Why you should reduce your plastic waste

The world’s consumption of single-use plastic is slowly killing our earth. If you have seen Blue Planet you will have been shown the detrimental effect the use of plastic bags and bottles has had on marine life: up to 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean each year. Creatures become entangled in it, they eat it, and ultimately this all becomes fatal as they are exposed to chemicals which are toxic for them.

We can all think that we are doing our bit, that we recycle the plastic our council allows us to, but that really is not enough. Only 9% of the plastic ever created has been recycled, therefore 91% of all produced plastic is sat in landfill and oceans killing animals, and causing climate change. Plastic use causes climate change, its production increases the use of fossil fuels and increases our carbon footprint; and if you’re a climate change denier, then I’m sorry but you only have to look at the weather this year to see the affect of global warming -snow in March followed by an intense long heatwave to see that climate change is real, and our plastic use is real.

We want to provide a world which is safe and healthy for our future generations, yet we are risking that for cheap, short term fix which plastic provides. We will not be here in 400 years time when the first plastics begin to decay, but we do not want to leave a world to generations which is similar to the world portrayed in Pixar’s Wall-e. Yet it can be hard, and most of us do not know where to start, due to capitalism and the need for convenience we have become use to the idea that milk has to come in a plastic bottle, or that tea; biscuits and plastic have to be wrapped in plastic, yet they do not. So here are five tips for becoming a plastic warrior.

1) Buy a reusable bottle, and coffee cup

Reusable bottles and coffee cups are great. Often they save you money as cafes such as Pret and Costa will give you free refills of water and offer discounts for hot drinks when you use a reusable cup. It is great for both the environment and your bank account! I highly recommend stainless steel water bottles -they keep your drink cold for 24 hours, and can be picked up cheaply on Amazon, as can travel mugs.

2) Use shampoo and conditioner bars

This is mainly one for women, shampoo and conditioner bars are great. They are perfect for travellimg, last for ages and make your hair super soft. The best thing about them is that there is no plastic involved, meaning you can wash your hair guilt free! They are a bit pricey initially, however they last way longer than shampoo and conditioner bottles so they are cost-effective! I highly recommend the ones from Lush as they are also cruelty free!

3) Take bags with you to the shops

This is such an easy way to reduce plastic use. One of the biggest ocean polluters is plastic bags, and here in the UK we are charged 5p for each plastic bag we get from stores. Since the Government introduced this in October 2015 9 billion less bags are used per year. This is amazing, and the Government are looking to better this by increasing the charge to 10p, to deter more bag purchases. Keeping a fold-able bag in your bag saves you the charge, and also minimises plastic use. They are great for staying one step ahead of the government as well, and are so compact they won’t take up much space. They can be bought from most shops.

4) Use your own bags for fruit and veg

This is also a great way of reducing plastic waste, as fruit and veg are always wrapped in plastic, or you have to use plastic bags to buy individual fruit and veg. Unwrapped produce is often cheaper, which is often a good incentive to buy individual portions, and you can limit plastic waste further by scrapping the plastic bags provided by supermarkets by using your own bags, or not using bags at all (because do you really need one?). Or if you must use a bag, buy your veg from Morrison’s where they now offer biodegradable plastic bags – a win win.

5) Ditch the straw

Finally, ditch the straw. You don’t really need a straw to drink a drink, even when out, so say no to them. The littlest things like plastic straws can be big polluters. Let’s face it, paper straws are not the best alternative, but they’re a start. Yet why not just drink a drink without one, it will not kill you (hopefully). Alternatively, if you must drink from a straw, buy a metal one which you can reuse as many times as you want; without killing any little fish.

I’m not perfect at any of this, I still forget to take a bag sometimes, or buy a bottled drink as its more convenient occassionally, but by making small lifestyle changes I am impacting plastic waste levels. None of us want to leave the world that is unfit for future generations, but if we do not make changes to our lifestyle soon we will. We need to look at the bigger picture, because it will be worth it, and you know, quite often our bank accounts may thank us for it.

Photo Credit: Wasteless Futures.