The images are heart-breaking: dead marine animals entangled in plastic, formerly beautiful beaches covered in plastic waste and the mounting evidence of micro-plastics pervading our eco-systems.
Plastic isn’t all bad. Used properly, it helps keep food fresh and protects products from damage. Its durability means that it is also a useful material in manufacturing and construction for long-term use in products and buildings.
The problem is single-use plastic, often used in packaging items like water, food or hot drinks. There is also ‘hidden’ plastic in products like tea-bags, some cardboard packaging and even chewing gum.
When presented with a choice, the public is happy to cut its plastic usage. The 5p plastic bag charge was a major success, cutting single-use plastic bag usage by 86% since the charge was introduced. Seven major retailers issued 7.6 billion single-use bags in 2014 but that figure was down to just over a billion in 2017-18 – Single-use plastic bag sales fall 86% since introduction of 5p charge
Campaigners are calling for the charge to be extended to all shops and the charge increased to 10p. They also want the scope widened to include plastic bottles and single-use coffee cups.
While programmes like David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II have heightened our awareness of the problem, the individual can make a difference.
Collectively we have caused the problem and collectively we can solve it through our choices and actions.
Recent books like Lucy Siegle’s Turning the Tide on Plastic offer practical advice on how to cut our plastic usage as well as providing a detailed context and justification on why we must act. Drawing heavily on the waste hierarchy of reduce, reuse, repair and recycle the book details practical steps we can all take to cut our plastic usage.
The message seems to be hitting the high streets with zero waste shops starting to appear such as Birmingham’s The Clean Kilo where you can buy food with mimimum plastic waste. All products are dispensed into containers that you bring from home.
There will also be an option to buy reusable containers, use supplied paper bags or take containers from their ‘free to a good home’ section.
Here are some of our favourite tips on cutting plastic usage:
- Use a bag-for-life, tote bag or other resuable bags for your regular shopping.
- Keep shopping bags in your car in case you have to buy items while travelling.
- Use your own travel mug for hot-drinks on the move – Starbucks, Costa and Pret all give a discount to those using their own mugs – See our reusable travel mug
- Drink in – why spend three to four pounds on a hot drink and then consume it in a polythene lined card cup –
- Ditch bottled water – tap water is often cleaner and much, much cheaper. Use reusable bottles or water fountains instead – see our reusable water bottles.
- Buy produce loose – many fruits and vegetables have their own natural packaging (oranges, apples, coconuts etc) that can survive the journey home.
- Cut down on convenience food and take-aways by cooking more at home.
- Opt for loose-leaf tea instead of tea bags – use a tea-pot, strainer or infusers can fit tea pots or mugs and are just as convenient but also make a much nicer cuppa! – see our stainless steel tea infuser for using loose leaf tea.
- Choose plastic-free chewing gum.
- Ditch plastic straws – don’t use them or opt for the glass, metal or bamboo alternatives.
- Grow herbs and salad produce at home – generally they’re easy to grow and don’t need any extra plant food or insecticide.
- Use a packed lunch if you are travelling, cutting down on pre-packed sandwiches etc.
- Buy milk in reusable glass bottles – often delivered to your door by the local friendly milkman.
- Buy cheese from your local specialist delicatessen – use your own reusable plastic container or request plastic free packaging.
- Buy your food from a zero waste shop like The Clean Kilo in Birmingham.
There is much we can do personally to cut plastic pollution without discomfort or great cost. These are some tips and we do provide some products that can help. See this website for more details: https://myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide/