It seemed like it happened all of a sudden; one day straws graced every bar and coffee counter in the country, the next David Attenborough was telling us that we were collectively destroying the earth and something needed to be done.
Plastic pollution is a global issue which until fairly recently had gone largely unnoticed. According to The Environmental Protection Agency around 91% of plastic isn’t recycled and given that the amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity, we’ve got a huge problem on our hands.
We’re all guilty of using more than we should. Grabbing plastic bottles of water on-the-go, using disposable cutlery with our takeaway lunch; plastic is all around us and it’s not going anywhere fast. Microbeads were the original villain, now it’s straws and even behemoths like Starbucks have committed to banning them from each of their stores by the end of the year.
Zero Waste shopping is the aim of the game but that can feel like a daunting challenge in a society full to the brim with consumables. So where to start? With simple steps towards reducing our plastic use.
It doesn’t have to be difficult; bit by bit we can make a difference. Below I’ve rounded up our top 3 ways to reduce plastic use. The common theme? Refillable, reusable products.
Single-use plastic bag sales have fallen by 86 per cent since the 5p charge was introduced. Sales have fallen by almost 7 billion bags a year in the UK alone meaning more and more of us have become used to reusing our own.
Our own favourite grocery go-to is the French Net Market Bag. Handmade in Normandy they’re crafted by the same family who’ve been producing them since 1855, around 100 years prior to the mass production of plastic. Super stretchy, strong, compact and practical, they’re a tried and tested essential and also infinitely better looking than their ‘bag-for-life’ counterparts. What’s not to love?
We’ve all been there; running straight toward M&S with 5 minutes to spare before the 6.47 from Victoria leaves the station, one goal in mind, grabbing the last of the lunchtime salad boxes. It’s a mucky affair, caesar dressing, so you plunge your fist into a box full of tiny plastic forks before the home stretch to platform 15. Just me? You get my drift.
A little foresight goes a long way in the war against plastic and some changes seem so insignificant to our everyday lives, it’s hard to fathom how we lasted so long in our waste guzzling state. Needless to say handbag cutlery is a modern day must.
So-too the reusable straw. It goes without saying that using 400 million single use straws per day (and that’s just the USA) is both inexcusable and completely unnecessary. With so many options out there to choose from we can all make a very big difference with a very small change.
According to Lionel Shriver recycling all but paper wastes too much expensive energy and thus isn’t economically viable. She believes we need to design standardised containers for our food and drink that themselves get re-used, like milk bottles of yore.
It makes complete sense. We tend to drink the same thing and eat the same foods time and time again so why add wasteful packaging to the mix when we can just re-use our own? If you haven’t already, invest in a water bottle – and download the refill.org.uk app, listing free water bottle filling stations around the country.
By offering up your own thermal cup you can also make a substantial saving in hundreds of coffee shops. Taking a cue from the indie trailblazers, Pret-a-Manger offer 50p off your favourite brew with lots of other chains committed to following suit. Perhaps the industry should take it a step further and follow the supermarkets with their 5p bags in charging for their cups…just a thought.
So there you have it - three simple rules which in this climate may seem like the obvious choice but how committed are you? I’m still working on my own approach but little by little lets make a difference together.
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