Any trip to a supermarket will no doubt make you aware of all the packaging being producing and that we are bringing into our homes. When I started out on my sustainability journey this was the first thing I decided to tackle.
Instead of like some going veggie or buying local organic food (which are great things to do) I thought starting with the packaging in my daily life first would be the most achievable small step into living a sustainable life style. If you are just starting to become more sustainable I’d definitely start here, small changes to the way you shop can quickly mount up to saving a surprising amount of plastic.
Not only is cutting plastic one of the easiest places to start but one of the most important too, according to a study in the journal Anthropocene humans have made enough plastic since the second world war to cover the earth entirely in Clingfilm. 311 million tonnes of plastic was produced in 2014 alone and this figure is expected to double in the next 20 years and frighteningly quadruple by 2050 thanks to our reliance on plastic and sky rocketing world population. Currently only 5% of that plastic packaging gets recycled and I can’t fathom where we are going to put all that plastic waste if we continue to only recycle 5%.
“The Ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastic than fish.”
Sadly I think I known where it’ll end up and that’s in the ocean. With the equivalent of one rubbish truck of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute of every day we dropping 8 million metric tons of plastic into our seas and that’s due to rise to 16 million metric tons by 2030. To put that into perspective the Ellen MacArthur foundation have said “The Ocean is expected to contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastic than fish.”
I can’t even imagine how the oceans would look with more plastic than fish and it is those fears which keep me focused on sticking to my habits of success in stopping plastic waste from creeping into my life.
So here are the first 6 ways in which I tackled plastic in my life:
1. Buy second hand, not the most glamorous way to start if you are used to pounding the pavements of the high street but by using sites like eBay or my current favourite facebook market place I’ve brought many items completely packing free. What I particularly like about buying second hand is we get to extend the life of a product so the initial manufacturing costs are being paid off over a long period of time. When you buy from someone locally you are keeping your pounds in the local economy and you get to keep more money in your pocket for purchasing new sustainable products.
2. Remove plastic bottles from your life, littering the sides of roads up and down the country, plastic bottles are a quick win for going plastic free by getting yourself a BPA free bottle. I’ve always got my camelbak bottle in my bag and whilst it occasionally goes one too many days without being cleaned it’s been the easiest switch to removing plastic from my life and saving money on buying water bottles when out and about.
3. Ditch the plastic bags, whilst the 5p tax on plastic bags has dramatically reduced there use and surely must count as one of the governments most successful policies ever! They are still the cause of considerable plastic waste. As someone who horded these bags for years I’ve only recently started to run down my cupboard splitting collection, mostly through parceling up sold eBay items in them (sorry plastic free buyers of my eBay items). I now keep a couple in the car for unexpected shopping trips and a one in the bottom of my backpack in case of unexpected foraging trips! Between backpacks, totes, reusing the sturdiest plastic bags left in the collection and once balancing a couple of items on top of each other whilst walking back from the corner shop I’ve managed to forgo buying any new plastic bags.
4. Getting food and drink to go inevitably comes with the single use cutlery and cups, tackling this comes down to being a little more organised but on plus side it’s usually a much more enjoyable experience. Cutting the single use coffee cups as covered in out rCup article but it’s worth mentioning again, the rCup is made from recycled coffee cups and is a super choice when removing single use waste not to mention usually benefiting from a small discount for bringing your own cup. For reducing waste from cutlery I started just by reusing the single use plastic forks and knives I was given by keeping a set in my backpack. They are super lightweight and as I had been given them already it seemed sensible to at least try and get the most use out of these single use plastics as possible first before sticking an old mismatched fork in my bag. Another tip for reducing this sort of plastic is being prepared to say n to straws just at the right time. Pre-empting the barman’s final flourish to a cocktail by dropping in 2 straws is a timing skill as I’ve found saying no straws when ordering can often be forgotten when barmen and food servers are on auto pilot.
5. Zero waste shops are now a thing and they are booming. By voting with our wallets we have given the supermarkets competition with zero waste shops, the best list of these shops I’ve found so far is at the ZeroWaster they have an excellent list and luckily for me I live close enough to Bristol which has several to choose from.
6. Get creative with your food storage. If its airtight it works, so anything glass, metal, ceramic or even beeswax wax wraps can be used for storage and don’t throw out the plastic takeaway contains you already have! I still keep a few of those around the kitchen for keeping dog treats or his lunch in when we’re out and about. Reusing the plastic already in our homes is not the most obvious starting point but when you are setting out on a journey to being more sustainable the last thing you want to do is go out and buy new even if its from a sustainable company, there is a reason why reduce is the first ‘r’.
I describe these simple switches and changes as habits and good habits take time to form. Changes to our lives don’t have to be big and overwhelming but I know from my experience that taking one of these tips at a time and putting them into action will form habits which drastically reduced the plastic in our homes and signal to the companies that we want a waste free world.