Three ideas to reduce plastic waste

Guy Lipman
Aug 8 · 2 min read

As a fairly recent adoptee of a reusable water bottle and coffee cup, I’ve been impressed by how much money these have saved me, as well as reducing my plastic waste. They have also got me thinking about how we can encourage more people to make the switch. This post makes three suggestions, in the hope that might encourage people to think along these lines and work to bring about solutions like these.

Please note, I’m fairly open-minded about the extent to which governments should legislate to change how people do things — I can see that there are times when legislation makes a big positive difference, and there are times when individual needs vary significantly and a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work so well. I’m also not suggesting that plastic waste is the only problem worth thinking about, or that everyone other changes aren’t required to put our lives on a sustainable path.

Second hand reusable containers

The environmental benefit and cost savings of reusable water bottles and coffee cups is lost if they aren’t used often. I sometimes find myself somewhere, temporarily without my reusable coffee cup, and so forced to use a disposable one.

I’d therefore like the ability to buy a second hand reusable water bottle or coffee cup, or to sell ones I have but don’t regularly use. I’m envisaging an organisation that would buy second hand coffee cups, thoroughly clean them, and resell them at a considerable discount to new ones. It might that some bottles or cups are too flimsy to clean properly, but I suspect enough of them are, and if this encourages take-up of better ones, so much the better.

Along similar lines, I’d like to see a market for second hand ‘bags for life’. There are enough bags for life out there, I’d like to see stores no longer needing to sell new ones.

Cheaper drinks for people with reusable containers

Some cafes are already starting to provide a discount for customers with their own cups, which is great — Pret in the UK offer a massive £0.50 discount if you have your own cup. I’d like to see this happening in more places. Water fountains should be in more places. Also, why can’t we have more places that sell you soft drinks and juice into your water bottle at a significant discount to buying plastic bottles of soft drinks.

Cheaper food for people with reusable containers

A lot of food comes in disposable packaging — both takeaway/delivery and ready-meals from supermarkets. It would be great to see restaurants or market stalls that gave discounts if you brought along your own container.

Fascinated by what makes societies and markets work. Undertaking a PhD in sustainable energy at UCL. http://guylipman.com.

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