How to reduce your plastic waste
Plastic is everywhere, it has devastating effects on our earth and gets into our food through the fish we eat. Cut back your waste with these tips.
Plastic is a wonder material but its strength is also what makes it so disastrous for our world. Plastics are everywhere, and yes, they have done enormous good for us, they have revolutionised healthcare with life-saving devices, save lives with helmets, incubators and equipment for clean water, and even made space travel possible; but the conveniences of plastic have led to a throw-away culture. Every year, about 8 million tons of plastic waste escapes into the oceans from coastal nations. To help visualise the size of this, it is equivalent to five rubbish bags full of garbage placed on every foot of coastline around the world. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish!
So anyway, plastic is bad. Many – and not just the hard-nosed environmentalists – are worried about the effects of plastic pollution; thankfully this is causing the supermarkets and governments to start taking the issue more seriously.
How can you make a difference?
Plastic is a big problem, bigger than the individual so don’t panic, it’s not all on you but you can do your bit for the environment. If everyone practised the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, and – failing that – Recycle; we would see a drastic drop in plastic pollution.
Surely we should avoid all plastic, why is this only Reduce? Because in reality unless you drastically change the way you live it is not possible to completely avoid all plastic (companies sneak plastic into all sorts of places you wouldn’t expect), however, it is possible to cut back from where you are right now and keep making those progressive steps.
I took one of these steps when I joined the Plastic Free July challenge. The main plastic in my life that I focused on removing was pre-packed bread. In a family with two kids, we get through a lot of bread and all of it came in plastic bags, and yes there are lots of ways to reuse the bags but was determined to remove them entirely.
My plan of attack was to kindle my inner Paul Hollywood and start making as much of my own bread as possible, I even joined the sourdough craze and created my own sourdough starter (it’s called Tod). As well as your standard loaf, sourdough makes amazing pizzas especially when cooked in your own DIY brick pizza oven, and sourdough pancakes are a real hit with the kids. When life invariably got in the way of my baking prowess, I’d use the local baker and take along my own container.
I’ve managed to keep it up beyond July and continued to look for more things to reduce, here are some of the other things I’ve done to reduce the single-use plastic in my life:
- Grown my own fruit and vegetables
- Shopped at zero-waste shops where I could – these aren’t everywhere yet but more are popping more and with supermarkets taking the problem more seriously I hope they will do more loose food and provide plastic-free options.
- Started buying loose leaf tea – I didn’t realise that many teabags contain plastic
- Started using silicone stretch lids and DIY Beeswax Wraps instead of cling film
I’d love to hear your ideas for reducing plastic in your life.
This is an easy one, just reuse everything as much as possible. By getting a little creative you can find a use for almost anything:
- bread bags make good piping bags or use them to put your lunch in
- old fast food containers are perfect for storing left overs, and look for biodegradable cling film
- reuse shopping bags, they don’t have to be bags for life for you to reuse them
- 10 creative ways to reuse plastic
- 20 genious ways to reuse plastic bottles
Don’t get me wrong, recycling is better than just dumping the plastic but this should be the last resort. It takes energy to turn it into something else and depending on what is being made will require virgin plastic to improve the quality of the final product.
Here are some ideas to help with recycling:
- Look for producst with recyclable packaging, unfortunately it is not possible to recycle all packaging.
- If you think an item has used excess packaging, complain about it via the shop you bought it in and manufacturers. Consumers have some much power now with the use of twitter and other social media.
- Check on the website of your local waste company to be sure you are recycling everything you can.
- Recycle soft plastic such as carrier bags and bread bags – many supermarkets have recycling facilities like this.
What else do you do to reduce, reuse, and recycle your plastic waste? Leave a comment below.