rapidly running out of landfill space. Where is it all going to go? Like, ACTUALLY going to go? Think about it for a minute.
Circa 1997, Aqua were singing ‘Life in plastic is fantastic’ without the faintest hint of irony, but we’re slowly waking up to the fact that Aqua got this (and other things…) very very wrong (and yet…ever since I started thinking about this post I’ve had their stupid song in my head… And now I bet you have too.) We have got to do something about it, and fast. Think of the children - THE CHILDREN!
I spent a week making a note of every single plastic item I used, recycled and threw away and the results were outrageously shameful. Over a total of 7 days, I went through 89 items of single-use plastic, some of which got recycled, but most of which couldn’t be. I am only one human and this was only one week. Imagine what this amount of plastic would look like piled up outside a person’s house. Then imagine this amount of plastic for every single person on the street. Then imagine seeing it every single week for the rest of your life. I’ll say it again…Where is it actually going to go?
As a result of keeping my plastic diary (which you can read here by the way…), I learnt a lot about what we can do if we want to actively avoid or reduce plastic…and with Ellen MacArthur’s prediction that there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050, who wouldn’t? To save you the hassle of keeping your own plastic diary and finding this stuff out by yourself, you can share my plastic pledges for free…as long as you PROMISE to try at least one...
Shop local, not Sainsbury’s Local, and buy unwrapped veg. Supermarkets are the worst for wrapping everything in non-recyclable plastic, and in the smaller stores it's practically impossible to avoid. If you do have to buy from the supermarket, consider removing the plastic packaging at the till in protest and let them deal with it. If they don’t have facilities to recycle plastic bags, perhaps they shouldn’t be selling so many things in plastic…
Try visiting a bulk supermarket for your dried goods. There are a few in London that we’re going to pay a visit. You can fill up on things like pasta, rice, beans etc. as long as you bring your own containers. It might be tricky for us to cart it all back on the bus, so we'll need to plan it strategically, but it’s definitely worth a go. Bulkmarket are currently crowdfunding to move to a new location and are well worth your support.
Cut down on toiletries where possible. Switch to bar soap instead of bottled soap and look for products that sell refills to cut down on the packaging. Some eco products are even made of ‘plant plastic’ these days too which is a bonus.
Get a stainless steal water bottle and take it with you EVERYWHERE. It's amazing how often you're forced to buy a drink, when it would have actually been easier to fill up at home and guess what, the water in your tap is basically FREE. Loads of places have refill stations nowadays so there are no excuses. Refuse to buy plastic bottles. They’re a right ol’ swizz and bad for your body. I bought mine from Klean Kanteen and it’s fab.
Get a bamboo coffee cup and ask the coffee shops to use it for your hot drink. You get a discount in some places for this, which means more money for snacks. I love my Ecoffee cup. Perfect travel size, and it’s pretty too.
Cut down on crappy plastic toys for kids. Ask yourself, will my child still need/want/value this in a year? Will it enhance their life for longer than 17 seconds? If it’s destined for the bin in a month’s time, they can probably go without. Disposable culture is what got us into this mess in the first place. Let's try and save the next generation from the same mistakes.
Did you know that teabags, yes TEABAGS, contain little particles of plastic which end up in your body and in the ocean? Find a brand that are plastic-free (like Teapigs, Pukka Tea, Twinings pyramid and PG Tips pyramid) and refuse to support other brands until they do the same. There is a great write up of which companies are plastic-free on the Moral Fibres blog.
This is obvious one, but refuse plastic bags. Carry an empty cotton one with you at all times, and keep your boot stocked up with the heavy duty ones for big shops.
Say no to straws - many can't be recycled and it is thought that they take up to 500 years to decompose. 500 YEARS! Lots of places have pledged to keep their bars straw-free nowadays which is a huge step. Show your support for the cause by telling the bar tender you don’t need one.
Ditch the plastic cotton buds. I'm so guilty of this but I've been doing some research and there are some biodegradable paper ones which look like a good alternative. They’re a bit more expensive, so you’ll be forced to use them sparingly, but that’s hardly a bad thing.
Whilst you’re at it, ladies, buy yourself a Moon Cup! Think of the money and the waste that’ll save you over the course of a year. There are also biodegradable sanitary towels, panty liners and children’s nappies on the market. There’s a bit of a price difference with some of them, but if you can make a more eco choice, you should. Your sanitary towels and nappies will be here long after you're gone...about 500 years longer...
Speak up! If there aren’t adequate recycling facilities in your local area, or in train stations, restaurants, hotels, cinemas etc., tell them it’s not good enough. Be that little ripple of change that creates a wave!
Got any more? I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments section on my Facebook page and let’s start a plastic-free revolution!