It is becoming increasing clear just how much damage plastic is doing to our planet and that we need to reduce plastic waste and plastic pollution as an urgent priority. Plastic pollutes our oceans, kills wildlife, enters our food chain and piles up in landfills where it will take hundreds of years to decompose. Plastic particles have even been found falling with snow in the Arctic.
The problem is so big you may think there is nothing you can do about it but that’s not the case. We can all help to reduce plastic waste by making some small lifestyle changes. Here are some simple tips that can help you to reduce plastic waste and pollution.
Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste and Plastic Pollution
1. Stop Drinking Bottled Water
In the UK we plow through 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year. For something we can readily get from a tap that is a lot of plastic and a huge expense as well. Research has also found that more than 90% of bottled water brands contained micro plastic contamination. So every bottle you drink means you are consuming plastic. Switching to a reusable water bottle is a simple way to reduce plastic waste. With each bottle also taking 400 years to decompose this small change has a massive impact on waste and plastic pollution.
2. Ditch The Meal Deals
If you are used to grabbing a quick lunch meal deal on the go then you are also consuming a lot of single use plastic. Sandwich packaging, drinks bottles, crisp bags and those little boxes of fruit are all sources of plastic waste. Our convenience culture has let single use plastic run riot but a little preparation is all we need to fix it. Bringing your own lunch in a reusable box is often healthier, cheaper and much more environmentally friendly. A metal lunch box or one made from plant fibre is a great sustainable option for lunch on the go.
3. Refuse Plastic Straws
Unless you are a child you probably don’t need to be drinking through a straw. We use nearly 5 billion plastic straws every year in England although their use is to be restricted under new single use plastic bans. If you really need to use a straw then get a reusable one and carry it with you. Stainless steel and bamboo straws are a great alternative to plastic ones.
4. Stop Using Disposable Coffee Cups
The growth of cafe culture and coffee popularity has created a huge demand for takeaway coffee cups. In fact, we use 7 million disposable coffee cups a day in the UK. These are lined with plastic though which makes them difficult to recycle meaning only 0.25% of our used cups end up getting recycled. The easiest way to reduce plastic waste from our takeaway coffee cups is to switch to a reusable one instead. Our reusable bamboo coffee cups are the perfect sustainable alternative to disposable cups.
5. Choose Packaging Free Fruit and Vegetables
Nature is a master of packaging. She made skins for her fruit and vegetables to protect them and help keep them fresh. But we decided that we also needed to wrap these fruit and vegetables in plastic to preserve them. It’s simply not necessary and is a huge source of plastic waste that contributes to plastic pollution.
Thankfully we’re beginning to see a move away from this with Morrisons being the first UK supermarket to ban plastic packaging from fruit and vegetables. There are also lots of zero waste shops popping up that offer local produce packaging free. Try searching to see if there is one near you. So skipping the packaged fruit and vegetables is a pretty easy way to reduce plastic waste.
6. Don’t Use Plastic Cutlery
Plastic cutlery are one of the ten most common forms of plastic pollution found on our beaches. The EU is set to ban plastic cutlery in response to this but we’re yet to follow suit in the UK. Politely refusing disposable plastic cutlery is an easy way to reduce plastic waste. If you travel regularly it might also be worthwhile investing in a bamboo cutlery travel set. You can easily carry it with you making it simple to refuse plastic cutlery.
7. Get Your Milk Delivered
Do you remember the days when you used to get up in the morning and your milk was sitting there waiting for you? When the ultra silent electric milk floats would glide around noiselessly collecting empty glass milk bottles to reuse and depositing new ones? Well those days aren’t gone because you can still find many dairies that will deliver your milk just like that. So there is no need for disposable plastic milk bottles. Why not go back to the future and get your milk delivered again? It will make a big contribution to reduce plastic waste.
8. Switch From Plastic Bags
A lot of people have already made the switch from plastic bags to reusable bags for life but if you haven’t then this is an easy way to reduce plastic waste. If you have switched make sure you always have reusable bags handy for those unplanned shopping trips. The easiest way to do this is to keep some in your car boot. If you do have any plastic bags lying around don’t just throw them away as they can be recycled at many supermarkets.
9. Quit Tea Bags
In a similar way to disposable coffee cups many tea bags use polypropylene, a form of sealing plastic, to hold them together when wet. Polypropylene can’t be recycled and isn’t biodegradable which means your used tea bags create plastic pollution even if you compost them or put them in your food waste. Some brands like Pukka Herbs use tea bags that don’t contain plastic but the most reliable option is to go for loose leaf tea.
10. Dial Down the Glitter
You might think glitter is just a bit of fun to add sparkle to a night out or kids birthday party but it has a dark secret. Most glitter is made from plastic and is so small that it is already a microplastic. These are particularly harmful to our environment. Glitter often ends up in our oceans before being consumed by plankton, fish and birds. So it eventually ends up working its way into our food chain. Switching to biodegradable glitter for your next sparkly night out or craft session is a good way to reduce plastic waste.
11. Choose Sustainable Toys
If you have children you are probably more than familiar with the mountain of plastic toys that can quickly accumulate in your home. With the short attention spans of our kids toys can also become forgotten about very quickly too. It is easy to amass a collection of moulded plastic that barely even gets used.
There are a few ways to overcome this and reduce plastic waste from toys. Firstly, try to avoid buying new toys and instead swap them with other parents or buy from second hand shops. You can also donate or sell any unwanted toys you have. If you do need to buy new then consider toys that are made sustainably. Green Toys use recycled plastic milk bottles to make a whole range of things from fire engines to submarines, planes and ferries. Wooden toys can also be a great eco friendly option too but make sure that the wood used is sustainably sourced.
12. Stop Chewing Gum
In the UK we are the second largest consumers of gum in the entire world. However, did you know that the vast majority of chewing gum uses a plastic base? Suddenly that little stick of minty freshness doesn’t seem quite so appealing! So do you need to stop chewing gum altogether to reduce plastic waste? Fortunately, the answer is no as a few innovative brands like Chewsy and Glee use as natural gum base called chicle made from tree sap.
13. Get Rid of Liquid Soap and Shampoo
It is pretty rare to see a bar of soap in someone’s bathroom or kitchen these days. Instead little plastic bottles of liquid soap have taken their place. The same goes for shampoo. Another innovation where we’ve taken a perfectly good solution and added an extra layer of packaging and waste. So winding the clock back and using good old fashioned bars of soap and shampoo bars is an easy way to reduce plastic waste from empty plastic bottles. They also last longer so they can save you money too.
14. Ditch Your Plastic Toothbrush
The average person uses around 300 toothbrushes in their lifetime and about 80% of them end up polluting our oceans. Across the world we plow through 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes a year and each brush can take up to a thousand years to decompose. So ditching your plastic toothbrush is an easy way to reduce plastic waste and pollution. Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is a great alternative.
15. No More Cling Film
Cling film is a major form of plastic waste as it is only single use and is difficult to recycle. Foil is a more sustainable alternative as it can be recycled but even better are beeswax wraps which are reusable. They are also compostable and biodegradable meaning they can be sustainably disposed of at the end of their life.
Bonus: Even More Ways To Reduce Plastic Waste
These tips are a great place to start but if you are interested in even more ways to reduce plastic waste and plastic pollution then you’ll love our post on 30 Eco-friendly Bamboo Products to Reduce Plastic Use.