Reducing how much single-use and disposable plastic can be one of the simplest and easiest changes you make when following a sustainable lifestyle. Nowadays, there is a concerted effort in reducing plastic-waste, with consumers buying less, businesses reducing how much they use, and the Government banning items such as plastic straws, stirrers, earbuds, and beauty products with plastic microbeads.
Single-use plastic items pose a real problem to the planet because of how long it takes for plastic to breakdown once it’s thrown away. Many single-use plastic products are designed to be used very quickly before being disposed of - yet all of the plastic that has been made still exists today, with much of it in landfill or littering natural habitats. As an example, plastic is the largest source of ocean litter, with debris killing 100,000 ocean mammals and 1 million sea birds each year.
Single-use plastic isn’t good for us, either. Many disposable plastic drinks bottles contain Bisphenol A, or BPA, which has been shown to leach into water and be absorbed in the body.
So, in order to reduce your demand for plastic, here’s four ways you can shop more sustainably and reduce your impact:
1. Carry a reusable tote bag
Keeping a reusable tote bag with you can prove incredibly useful for avoiding disposable plastic bags. If you were to use a reusable tote bag over your lifetime, you could save up to 22,000 plastic bags!
Next time you’re going out shopping, make sure to take one or two with you - a great way to remind yourself is to keep a few by your front door, or somewhere equally handy such as in your bag, your car, or your desk at work.
Just make sure to reuse any tote bags you may buy - they require more energy to create, so you’ll need to reuse a tote bag 100+ times for it to be truly eco-friendly.
2. Keep a reusable coffee cup handy
If you like to drink tea or coffee on the go, a reusable cup can save you from throwing away over 300 disposable cups each year! Despite being made from paper, disposable coffee cups are actually rarely recycled, with only two facilities in the whole of the UK able to process them.
Rachel Fortune, the SLAs Founder, loves her collapsible Stojo cup, which can be popped into a handbag or laptop bag with ease.
3. Survey your bathroom plastics
While a lot of disposable plastic is associated with food, plastic is also very common in the bathroom. From shampoo bottles to disposable razors, there’s plenty that can be changed. Besma Whayeb, a judge for the SLAs, and blogger at Curiously Conscious, recently compiled 12 ways to reduce your bathroom plastics for more plastic-free inspiration.
4. And if you do have to buy plastic, choose recyclable plastic
If you do need to buy something in plastic packaging - often there’s no alternative available - try to identify those that can be recycled. While plastic recycling facilities differ around the UK, 99% of all local authorities now offer collection facilities for plastic bottles, and 79% of councils collect other rigid plastic packaging. Currently, it’s flexible plastic pouches and black microwaveable trays that aren’t recyclable, so avoid these where you can.