Tips to reduce plastic waste – Part 1

Plastic pollution is all over the news at the moment. Whether it’s plastic bags choking a whale to death in Thailand, tiny plastic particles finding their way into our food, or non-recyclable plastic waste filling landfill sites all over the world.

Awareness is growing, but sometimes it can seem like using plastic is unavoidable. If you want to make a change, but don’t know where to start, here are some tips to help you reduce your environmental impact.

Reusable bottles and cups

It’s shocking to think that even most cardboard coffee cups are non-recyclable due to their plastic linings. Companies are finally starting to switch on to the damage that their products are causing to the environment, and many will now offer a discount for those that bring their own cup. Carrying a thermos mug or flask in your bag is a great way to still be able to get your morning caffeine hit, without worrying about where the rubbish is going to go.

Plastic bottles are also a big problem, but staying hydrated is one of the most important things that you can do for your health. Shops and restaurants will provide you with refills, and the insulating flask that keeps your coffee hot will also keep your water cool! Always having a bottle of water with you is something you get used to, whether it’s in your hand, bag, or even in your back pocket!

Plastic bottles can also have an impact on your health, with chemicals potentially leaching from the bottle into your drink. Having a glass or metal drinks bottle will be much better for you in the long run, so you can be healthy whilst also minimising your environmental impact.

Straws

Each year the UK uses 8,500,000,000 plastic straws. Each straw can take up to 200 years to break down, poisoning the oceans, polluting the air, and damaging wildlife.  

Carrying reusable straws with you wherever you go means that you can say no to a straw and reduce your environmental impact. Metal straws have the added benefit of looking stylish and our straws also come in a convenient linen bag, with a straw cleaner included. Shop here!

Metal straws in linen bag with straw cleaner

Plastic bags

Since the introduction of the plastic bag charge in the UK, there has been a noticeable decrease in single use bag waste, but plastic bags are still one of the most common waste articles found in the oceans. Using supermarket bought ‘bags for life’ or reusing plastic bags bought previously is a step in the right direction. Reusing plastics isn’t as eco-friendly as moving away from them all together, but using a single use bag nine or ten times has already saved that amount of extra bags!

Canvas tote bags can be even better, and many will pack down small so that you can keep them with you at all times. Have one rolled tight in your handbag or rucksack, or folded in your back pocket, and you’ll never be caught short at the shops!

Reducing food packaging

Supermarkets are filled with plastic, prepacked vegetables, the multiple layers on ready-meals, not to mention all the bottles and plastic lined cartons. Carrying your own bags and containers is one way to do this, and I’ll speak about the increase in zero-waste stores in a future blog.

Sometimes it isn’t practical to get to one of these though, so it’s important to minimise the waste at the market or supermarket. Most stores will have paper bags (often found near the mushrooms) even if it seems like all the bags are plastic at first glance. Even better is taking your veggies loose, then packing them into a tote at the checkout.

The same goes for the deli section of the store. If you provide your own packaging you’ll reduce the plastic pots that are used, or ask them to wrap the produce in paper, like old fashioned fish and chips. The added benefit is that freed of the plastic wrapping, all of your produce is less likely to sweat, and will taste fresher when you get it home.

Reusing food packaging

It can be hard to find plastic free containers for some food. Even cartons tend to have a plastic lining. Trying to go for the options that are cardboard or glass packed is the obvious way to go, as these can be recycled or reused easily, but this isn’t always possible. If you have plastic pots or jars then you can use them to store leftovers. Reusing is at least extending the life of the packaging, and keeping it out of the landfill. Even if the plastic in question is recyclable, reusing it is still an environmentally sound choice as it reduces the amount of processing required. The same goes for takeaway containers. Go plastic free where possible, but sometimes it is beyond your control and that’s OK. You can still help to make a difference by reusing as much as possible. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

More tips to follow in part 2! 

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