Plastic pollution has been hitting headlines across the globe for years but has become a major talking point ever since the BBC released Blue Planet II. Fronted by Sir David Attenborough, this documentary series highlighted the beauty of the oceans alongside the damage that plastic waste is doing to our global oceanic ecosystem. Every year 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally and, on average, 55% of this is discarded to landfill and only 20% is recycled.
There are several ways to reduce your plastic impact quickly and easily, which will also help you save some money in the long term.
Carry a reusable bottle
Every day, over 35 million plastic bottles are used in the UK but only around 20 million of these are recycled. To cut down on this unnecessary waste, always carry a reusable water bottle with you, and ensure that any plastic bottles you do buy go into a recycling bin. There are also ways to avoid plastic bottles in the home for products such as laundry detergent and dish soap. Our friends at Method produce refill pouches that cut down on plastic and associated emissions you use. Shops like zero waste supermarkets also allow you to refill your own containers, helping to make that extra saving!
Get a reusable travel mug
Travelling with your own mug will cut the cost of your takeaway drinks and reduce the 2.5 billion coffee cups that are thrown away every year in the UK. Several alternatives are available. Our favourite is the KeepCup, which is leak-free, break-free, reasonably priced, colourful(!) and keeps your drinks warm for hours.
Don’t use plastic bags
1 trillion (1,000,000,000,000!) plastic bags are made every year. These end up in landfills, oceans and everywhere in between. Although tote bag alternatives create up to 327 times more carbon emissions in the production process, they are durable and waste free and will therefore be better for the environment in the long run. Any plastic bags you have left at home can be taken to larger supermarkets with recycling points or they can be reused - just don’t throw them away!
Say no to straws & stirrers
Thanks to widespread media coverage, plastic straws have now been widely rejected across the UK, but wasteful paper alternatives are now being used. Most businesses give out straws whether you ask for one or not, but most of us don’t really need them. However, if you want or need to use a straw, buy yourself some reusable ones that you can carry around with you. Some even fold away and can be kept on your key ring. When you find yourself needing to use a stirrer, make sure to avoid the plastic ones when there are now bamboo and other biodegradable (or reusable) alternatives available.
Dispose your cigarettes carefully
Over 1 billion smokers across the globe cause trillions of cigarette butts and even unused filters to be improperly discarded. These are strewn across our pavements, roads, parks and other public spaces. Each cigarette filter contains chemicals that stop smokers from inhaling harmful chemicals in the cigarettes they are smoking, but these are extremely damaging in their own way. On top of this, the leftover tobacco in every cigarette butt is also poisonous, making each butt potentially lethal to the environment they are left in. If you are a smoker, please make sure you put your finished cigarettes in the many provided bins.
Ditch the cling film
More than 1.2 billion meters (that’s about 745,000 miles) of cling film is used by households across the UK every year – enough to go around the circumference of the planet 30 times over. Cut down on this by using alternatives such as recyclable foil, reusable tupperware or beeswax wrap. You can order this wrap online, find it in a variety of forward-thinking shops and you can even make some at home. Find out how here!
Cut down on packaging
Almost everything we buy comes in some sort of packaging but now there are more and more alternatives that mean you can leave plastic behind. The best places to avoid packing are at your local shops such as greengrocers, butchers, cheesemongers, fishmongers and zero-waste supermarkets, where you can fill up your own containers with the products you need.
After cigarettes, chewing gum is the most commonly littered item on the planet. Most gum is made from synthetic polymer plastic that will stay on the streets and other environments for years after it is spat out. It is very damaging to the animals that later ingest it and it is also expensive for local authorities to remove it from our streets. There are companies that produce biodegradable varieties of chewing gum in the UK, such as Simply Gum, whose products are 100% natural and plastic free.