Get Started With Reducing Your Plastic Waste Today
10 simple swaps to reduce your personal plastic waste
Plastic only became a commonly used material in the 1950s, but since then we’ve managed to produce over 8 billion tons of it. Plastic takes at least 400 years to break down, and even then it only becomes small pieces of ‘microplastic’ — it can never biodegrade. That means that all 8 billion tons of plastic produced are still on our planet somewhere. And we’re still producing more and more plastic today.
The proliferation of plastic on our planet is a problem for the environment, littering our public spaces and wreaking havoc with marine life in our oceans. It’s also an issue for human health, seeping into the water system and into our stomachs. So what can we do about our plastic pollution problem on an individual level?
In this post I’ll cover ten easy ways that you can get started with reducing your own plastic usage today.
1. Swap plastic bottles of water for a reusable bottle
In the UK around 38.5 million drinks in plastic bottles are bought every year, with only half of these ever getting recycled. Per person, we use an average of 205 plastic drinks bottles per year.
By getting yourself a reusable bottle you can bring this down to zero (or near enough) — there are lots of brilliant options but we’d recommend opting for a stainless steel bottle which will last a lifetime.
2. Swap the supermarket for a farmers market
Supermarkets are notoriously bad for plastic packaging. Do we really need the convenience of pre-chopped onions in a plastic box? Do cucumbers really need a plastic sheath to protect them from damage?
Do a little research into the local farmers markets in your area, and try a different style of shopping. You’ll also be supporting local businesses.
If you happen to live in this Oxford area, take a look at this post on shopping plastic-free in Oxford, which includes a list of markets.
3. Swap teabags for loose leaf tea
Did you know that most teabags have a plastic lining? This means they aren’t biodegradable, and so even if you religiously pop them in your compost bin, they won’t be able to break down.
There are a couple of brands which offer plastic-free teabags, including Pukka and Teapigs. But instead, you could opt for loose leaf tea. You can buy it unpackaged in local shops, markets, or even Whittards.
4. Swap your daily meal deal for a homemade lunch
If you’re someone who often grabs lunch on the go, try making your lunch ahead instead. Make a double portion for dinner and take the leftovers for lunch the next day, or make a big batch of something on a Sunday for your lunches during the week. An added bonus is that you’ll save money as well!
5. Swap bottles of shampoo for solid bars
The bathroom is a major contributor to our personal plastic waste, with most toiletries coming packaged in plastic bottles. Cut down your bathroom waste by choosing solid bars of shampoo and soap instead of bottles of liquid.
You’ll usually be able to find locally produced soap bars in your local market or independent shops. You could also try Lush for an easily accessible high street option.
6. Swap online shopping for in-person
Much as shopping online is convenient, it can also leave you piling up stacks of bubble wrap and sellotape. Try and find what you need in a local shop instead of shopping online — you’ll also be supporting your local economy and reducing transportation miles at the same time.
7. Swap plastic bags for a reusable bag
In the UK it will now cost you 5p for a plastic bag when you do your shopping, and that plastic bag will be sticking around on the planet for life (literally ‘bags for life’). So, it makes sense to opt for reusable bags instead.
If you usually take your shopping home in plastic bags, pop a reusable bag in the bag you usually use for shopping instead, so that you never need to get a new plastic bag again.
8. Swap takeaways for eating out
Are takeaways your weakness? Cooking from scratch is always the best option, but if you find yourself craving a takeaway then why not go the whole hog and eat out at a restaurant or cafe instead. It feels like more of a treat, plus you’ll skip all those plastic trays.
9. Swap disposable coffee cups for a reusable cup
If you often make a stop at Starbucks for a coffee on your way to work it’s worth investing in a reusable cup. Disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic, and we currently have no facilities in the UK which can recycle them. Plus, lots of coffee shops will give you money off if you bring your own cup — Pret a Manger will take 50p off your drink if you take your reusable cup.
10. Swap your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one
If you throw away a plastic toothbrush it can’t be recycled, and so it’s destined for landfill or to be washed up on a beach far away. Bamboo is biodegradable and compostable, so it’s a much better choice for the environment.