12 Ways to Reduce your Plastic Footprint
In the last few months I’ve had a bit of a wake up call with regard to our use of single use plastics and hopefully you have too. Footage from Blue Planet II, Sky’s Ocean Rescue and Greenpeace, among others have highlighted the devastating impact that our throw away life styles have had and are continuing to have on our planet. Plastic is killing our marine life and birds and as it enters the food chain and our tap water we have yet to see what effect it will have on our health! It’s been predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish! Hence we need to do something about this now and not in 25 years which is the deadline the government announced recently.
So I thought I’d share 12 Ways to Reduce your Plastic Footprint while retailers and manufacturers get around to addressing the issue. It has to be said that there are some brands out there who are ahead of the game eg Iceland Foods and this not only makes sense for the planet but commercial sense too. Once companies feel a pinch in their pockets then I think they’ll get the message and take this problem seriously!
1. Speak Out
If you’re a loyal customer of a company that you feel could be doing better with regard to single use plastics then reach out to them. Last year I sent an e-mail to my local fish and chip shop when I saw the foam trays there were using were melting on contact with the fish and chips. At that point I have to admit that I was more worried about our own health so explained to the company that although I’d been a loyal customer for the past 20 years that I could no longer buy from them unless they changed to environmentally friendly packaging. I’m happy to say they took on board my comments and now use card trays. So imagine if we all just tackled one company, think of the huge impact this could have.
2. Avoid Plastic Food Packaging especially if it’s Black
Easier said than done, I know hence my first point! A lot of convenience meals and vegetables (particularly organic ones) are packed in black plastic trays which cannot be recycled so try to avoid these at all cost. But even plastic packaging and bottles that are recyclable should be avoided because much of what we put in our recycling bins is not getting recycled. China, who up until recently were taking half of all our plastic bottle waste to recycle have now put a stop to accepting any more so it begs the question, where will this plastic go now? Swap you pet food sachets for tins, your purse will thank you too. Plus buy your ice cream in card packaging and not plastic tubs. Finally cooking more from scratch and buying in bulk will also reduce your plastic footprint.
Think of ways to use your plastic waste before you throw it in the recycling bin! I use a lid from a tube of potato snacks that my son bought to cover an open tin of cat food. Another way to re-use plastic is to buy products that are made from recycled waste plastic bottles or fishing nets you can find anything from bedding to backpacks and footwear to road surfaces!
4. Ditch the Cling Film/Food Wrap
I have bought my last ever roll of cling film, it’s just too easy to reach out for and slap over whatever we need to cover. If you need to cover a bowl in the microwave or fridge then a plate works well. I have also discovered Bee’s Wrap which is re-usable and compostable and works by using the heat of your hand to form the wrap around your object, be it a cabbage or a bowl. It comes in a range of sizes and there’s even a sandwich wrap! Available from Amazon and John Lewis etc.
5. Stop using Tea Bags
I didn’t realise until late last year that teabags are sealed using polypropylene so until this practice stops I am switching to loose leaf tea. Even mesh tea bags are made of plastic, so best to avoid all tea bags right now. I do love the convenience of a tea bag and scooping out the tea leaves from a tea pot wore my patience very thin very as I didn’t want to clog up my sink. So after a bit of investigation I decided that the Oxo Twisting Tea Ball was the next best thing to a tea bag. You just scoop a small amount of loose leaf tea into the Tea Ball, twist it shut, pop into a mug and add your boiling water. Then when you’ve finished you just twist open the tea ball, pop the tea grounds in your compost bin or food caddy and give it a rinse under the tap (or it can go in the dishwasher). There is a glimmer of light on the horizon though as The Co-op plan to bring out polypropylene free Fairtrade tea bags by the end of the year.
6. Stop using Wipes
Did you know that wipes (kitchen, floor, toilet, facial, baby) are made of plastic and should never be flushed down the toilet. As they don’t decompose these wipes are also another culprit in polluting our planet so are to be avoided. I buy my daughter cotton wool make-up pads now for make-up removal and use washable cotton cloths for cleaning the kitchen. Paper towels are also a useful replacement which should be binned.
7. Don’t use Plastic Straws
I hold my hand up to this as I heard a long time ago that drinking though a straw saved you children’s teeth from the full impact of sugary or acid drinks. So although my children both have great teeth I wasn’t thinking about the planet and paper straws which were common when I was a kid just aren’t widely available. The good news is that there are now metal straws available like the ones from Klean Kanteen and I’ve even seen glass ones too.
8. Stop using Plastic Cups and Bottles
Carrying your own drinking vessel is not only a green option but will save you money in many high street coffee shops. A light weight insulated steel tumbler like this one from Klean Kanteen is great for hot or cold drinks. Plus by 2021 shops, cafes and businesses will offer free water refill points in every major city and town in England. Costa and Premier Inn (owned by Whitbread) have already signed up to the Water UK initiative and will be providing free water from March 2018. You can also check out www.Refill.org.uk who have a handy app to let you know where you can currently refill with free water. Bristol has led the way on this front with 200 refill points across the city including 2 drinking fountains. I can remember a drinking fountain in my local park as a kid, it would be great if councils reinstated these often neglected facilities!
9. Avoid plastic bags
All supermarkets provide plastic bags which they now charge for but don’t buy them. If you’re prone to forgetting to bring you own then keep a stash in your car or a couple of those handy fold away ones in your bag or pocket. The produce area encourages us to use those small plastic food bags but once again try to reuse the ones you have (sticking the price sticker on the produce is helpful here) or buy some eco-friendy produce bags. As a child our local green grocers only sold produce in paper bags so it would be good to see this happen again in supermarkets.
10. In the bathroom
So many products in the bathroom use single use plastics. For years I have bought pump dispenser soap but those days are over, it’s soap bars from now on! One of my readers on Facebook recently told me about solid shampoo & conditioner bars so this is also something I also want to try. If you use cotton buds make sure you don’t buy ones with plastic sticks. I’ve also read about bamboo toothbrushes but have yet to try one, if you have do leave a comment with your thoughts!
11. Go Green with Cleaning
Using less cleaning products and going back to traditional cleaning methods will cut down on plastic bottle consumption. Check out this article on 20 Old Fashioned Cleaning Tips that Work – I particularly like the drain cleaning tip and using a mixture of vinegar and water is something my mum always uses to clean her windows.
12. Avoid Glitter
Even if you aren’t buying glitter for your kids to craft with you will no doubt have bought glittery greetings card or gift wrap etc. Scientists want a ban on glitter as it is a micro plastic and just as dangerous as microbeads which have already been banned. So if your child’s nursery or school are using glitter then you need to inform them of the environmental impact and get them to teach the children about this issue too.
So this list is by no means exhaustive as I am at the start of my journey to combat single use plastic, but I’m hoping the manufacturers will hurry up and switch to eco friendly alternatives because they are out there! I’ve also started to think about other plastic items like chopping mats, last week I bought a new wooden one instead of a plastic one and man-made textiles are also on my radar since they shed fibres in our washing machines and pollute our tap water. Do let me know how you’re combating single use plastic. Finally remember people power, share this post and I’ll leave the last word to Sir David Attenborough!
NB: 12 Ways to Reduce your Plastic Footprint is not a sponsored post and all opinions are my own. Thank you to Oxo, Bee’s Wrap and Klean Kanteen for the their samples and many thanks to Greenpeace for the use of their images.
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