It’s time to get serious.
We all know that there’s a global plastic problem, and it’s impacting on our oceans more than ever. Forbes have recently reported on another whale found washed up on the coast of Spain, and the cause of death was determined to be ingesting 64 pounds of plastic waste. And this isn’t a rare occurrence either. Last year, a whale was found dying off the coast of Norway with 30 plastic bags in its stomach. Sea life is swallowing, choking on, getting tangled in, and trapped amongst our plastic waste on a daily basis.
There’s no beating around the bush here: we caused this. Every time one of us buys veg in plastic wrap, a plastic water/coke/lemonade bottle, a disposable coffee cup from Starbucks, or a plastic bag, we are contributing to the mammoth plastic problem.
A quick Google search will tell you that plastic takes up to 1000 years to decompose in landfills, and yet most of us use plastic items every single day. In fact, more than 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced every single year, and a measly 10% of that gets recycled, but a whopping 8 million metric tonnes end up in our oceans. We only seem to care about what’s in the ocean when we go for a dip in the Mediterranean and find ourselves floating amongst a dirty nappy and somebody’s absconded bottle of sun cream, but it’s a global problem, and one that we need to start thinking seriously about. So what can we do to cut down, and how can we help?
1. Actually reuse your bags for life.
This is a really easy one. They’ll save you 5p every time you do a shop, so there’s no reason to leave them behind. Or, if you’d rather, you can invest in a cute canvas tote bag if you want something a little more personal. There are tonnes or reusable bags on the market, so there’s no excuse to still be picking up new plastic bags every time we shop when we all have a drawer filled with 100 at home.
2. Pick up a reusable water bottle.
I haven’t bought a plastic bottle in months since I copped this bottle from Amazon. You can get them in a million colours and styles, so there’s something for everyone. I opted for this one because it’s a full 500ml, as some other bottles can be a little small. These are so handy to have because you can fill them up pretty much anywhere – ask in a coffee shop or bar and they will happily refill your bottle for you. This will save you money in the long run, as you’ll no longer have to pay for water when you’re out and about, and it also keeps your drinks colder (or hotter) for longer! Plus, if you didn’t know, plastic can release harmful chemicals into your drinks which can impact on your chances of having a baby and increase your risk of heart disease, so a reusable bottle is better for your health too.
3. Invest in a reusable travel mug.
Every year, 100 billion single use coffee cups make their way to our landfills. Even if you don’t pick up a coffee that often, having an eco-friendly travel mug on hand saves our land and oceans from one more plastic lid, and lots of chains have started offering money off your drink when you bring your own cup, so this investment could actually end up paying for itself. I got this super cute one from Amazon for the occasional hot chocolate I grab from Costa, and it keeps my drink hotter for way longer than your standard disposable cup. This one is made from naturally organic bamboo fibre, and it’s biodegradable.
4. Grab some metal straws.
I’m telling you, this has been one of the best purchases I have ever made. I picked these ones from Amazon because the packaging was plastic-free, the straws themselves come in a little bag that makes it so easy to pop them in my bag, and they even come with a handy little cleaner so I can clean them super easily. In the UK alone, we go through approximately 8.5 billion straws a year – a number which makes me feel sick to my stomach. Instead of dishing out plastic straws with every drink, we could easily make a swap to paper, or even better, these metal ones, to save a sea turtle from choking.
5. Opt for beauty products with less (or at the very least, recycled) packaging.
Taking a few steps towards a zero-waste beauty routine, or at the very least a zero-waste shower routine, would cut down on our plastic use drastically. Think about all the things in your bathroom that are made out of plastic: containers and packaging for liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, and so much more. Not forgetting that pesky plastic toothbrush. Pick a couple of things in your bathroom to replace with plastic-free options, and you’re already doing your bit. Opt for a luxurious bar of soap that comes packaged in paper wrapping rather than plastic, switch to shampoo and conditioner bars (Lush have a great range of zero-waste stuff, and of course they smell amazing), grab you and your family a pack of bamboo toothbrushes, and you’re well on your way to converting your bathroom to a plastic-free space.
6. Say no to plastic cutlery.
Disposable cutlery is so easily avoidable, so whether you opt for a wooden alternative or simply carry round a standard fork or spoon in your bag, it’s a really easy change to make. You can even get portable cutlery kits that come in handy little cases that you can carry about with you!
I’m well aware that most of these tips involve splashing a little bit of cash, and not everyone has the opportunity to do that. But every little change makes a difference, and just starting with the small stuff can help you on your way to bigger changes. I’m by no means suggesting that I’m some kind of zero-waste queen, but I try to do my bit where I can, and I think that everyone else can find small ways to chip in too. Just being more conscious of your plastic usage is the best way to start tackling our plastic problem.
Got any more tips? Let me know!