We all like easy, right?  Well, the road to reducing plastic has varying levels of ease, some things are as simple as just saying “No, thank you”, others things take hours of research or require a massive change to your shopping habits – so lets start with the five easiest changes you can make.

Our most concerning consumer habit is the reliance on single-use plastic, it is a term you will have heard a lot recently.  It refers to a plastic item used for a very short length of time and one you wouldn’t normally consider re-using.  They are a concern because in the name of convenience we have started using these single use plastics in alarming abundance and they have become so ingrained in our way of life we literally don’t notice them any more.

If you are at the very start of the journey to avoiding plastic – this is where you start:

Swap 1 – Straws!

This is a the simplest way to start you off because although a fun and useful bit of kit, the straw is also not something you actually need*.  If you buy a drink it comes in a handy thing called a glass – which unless you hadn’t noticed you can drink straight out of.  So if you are in a bar or restaurant –

REFUSE THE STRAW! 

Most establishments have taken this on board and now no longer offer straws or provide a paper alternative.  If you or your children simply love drinking from straws there are now reusable straws on the market which can be found in silicone and stainless steel – just remember to take them with you.

*Just to be clear, I am talking about the general public here, I understand that there are some people with disabilities who absolutely need a straw to drink, I wouldn’t for one second expect them to do without something that is essential.

Swap 2 – Plastic bottles

Our love affair with plastic bottles has reached crisis point – a million bottles are bought every minute around the world –  50,000 in the 3 seconds it took you to read that statement – and only 7% are recycled.

So what is the alternative?  The best swap you can make is being prepared; always carry a drink in a reusable bottle.  Millions of kids in the UK take a bottle of water with them to school – so it can’t be that hard, can it?

Now, confession time, I am not a fan of tap water and my go to drink was always sparkling water – usually in 2 litre bottles at home and a 500ml bottles with my Tesco meal deal (urg, how I have changed!).  I would also purchase a fruit shoot or similar when out with my daughter.  So my swaps have included always carrying a drink for my daughter and getting a sodastream, which has become a huge win for me as I have found you can also make your own prosecco out of cheap wine (This is the only thing I have ever been willing to believe from the Daily Mail).

If are out and about and absolutely gasping for a drink but have forgotten your bottle, try an alternative to plastic – most shops also sell drinks in cans and glass bottles – take them home and recycle them.  If there is no other option but plastic – take it home and reuse it or recycle it.

Swap 3 – Plastic Bags

There was outrage when supermarkets and retailers started charging 5p for plastic carrier bags – but you know what?  It worked.  The government introduced the measure in 2015 as part of their ’25 year environmental plan’ – and we should be very grateful for that as it has reduced our consumption by 6 BILLION plastic bags a year.  However there are still millions being purchased, so do your bit by carrying an reusable bag.

If you slip up and find yourself at the supermarket checkout with nothing but your wallet, do not fret – buy a bag, but make it count.  Carrier bags have an average life span of 20 minutes and take 1000 years to leave the planet.  Give your bag the life it deserves – treat it like it is special – reuse it as many times as possible and if it finally gives up on you try and recycle it.  Most supermarkets have a collection point for recycling plastic bags.

Swap 4 – Take-away Coffee Cups

 

We love coffee and the number of coffee shops in the UK is rising yearly – they are a great place to be social, to do some work or grab a cup of coffee to go.  But because coffee shops are everywhere, the temptation to grab-a-cup is overwhelming, and so are the number of take away cups we are using.

Wait! But cups are made of cardboard, aren’t they?  Well yes, they are, but cardboard alone does not make for a great beverage receptacle, you have to have something to stop the cardboard going soggy – cue plastic.  Coffee cups have a lining of plastic which not only stops the sog, it also makes the cups hard to recycle and not so biodegradable.   To top it all (quite literally) every cup comes with a plastic lid.

So if you are a regular coffee grabber, think about changing to a reusable cup. There are plenty out there but if you also want to avoid a plastic reusable cup there are now alternatives in steel, glass and bamboo.  There is an added bonus too – most coffee shops now offer a discount to people using their own cup.

Swap 3 – Plastic Cutlery

I have left this to last as it is sometimes not the easiest swap, so can require a little more thought.

As well as coffee we also love to grab lunch ‘to go’ meaning swathes of plastic knives, forks and spoons are being binned after only a few minutes of use.  It is not just the fault of the fast food consumer though; many catering establishments only provide plastic cutlery to avoid having to collect and wash metal ones.

So what do you do about it?  If you are planning to grab lunch out and about, come prepared with your own cutlery in case there is not an alternative provided.  If you forget and do end up with a plastic fork – keep it! – use it for something else.  Take it out next time, save it for a picnic, or if you have kids, use it for something creative like painting or digging in the garden.

Looking at these five above, does reducing your plastic feel really overwhelming?  Hopefully, the answer is no.

There will always be times when you slip up, and that is OK.  Remember that just by reading this, you are already on a journey, you are re-wiring your brain to think differently about what you use and ultimately what you throw away… it is the first step.

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