It is no secret that we have a problem with plastic. It is in every single household and encases most of the products we all use every day. Now, I think it is fair to say that it is only fairly recently that people have started to wake up to the dangers of plastic. Environmentally, it is doing astronomical damage to our planet, to our animals and our bodies. I think it is pretty nasty stuff. We need to minimise our use and manufacturing of plastic and eventually stop producing it altogether.
I think it is important that I educate you before I delve into how we can reduce our plastic use. You may already know what I am about to say, but I am sure there are still a lot of people who are not aware of the following.
The waste and recycling that we (UK) produce is not ‘dealt’ with here in England. It is shipped to Asia. Currently, our waste is constantly topping up a huge landfill site in Malaysia. Up until sometime in 2018, two-thirds of our recycling was being shipped across to China. Unfortunately, most of this plastic to be recycled is deemed contaminated and therefore gets sent to landfill. If you are wondering what exactly is causing the plastic to be contaminated, it could be that food waste has been mixed in or the plastic has not been correctly washed before recycling. This is therefore too labour intensive to correct on such a large scale, so as a result it just gets chucked in with all the landfill waste.
From this, you might begin to realise that recycling on its own is not enough to combat our excessive waste issue. Another thing to take into account is the rules around recycling particular types of plastic. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of plastic cannot be recycled. You may have noticed on some of your household plastic products that there is a number on the bottle that resembles something like the below.
These numbers determine the type of plastic and how recyclable they are. The types of plastic that can be recycled differentiates between different areas in the UK. Plastic types 3, 6 and 7 are not at all recyclable, 1 is the most commonly recycled plastic and types 2, 3 and 5 can be recycled but is dependent on whether the local authority recycles them. As you can see from this, there is a large amount of plastic that is produced in products that we all use that is never recycled.
Another really important fact to consider when recycling plastics is the sustainability of it. The image below explains a little bit more about the sustainability of recycling certain materials.
As you can see from the above image, plastic, when it can be recycled, can only be recycled 1 or 2 times, making it an extremely unsustainable material to be used at such a high intensity. Hopefully, from reading this so far, you are more informed and wondering how you can start cutting out plastic from your home! Well, do not worry, as I have some good tips for how you can get started!
Avoid Buying Plastics
The first step in trying to reduce your plastic waste is to simply avoid buying it! I know this sounds a bit obvious, but there is a surprising amount of plastic in a lot of our household items. For example, a lot of our cleaning products are plastic! Whether its plastic bottles, washing up sponges, scouring brushes or anti-bac wipes etc. When buying products, try to buy ones that are either loose, or packaged in glass or metal (tins) as these are sustainably recyclable! Plus, the good thing about buying glass is that you can easily reuse these at home and even use them for packaging-free refill products!
There are plenty of shops out there which now only sell ‘refill’ products. You can take your own jars/containers with you and fill them up! It cuts out packaging completely! You can do this for cleaning products and food such as rice, pasta, and other products!
There are lots of plastic replacement products out there too! For example, you can buy Beeswax Wraps to replace plastic wraps! It is all about making sensible swaps.
Purchase Eco-Friendly Products
There are so many eco-friendly products out there! As more people are waking up to the need to buy plastic-free, there are now loads of companies who are passionate about the planet and create products to reflect that. I will be honest, a lot of these products are more likely to be found online, which comes with its own added inconveniences. However, would you rather spend a little extra on shipping if you knew that you were making a HUGE positive impact, than buying something convenient at your local shop but it is likely adding to the problem? There are a lot of perspectives involved when you make these decisions, which is why I think a lot of people are not choosing to actively look for eco alternatives to everyday products!
There are lots of online shops which are great for buying eco-friendly house-hold products! I will link some examples below.
- Bower Collective – Refillable Products
- Ocean Saver – Refillable Cleaning Products
- Wearth London – Cotton Washable Shower Puffs
- Ecovibe – Compostable Sponges, Bamboo Scrubber Brush, Food Produce Bags
- Lush – Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
- Ecoffee – Reusable Coffee Cups
- Smol – Plastic Free Laundry Capsules
Use What You Already Have
Even though purchasing eco-friendly products is a really good idea, sometimes it is good to use what you already have. For example, if you have plastic Tupperware or lunch boxes, it would be better to keep using these products for as long as possible. Otherwise, if you decide to re-purchase all of your household products like these, you will be contributing to the existing problem. A good view to have is any new products you purchase or will in the future, make sure that they are planet-friendly.
Change Daily Habits
This is important when trying to reduce plastic waste daily. I would say one of the main causes of excessive plastic waste which many people would not think twice about, is buying lunch. I know that sounds weird but let me explain! Many of us working during the week might choose to buy a Meal Deal from a supermarket as a quick, easy option. Pretty much every option for Meal Deals or any other supermarket lunch is packaged in plastic. This is also the type of plastic or cardboard & plastic combination that is unable to be recycled due to contamination from the food. This is incredibly wasteful, especially if you imagine how many people buy these sorts of lunches every day! A good option is to prepare food at home and bring it in a lunch box. An easy way to do this is to make an extra portion of what you make for dinner the night before to take for lunch! I know this is easier said than done, but it is just about being conscious of the decisions we make and how every one affects our planet.
That’s all to get you started!
Hopefully, this has given you some insight into the need to reduce our plastic usage and give you some ideas for where you can start your zero-plastic journey. It is difficult, but there are loads of ways that we can all reduce our plastic use and educate each other on just how important it is.