It’s everywhere. In our supermarkets, in our homes, at work, in our oceans, on our beaches… and finally on our news channels.
Plastic pollution is high on the news agenda right now, and is finally being taken seriously.
Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
So it’s good that, at the moment, there seems to be a new development every week when it comes to the fight against single-use plastic; whether that’s a discussion around a latte levy, the decision to install free water points across the UK, or companies banning plastic bags or straws from their premises.
So, asides from your bag for life and your reusable coffee cup, what else can you do?
Here are my top tips to easily cut your plastic pollution and make more conscious lifestyle choices.
- Say no to drinking straws. In so many bars and restaurants we’re given plastic straws when actually, it’s unlikely we need them. Straws are used for just minutes but they stick around uselessly in the environment for hundreds of years. Just say no.
- Be conscious of your buying habits to cull your plastic at home. When you’re next out shopping, try to be conscious about packaging and opt for the least packaged version. Packaging on things like bananas really annoys me. The fruit we eat is already protected by a natural outer layer – why on earth do we need a plastic one too?
- Be alert with products like cotton buds. In 2016, these were the sixth most common item of marine litter on the UK’s beaches. A lot of retailers, including Tesco and Sainsburys, committed to ban the sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds by the end of 2017, joining the likes of The Body Shop and Marks & Spencer who already enforce the ban. They’ve replaced plastic stems with paper which is biodegradable. (I’ve struggled to find articles online to prove that Tesco and Sainsburys met their 2017 target – please comment below if you know whether they did).
However, we do still import cosmetic products like this and in some countries like France, the full ban won’t come into effect until 2020, so plastic could still sneak through. Be aware and don’t buy it.
Equally, don’t flush cotton buds down the loo. I’m not sure what sort of person decides to do this rather than use a bin, but just don’t. Sadly, you’re flushing them straight into the ocean.
- Try to be prepared and take a reusable water bottle out with you. In the UK, we use a staggering 38.5 million bottles every day and we only manage to recycle about half. Don’t be afraid to ask cafes or shops to refill your water bottle rather than buying a new one – just ask for tap water. And if you’re partial to a bottled soft drink instead, consider signing petitions with Surfers Against Sewage and Greenpeace for a plastic deposit system, so that if you do buy a bottled drink, there’s more opportunity in future to actually recycle it.
- Say no to plastic cutlery. True, when you get a lunch meal deal, plastic cutlery is often already in the lid. So maybe make your lunch up the night before and use a reusable Tupperware container with your own cutlery? If you have to buy food while out and about, try not to take the plastic cutlery and use your own (metal) stuff instead. Alternatively, invest in some reusable bamboo versions and keep them in your bag when you’re out and about – just in case.
- Plastic microbeads have now been banned in the UK but glitter is just as bad. It’s tiny, easy to wash down drains and easy to forget about – but it’s still a micro plastic. This means it can still end up drifting through our oceans, being eaten by fish, and ending up in our food chains. Don’t fancy eating plastic? Then cut down. If you’re a glitter fan, look at the eco-friendly stuff instead.
These are some simple ideas but if you want to cut even more plastic out of your life, do some research.
When I looked into ways to reduce my consumption, I was shocked to discover that teabags are potentially harmful to the environment.
We’re a nation of tea-drinkers and each day, almost 160 million teabags are thrown away. But those dainty little paper teabags actually have plastic (polypropylene) added to them to give them a heat seal so they don’t come open in your mug of tea. This means that nearly all the teabags we buy aren’t 100% biodegradable.
Your best bet is to go for loose leaf tea and embrace the good ol’fashioned method. Equally, if this shocks you and you want the tea industry to sit up and listen, check out the petition here.
If you want to use less plastic, I’d suggest checking out a variety of websites including Surfers Against Sewage, Greenpeace, and Marine Conservation Society who actually have a ‘Plastic Challenge’ where you can sign up to receive tips to cut your use of single-use plastic.