Something that many of us have been asking ourselves is just how to go plastic-free.
Thankfully Caroline Jones, author of How to Go Plastic-Free* (affiliate link) which has recently been published through Carlton Books, is here today. She has a great guest post on some of the ways that she is going plastic-free, as well as some great ideas for us.
Take it away Caroline!
My New Year’s resolution this year – and one I hope to keep going long past January – has been to try extra hard to cut down on my plastic waste. Having spent a big chunk of last year researching and writing my book entitled: How to Go Plastic-Free, I realised that even though I’m an avid recycler and plastic avoider, there’s still a lot more I could be doing to make a difference.
But what’s the problem with plastic?
Over the last 100 years, global plastic usage has grown from zero to the point where humanity now produces its own weight in plastic every single year. That’s a shocking 300 million tons of plastic. With only 10 percent of it recycled.
But from polluting oceans to filling up landfills for decades without decomposing, the devastating impact plastic has on our planet is now well documented. Yet with our daily life so dependent on a vast variety of plastic products, making the shift to living a life without plastic is undoubtedly a real challenge.
It’s easy to think that one person using less plastic isn’t going to save the world. However, personal commitment is how all positive change begins. One person inspires another, and then another. Before long a ripple becomes a wave of change that can remake our world for the better. Both for our own future and for many generations to come.
How To Go Plastic-Free
Here are the 5 changes I’ve started making this year to significantly reduce my plastic waste footprint:
1. Saying no to single use plastics – for good
This stuff is everywhere! Often in the form of food packaging, it includes any plastic that’s used just once and then thrown away or recycled. Because it’s so convenient, single-use plastic has seeped into every corner of our lives. However, the negative impact it has on the environment is so immense we really need to reduce our reliance on it.
It’s so easy to buy a drink in a plastic bottle and a plastic-wrapped sandwich every lunchtime. And then carry them out of the shop in a plastic bag. All of which is used for just a couple of minutes before being discarded forever.
Yet the huge amount of plastic needed to supply this takeaway lunch habit is terrifying. Even if only 15 percent of the world did this daily throughout their working life that’s over 2400 billion batches of discarded lunchtime plastic. It’s impossible to escape the consequences of throwing away such vast quantities of a material that takes hundreds of years to break down. And while some single-use plastics items, such as plastic bottles, can be recycled, many can’t. Which makes them the worst form of plastic used today. Hands down.
So, if there is a significant change to sign up to right away, it’s ditching single-use plastic that can’t be recycled. Here are the top ten worst offenders that I’m planning to cut out for good this year.
- Crisp packets
- Wet wipes
- Sandwich boxes
- Sauce sachets
- Ready meal trays
- Pet food pouches
- Ear buds
- Plant pots
- Plastic drinking straws
- ‘Foilised’ (metallic) wrapping paper
2. Making my own plastic-free bubbles
If you love sparkling water, as we do in our family, it could be time to invest in a SodaStream*. This Eighties favourite has recently been repositioned as an eco-product. Using it to add bubbles to tap water means you can finally do away with plastic bottles of fizzy water, or having to carry heavy glass bottles back from the shop.
Some models actually come with their own glass bottles to store your newly carbonated water in. Better still, it can save you money! Each gas canister (which can be refilled) makes up to 60
3. Getting to know my local milkman for plastic-free milk
Supermarket milk comes in plastic bottles. However, you’ll want to avoid these when you’re trying to go plastic-free. Shops also sell milk in cardboard containers. This may seem like a good option, but most are actually coated inside and out with a thin plastic layer. This makes them a mixed material item and therefore almost impossible to recycle.
This means your best is going old school and using a local milkman. Most people in the UK did up until the last 30 or so years. The good news is that home-delivered milk is making a resurgence. As such, most areas have dairies that deliver locally, providing milk in returnable, reusable glass bottles. I found my local one online and have signed up.
4. Quit my coffee pod habit
The capsules used in nearly all popular single-serve coffee machines contain plastic and are notoriously bad for the environment as they can’t generally be recycled. One option is to source biodegradable options, such as Halo, which make compostable pods compatible with the most popular machines.
But generally speaking, swapping to a machine that uses loose coffee – either ground or whole beans – is the greenest way to go. Then you can seek out smaller, independent coffee shops and delis in your area and take your own jar or tin to fill up. My local shop offers a 10% discount for customers bringing their own containers.
5. Leave my plastic at the supermarket
Finally, if you’re feeling brave and want to make a stand the next time you’re doing your supermarket shop, Greenpeace advises taking some of the plastic
It might sound scary, but as customers, we are well within our rights to do it – and are actually helping the supermarket to understand what shoppers really want. I also plan to write to the senior management team of my local supermarket to lobby for less plastic packaging. Because the more noise we all make, the sooner we will bring about lasting changes in plastic use.
ps: there are lots of plastic-free ideas this way too if you are looking for more ideas on how to go plastic-free :) And if you enjoyed this post then you may enjoy my post on the plastics to avoid when you’re shopping. It covers things like the type of plastic, but also, perhaps lesser-known, the colour of plastic. And if you’re just starting out, I’ve also got 10 easy tips to reduce plastic this way.