This July, there’s a Plastic Free Challenge going on. Launched in Western Australia but taking place all over the world, this is a chance to shine a light on the almost unfathomable amount of plastic we use and bin every single day.
Every Day Plastic
Think about it: most mornings your plastic alarm clock wakes you up and you jump in the shower, squeezing some shower gel, shampoo and conditioner out of plastic bottles. You splash on deodorant, moisturiser and make-up – more plastic.
You shake your breakfast cereal out of a plastic bag and splash on some milk from a plastic bottle. You brush your teeth with a plastic toothbrush, and head out for the day, maybe picking up a coffee in a plastic cup with a plastic lid.
“Why is this a problem?” you may ask. Well, when it comes to your alarm clock, which you use every day for years, it’s not a big deal.
The trouble with all of those single-use plastic items is that they take valuable resources to create, only to be used for mere hours, minutes, or even seconds before being chucked away. Yet plastic can take hundreds and hundreds of years to decompose.
That water bottle you’re drinking from? You won’t be around in the year 2300, but it most likely will be.
It’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Even though they’re not outnumbered yet, fish are inadvertently eating a lot of plastic. This means, when you tuck into your Friday night fish and chips, it ends up in you. So we’re polluting ourselves with plastic, along with the rest of the world.
Easy Plastic Swaps
Even if you recycle all the plastic you use, it’s far better for the planet to avoid using (or even creating) it in the first place. The good news is that there are some really easy ways to reduce the amount of plastic we use. Most of them will save you money too! Why not pick one of the plastic swaps to start with and see how you get on?
Takeaway Coffee Cups
If you need a flat white to get you going in the morning, I can relate. And if you’re not a morning person, you probably don’t want to spend time at home faffing about making coffee while you’re still half asleep.
Unfortunately though, most takeaway coffee cups are a blend of plastic and card. This means very few recycling facilities exist that can process them. Even compostable disposable cups are pretty useless if they end up in the bin rather than actually being composted.
The best thing is to grab yourself a Keep Cup. You can even design your own custom colour scheme, so you can look stylish while saving the planet. On top of that, some coffee shop chains – including Pret and Costa – give you money off your drink when you bring your own cup.
This one is a no-brainer. If you’re still paying 5p every time you need a bag, WHY?!
Grab a tote bag which you can squish up small in your handbag, backpack or jacket pocket so that you’re always prepared. The fantastic news is that plastic bag use in the UK has already dropped by more than 80% in the UK since the levy was introduced. And besides, the big supermarkets really don’t need any more of your money.
This one is a pet peeve of mine, just because my mind can’t fathom how many plastic bottles we get through in the UK. They seem to be everywhere you look.
Well, luckily someone with a better head for numbers than me worked it out. We get through about 35 million water and soft drink bottles a day (a day!), with Londoners being the worst offenders.
Grab yourself a refillable water bottle. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill or ending up in the sea, you will save A LOT of money. Fill up before you leave home, at the office, or at the gym. Some cafes and restaurants will even let you fill up if you ask nicely.
If you’re still using straws and you haven’t seen *that* turtle video, then it might make you rethink. (Warning: the video is distressing and not suitable for very young children. I couldn’t even bring myself to watch it again when writing this!) The chairman of a UK pub chain was so moved by it, that he now only gives customers straws if they request them, leading to a massive drop in plastic waste.
If you don’t need a straw, ask your server not to give you one when you place your order. If you love straws, think about getting cardboard ones that can be composted. Alternatively pick up reusable ones made from silicone or stainless steel.
Do It Yourself
Another great way to avoid packaging and save money is to DIY. Whether it’s growing herbs and salad at home, making your own hummus, taking a packed lunch to work or mixing your own beauty products, it all counts.
The less we buy from the shops and supermarkets, the less likely we are to incur plastic use all along the chain; in production, transportation and packaging. While it might take a little extra time and effort, it’s worth remembering that what seems inconvenient right now, may have a positive impact in the years to come.