Given that the Earth is now in a Climate Emergency, cutting down on plastics has never been more urgent. Rather than trying to recycle them, we should be aiming to reduce the amount of plastic that we produce and use.
The BBC’s “War On Plastic” showed us just how much plastic waste is in our homes – approximately 19.5 billion pieces of single-use plastic sit in the UK at any one time. This is in the clothes we wear, the water we drink and the air we breathe. A recent study showed that the average person is inhaling a credit-card worth of plastic each week. Unfortunately the phenomenon does not yet have enough research to determine the impact that these tiny fibres of plastic, or microplastics, have on human health. What we can assume, however, is that they are not good for us.
I’ve put together some handy alternatives to help you make the transition into a plastic-free lifestyle.
Instead of bagged fruits and vegetables, try loose fruits and vegetables
This may seem obvious, but many people are buying either fresh fruit and veg in bags, or using the plastic bags provided to keep their veggies separate. This is partly because the supermarkets encourage plastic bagging by making these items cheaper (shame on you, Sainsburys!) but also because consumers feel compelled to bag up their fruit and veg. My advice? Leave it loose – you’ll still wash it when you get home! Otherwise, try small canvas or paper bags instead.
Instead of bagged herbs, try potted herbs and spices
You’ll get far more for your money this way, and a living, breathing plant that will help reduce CO2 in the atmosphere. Plus fresh herbs whenever you want!
Instead of the supermarket, try meat and fish from a local butcher/fishmonger
They will often use paper rather than plastic to wrap up their wares. You’ll also be supporting local businesses and contributing to British farming, rather than supporting overseas imports, which carry a high carbon price tag.
Instead of plastic milk bottles, try a local milkman
Milk delivered in reusable glass bottles, right to your door. What’s not to love? You can find yours here
Instead of plastic, try reusable bottles and cups
There has been a huge increase in the number of water-refill stations throughout cities, so now is a great time to invest in a metal water bottle to keep with you wherever you go. If you think it’s likely that you’ll be having a takeaway coffee at any point, a reusable cup is another great tool. These can even be collapsible to take up as little space as possible, and many coffee shops, like Costa, will even offer a discount to encourage consumers to use reusable cups.
Instead of single-use wipes, try cloths and flannels
Microfibre cloths are a great way to clean the kitchen surfaces, floors and even bathrooms (obviously not the same one for each of these!). They are designed to pick up dust and dirt, without the use of chemicals – just add water!
Instead of make-up wipes, try coconut oil
Instead of bottled soaps and shampoos, try bars
Lush have some great soap, shampoo and conditioner bars which are all natural and ethically sourced. They also smell great and last just as long, if not longer, than liquid soaps. Lush also have a great packaging recycling scheme.
Instead of buying clothes, try not to
Fast fashion is another big producer of plastic, as many of your clothes will contain plastic in the form of polyester. These microfibres are coming out in the wash and entering our waterways, contaminating supplies and entering the food chain through smaller creatures. The best thing you can do is make an effort to reduce the volume of clothes you buy, ideally to only local and sustainable stores.
While some supermarkets are slowly waking up to the fact that this is an important issue that needs to be tackled, most of them are moving too slowly. Radical action is needed, and it’s needed now. So thanks, Waitrose, for your one plastic-free store. Can we roll this out across the entire country now please?
It’s hard work to make the change, but once you do, you’ll be making a tangible contribution to the environment, and may even save money by buying reusable items, rather than things that will be thrown away after a single use. And you’ll probably become the eco-warrior of your friends and family, with all of them asking how they can reduce their plastic waste too!