We’ve all seen the images of our beautiful oceans laden with plastic bottles, bags and containers and the heartbreaking scenes of fish, whales and birds with bellies full of it.
The world is predicted to throw so much plastic into the ocean by 2050 that it will outnumber fish -
a harrowing statistic that makes us want to ditch plastic consumerism and preach this important message to the world until we all living a plastic-free life!
That being said, plastic waste has been hitting the headlines a lot recently and thankfully, big changes are being made across the world to reduce the amount we use and throw away. We as consumers hold an enormous amount of power with our decisions, minor as they may seem. There are so many small changes you can make within your household to reduce your amount of plastic usage and ultimately, the demand for it. After all, we protect and treasure a lot in our lives - why not the planet that we call home?
We’ve compiled a little list of our favourite life adjustments you can try to get you started on your plastic-free journey…
October 2015 saw the 5p plastic bag charge arrive in England, shortly after neighbours Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and much of the rest of the world had adopted the scheme. It prompted the rise of the sturdy ‘bag for life’, with many supermarkets such as the Co-op, Sainsburys and Tesco happily replacing your ‘bag for life’ for free if it breaks, making them more than worth those extra couple of pennies.
Now, some companies such as Ocado are even taking things one step further and will pay you 5p for every plastic bag you hand to your delivery driver when your order arrives, with a limit of 99 per delivery. Every bag you return is recycled into a new one, reducing plastic and making you a little richer - win, win!
The UK alone uses a whopping 13 billion plastic bottles each year. To tackle this ever-growing problem, many countries have introduced a plastic bottle deposit scheme, whereby you pay a small tax on every plastic bottle that you then get back if you return the containers to be recycled. The UK could well be following suit before long but at the moment, the ‘free refill’ movement is spreading. Many businesses around the country, including Costa and Premier Inn to name but a few will happily refill your water bottle for free when you are on the go to save you from buying another bottle. Download the ‘Refill’ app next time you’re out and about and it will tell you where your nearest refill spots are.
Reusable coffee cups
It was recently highlighted that takeaway coffee cups are coated with plastic to keep them waterproof, making them unrecyclable. You can only imagine the amount of these that get thrown away everyday. To help tackle this issue, coffee shop giants such as Starbucks, Costa and Pret A Manger will actually discount your coffee if you bring along a reusable cup to decant your drink into. The discounts generally range from 25p to 50p so it’s a no brainer - you’re saving money by saving the planet. The best thing is that you can get your hands on a reusable coffee cup for as little as £1, so you’ll make your money back in only a handful of coffees!
If you’re trying to go plastic free, the packaging found on food in the supermarket could possibly be the most difficult thing to avoid. Whilst many foods and drinks are yet to catch on, it’s much simpler to go plastic free with your fruit and vegetables. Supermarkets often sell them loose but this can sometimes be a little more expensive. Locate your nearest farmers market and aim to buy your fresh produce from there instead. It’s often cheaper and lasts longer, reducing food waste as well as saving you money. Take along a reusable plastic bag, ‘bag for life’, canvas or mesh bag to stash your fresh goodies away in and you’ve successfully shopped plastic-free!
Grow your own herbs
On a similar note, if you have the space and time then you may be interested in growing your own herbs, or even fruit and vegetables. Although it’s much more timely, it’s rewarding and something that the whole family can get involved with. Once your lovingly home-grown produce is ready, take it straight from the garden and store it in jam jars or old spice containers. Your left with no extra plastic packaging and a whole lot of satisfaction.
Ditch the straws
Straws - harmless, right? Wrong. They are a huge contributor to plastic waste and millions are thrown away every day around the world. Each straw takes hundreds of years to break down so it’s not hard to imagine why these little things are amounting to a big problem. If you or your family are regular straw users then the good news is that you can get your hands on biodegradable and reusable alternatives such as steel, bamboo and glass versions. Yes, they are likely to be a little more expensive but it’s a small price to pay for healthier oceans and wildlife.
Soap and shampoo bars
How many bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and hand wash do your household get through a year? Something as minor as switching to a bar of soap to wash your hands and body instead of a plastic bottle can dramatically reduce your plastic usage. Not only that, but Lush do a huge range of wonderful shampoo and conditioner bars. These bars are said to do the job of three 250g bottles of liquid shampoo and are made from all the best natural ingredients. And of course, there’s absolutely no plastic packaging!
Loose leaf tea
We’re sorry to break it to you but the majority of tea bags that you know and love and that get you through your Monday mornings actually contain a very thin layer of polypropylene plastic. Again - just imagine the volume of teabags that are used around the country every day. That very thin layer soon becomes a very big problem. The good news is that loose leaf tea is a fantastic alternative. It creates a more flavourful cup of tea with more health and antioxidant properties than tea made from tea bags and of course, causes much less damage to the environment.
Reusable wraps instead of cling film
If using your plastic tupperware boxes or a plate to cover up your leftovers just won’t suffice, avoid reaching for the cling film! You’ll soon realise that this single use product is a pointless waste of plastic when you start exploring the alternatives. Beeswax and soy wax wraps are just as effective, if not more. They last up to a year and once you’ve used it as much as possible, some can be composted. Cost effective and environmentally friendly!