5 Things You Can Do to Reduce Your Plastic Usage #guestpost #plastic #Environment

This is a contributed guest post by Lauren Chassebi who is a freelance blogger and writer at laurenevie.co.uk

Increasingly, single-use plastic is becoming one of the biggest environmental disasters our planet is facing. It has been predicted that by 2050, there could be more plastic in the oceans than fish. Marine life is dying at alarming rates due to consumption and suffocation from plastic. It has been proven that through eating fish, humans have been found to be ingesting plastic. Single use plastic does not go away. It’s everywhere. It’s not recyclable, it’s damaging to the environment and it’s causing a huge pollution crisis. If we don’t do something about this, our future is oceans filled with floating garbage patches, no marine life and literal tonnes of plastic on land.

The time for action is now. Reducing our plastic, however small these changes are, is essential. Here are 5 ways you can reduce your daily plastic usage and help to have a positive impact on our planet.

1) Buy a reusable cup

It may seem like a simple suggestion to make, but when we all make small changes, they pile up and result in one huge wave of positive action. In the UK alone, we use 7 million disposable coffee cups a day. That quickly tallies up to 2.5 billion cups being thrown away every year. And where do these coffee cups go once you’ve finished your morning latte and popped them in the bin? Because they’re usually coated with a thin layer of plastic and so are difficult to recycle, these cups end up piling up in landfill or floating in the ocean. Plastic doesn’t decompose, so when you throw away your coffee cup, it doesn’t actually go away. Out of sight out of mind doesn’t necessarily work when the world is throwing out 500 billion plastic cups a year.

The solution is one of the easiest ways to help in cutting down on plastic usage – buy a reusable cup. Often made from more eco-friendly resources such as bamboo fibres, glass or metal, reusable cups are becoming more and more popular. This popularity means that not only are they affordable, versatile in design and portable, many large chain coffee shops will also give you money off of your hot drink just for using them. A win for your bank account and the environment.

2) avoid unnecessary packaging at the supermarket

If you take one look around any supermarket you set foot in, you’ll find it difficult to spot a shelf which isn’t lined with plastic. Some of this plastic packaging s intended to keep perishable items like food clean and fresh, and others are simply to make them look more pleasing to the eye when it’s on the shelf. The reality here is that a huge majority of the plastic packaging used on store-bought products is either completely unnecessary or could be cut down on massively. Of course, it’s up to the companies who make these products and the supermarkets who sell them to do most of the work in cutting down on plastic packaging, but buyers can also have an incremental impact in this.

There are many ways to reduce the amount of plastic which you bring home with your weekly shop. One of the easiest changes to make is to avoid wrapping fruit and veg in unnecessary plastic bags. These plastic bags can’t be recycled and often end up in the sea or in landfill after just one short and unnecessary use. Fruit and veg often come in their own natural packing anyway! (see: oranges, bananas, avocados, pineapples) And if you’re not keen on letting your fruit and veg sit loose in your bag until you get home, why not ask the supermarket staff if they can give you a small cardboard box to carry the items home in?

3) carry your own reusable items

Much like the ease of carrying around your own plastic cup to drink your morning coffee from, there are other simple changes you can make in order to reduce on day to day plastic usage. It’s these small changes to our daily routines which quickly add up and make a huge difference to the environment and to our planet. Plus, every change that we as consumers make creates waves. If enough of us are making these small changes and limiting how many plastic items we’re buying, manufacturers will eventually have to listen and adapt. 

There are a huge array of different reusable items which you can pop in your bag and use as part of your daily routine. Metal straws are a great way to avoid needing single use plastic straws in your drinks. Plastic straws don’t decompose, and often end up in the ocean, polluting the sea and harming marine wildlife. Reusable plastic bags or tote bags are also a great way to reduce how much single use plastic you’re using. The UK’s plastic bag usage has dropped by 85% since supermarkets began charging for them, which is a huge positive step in the right direction and one which we must continue to follow.

4) Buy in bulk

These days, our society is orientated around convenience. Online orders where items can be packaged up and delivered to you on the same day, meal deals for one which can be popped straight in the microwave in black plastic trays, or travel shampoos and conditioners in bottles just big enough to last you for one weekend away. These products are all made with consumers ease in mind, however often they result in much more packaging being thrown away. Although it’s not necessary that we stop using all of these luxury or necessary items, it’s easy to make small changes which help to reduce the amount of single use plastic which you’re buying along with the items. 

Instead of buying travel bottles every time you go on holiday, why not buy a set of empty reusable bottles which you can decant your full-sized products into when necessary? When you get home from your holiday, simply give the bottles a clean and store them away for the next trip. Same ease, less single use. Another easy win is to buy products in bulk. Websites such as Amazon are great for allowing you to buy industrial sized products which you may not be able to find in store. Food products and household cleaning products such as washing up liquid or detergent can be bought in huge boxes online and they’re delivered straight to your door. Buying in bulk like this means just one bottle is being used rather than three or four. Plus, it often saves you money to shop this way too.

5) Consider alternative materials

As mentioned across some of the other points, most single use plastics have a much more sustainable alternative. Some of these alternatives are very easily accessible, others may require a little more preparation in order to put in place. The key thing to remember here is that we don’t all have to suddenly change our ways overnight. Unfortunately, single use plastic is very much integrated into our daily lives and the way to that we are used to operating. Many of us are reliant on single use plastic and often don’t think about how much of it may be passing through our hands before it ends up in the ocean or in landfill. However, small changes have big value. If all of us adopt just a few changes into the materials we use in our day to day lives (depending on which changes are most accessible, affordable and easy to use for you), the incremental change will be huge. 

I challenge you this: think of one item in your daily routine which incorporates single use plastic and think of how you can change that. Whether it’s carrier bags becoming tote bags, clingfilm becoming reusable Tupperware or ditching plastic packaging and buying directly from local produce stores instead, make one change. Together we can all make a huge difference.