There is no such thing as ‘away’ when we throw anything away it must go somewhere.”
– Annie Leonard
Plastic is not our enemy: it’s a versatile and durable material that has provided us with a lot of benefit. However, we are irresponsible and overuse it. 275,000 tons of plastics are used each year in the UK with most households incorrectly discarding approximately 40 kgs to landfill1.
Chemicals in plastic litter can leach into the land and waterways, poisoning the very resources we depend on. Humans are over consumers and wasteful, and if we are to clean up the environment and lead healthier lives, we need to make some drastic changes to the way we live, starting now.
Here are a few things you can do from today to reduce your plastic intake and start making a difference:
Water bottles, coffee cups, takeaway boxes, plastic cutlery and plastic bags are some of the worst culprits when it comes to plastic waste. Some businesses offer customer incentives for taking a more responsible, reusable alternative: bags for life, travel cups/water bottles, compostable containers and reusable utensils etc.
Buy non-plastic wrapped fruit & veg
If it’s not vacuum-sealed it’s not really adding much value. Go for the loose fruit & veg instead. The packaging used to wrap vegetables is overused and non-recyclable.
Eat fresh over frozen3
Frozen food packaging is mainly plastic, even the cardboard sleeves have a plastic coating as with cardboard drink cartons. Eating fresh won’t only reduce your plastic waste but will also make you healthier.
Grow your own
Growing your own veg at home is not only sustainable, healthier and cheap, but is a great way to reduce your plastic intake.
Support your local milkman
Your milkman will take away your glass empties when you receive a fresh pint, so no need to worry about the plastic bottle. Supermarket cartons are not made from paper alone but comprise of about 75% paper, 20% plastic and 5% aluminum foil (for long-life products)2.
Stop chewing gum3
There’s a reason we were told not to swallow chewing gum when we were children, and that’s because it’s made of plastic. You find evidence of discarded chewing gum fused into the tarmac of pavements and town centres up and down the UK.
Drink like a grown-up, straws suck!
Who needs to use a straw? Children possibly, but it’s not essential. Plastic straws find their way down rivers to the oceans and cause havoc to marine life. Ask your local pub and restaurant to give them up.
Challenge your supermarket and takeaway restaurant
Some people have already started demanding that their supermarket stop using excessive plastic packaging and have even started protesting by emptying the packaging in store. Extend this idea and demand that your favourite takeaway restaurant source plastic or reusable alternatives. If disruption to business is caused, they will act.
Keep a lid on it
Make sure your bins and bin lids at home are secure and won’t be carried off by the wind, emptying their contents everywhere – pop a stone on it.
Just don’t litter
Full stop! Discard your waste properly and responsibly.
Take it home
Public bins are often full and overflowing following local authority spending cuts, especially after a Friday and Saturday night out. The litter ends up being kicked down the street or carried by the wind to the nearest green space or water way. Take your litter home and discard it properly.
Some plastic is non-recyclable and it’s not always easy to tell which are and are not. If recyclable plastics are contaminated (soiled with food, grease, non-recyclable plastics and other contaminants) they cannot be recycled and either end up in landfill where they leach or get incinerated. You can help by washing your recyclable plastic waste as best you can and ensuring that non-recyclable plastics such as bottle caps or even the label wrapped around the bottle are not put into the recycle bin.
Reducing your plastic waste is essential: it minimises the burden on recycling plants and mitigates the risk of land and water contamination and ensures the protection of wildlife and human life.
SOURCE: 1North West Waste Consultants Ltd, 2Recyclenow, 3Greenpeace.