There’s nothing more heart warming than having someone reach out to me saying that they “want to help but just don’t know how”. As with most journeys in life, taking the first leap of faith can often seem like the hardest part; the first press up, the first page, the first bake. The world of plastic can seem daunting, if not a little terrifying, but I’m here to help. In the spirit of #PlasticFreeJuly, I’ve put together a list of ten top tips to help you reach your goal from the comfort of your home….
- Reusable shopping bags
Now an accustomed part of our lives, the 5 pence charge for plastic bags was introduced in England in October 2015. It was announced last July (2019) that since the charge had been introduced, the UK’s seven largest supermarket chains had already seen a 90% reduction in plastic bag usage! That’s an incredible achievement for a tiny island, but it doesn’t stop there.
The 5p charge isn’t always enough to stop people grabbing a couple for ease at the checkout and often we mearly forget to bring reusable ones with us.
It may sound simple, but make sure to always carry a reusable bag with you and make it a habit. There are endless reusable options nowadays and bags so small you can fit them in your pockets. Keep them by your shoes, next to your purse or on the back of your front door… make it impossible to leave the house without one! It’s also a great idea to stock some in your car so that the option is always there.
2. Plastic wrapped groceries
Due to air miles, transportation and hygiene, a lot of supermarket fruit and veg ends up packaged in unnecessary plastic wrapping (you only need to take a look at @pointless_packaging to realise the stupidity of it all). Yet fruit and veg comes in its own natural wrapping, so why do we bother?
Shopping at your local farm shop or market not only supports local business and cuts out highly pollutant air miles, it also means you can shop more plastic free produce. Or even better, grow your own…
3. Grocery bags
Sticking to the theme of fruit and veg, you may find yourself reaching for the small plastic bags provided in the aisles to collect your produce. But, as with your 5p shopping bags, these also produce a huge plastic waste problem that needs our attention.
It’s important to be aware that in many cases you actually don’t need a plastic bag at all. When you’re on your next shop take some time to notice how few groceries need to be bagged, you’ll be surprised.
Recently you may have also noticed that supermarkets have started providing reusable veg bags to buy there and then from the aisle, though you can also get these online or from local zero waste shops. This is a really important investment worth making to help reduce your ‘plastic footprint’. If you’re feeling crafty you can also make your own from unwanted clothes or fabric around the house!
4. Six Packs
Tinned produce and cans often come wrapped in a series of conjoined plastic rings which, though small, has been seen to have drastic affects on the world’s wildlife. In fact, almost 700 species are known to be impacted by the 6-pack ring every year. Animals such as turtles and seals can become entwined in the rings and suffocate or become injured.
Other than avoiding the plastic rings entirely, an easy way to help fight this battle is to make sure you cut through the rings before throwing them out. It’s a simple trick that could save thousands of lives.
5. Plastic bottles
It’s no secret that the plastic bottle is one of the biggest pollutants on the planet. Scarily, according to Surfers against Sewage, 150 plastic bottles cover each mile of UK beaches on average. Yet the plastic bottle is also one of the easiest to avoid.
By investing in a reusable bottle you not only save our fragile beaches and marine life from pollution, you also save yourself a heap of money. An article on Earthday.org even suggested that the average American buys an average of 167 disposable plastic water bottles, costing around $266, a year. Whereas a reusable bottle that will last you decades could cost you just $12.
6. Plastic picnics
There’s nothing better than spending a summer day indulging in a picnic with your friends. But the handy meal deal or take out grub comes with a heavy price for plastic pollutants with culprits including straws, cutlery and plastic pots.
There are many ways to swap to more sustainable picnic. A simple start is to cut down on this impact think about investing in some durable and re-usable utensils such as pocket sized cutlery or washable straws. As well as this, aim to only buy food with recyclable packing or better yet, make your own at home and take containers!
The popular duo coloured sponge or jay cloth has been a welcomed guest in many UK homes. But did you know that these products are often found on our beaches? Worse still, they can release tiny micro plastics and chemicals into our sewage systems that also end up in our precious oceans, harming marine habitats and species.
To avoid this, look at buying natural sponges and cleaning products such as loofahs… you can even follow in the footsteps of the staff at Knightshayes in Devon and grow your own! As well, upcycle old clothing, fabric or towels into washable and reusable cloths. From my own experience, I can vouch that the natural sponges work much better anyway and last twice as long...
8. Toothbrush Troubles
The plastic tooth brush is one of the most common items to wash up on our shores. As an item that most people around the world use, millions are disposed every single year with the potential to cause environmental harm.
Next time you look to buy a new toothbrush, think about changing to one made from natural materials such as wood. With these you can remove the bristles when disposing and guarantee that the base will biodegrade and avoid harm.
9. Food containers
It’s become a lazy habit to use sandwich bags and other disposable means to carry food. But much like the common shopping bag, these add yet more waste to our environment.
To avoid further destruction, remove sandwich bags from your shopping list entirely and invest in longer lasting food containers and washable zip lock bags. Also, hold onto containers that naturally make their way into your home.
10. Single use razors
The age of cheap single use plastic razors means that around 2 billion razors are thrown away every year. Many of these end up in our oceans and washed up on our beaches, becoming a dangerous hazard for the environment.
The best way to avoid this is to invest in a lifelong safety razor; a product that’s actually been around for a far longer time than the modern day plastic razor. With these you can change the blades continuously and never have to worry about throwing the base out.
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest threats to our modern world and it’s inhabitants, causing issues in all levels of society and habitats. But there are easy changes to be made that will in turn put us on the right track to a safer planet. I hope these tips help you understand ways that you can help as an individual; look to make new healthy habits in your routine and cut the demand for plastic giants… embrace #PlasticFreeJuly.
Let me know your thoughts or any other advice for people reading in the comments below…