This month is #PlasticFreeJuly, a great opportunity to evaluate our consumption of single-use plastic and to find more sustainable, eco-friendly alternatives. The hope is, of course, that a month of trialling such a lifestyle will result in permanent change once we discover that it’s not as inconvenient as we first thought.
That’s why, following on from my Top 5 easy ways to reduce plastic waste! blog post a few months ago, I’d like to offer five more simple solutions for tackling everyday plastic use.
We all know by now the devastating effect that plastic is having on our environment, especially our oceans; and in particular our marine wildlife and sea birds, who are paying a huge price (in many cases, with their lives), for our inability to properly manage and dispose of the sheer volume of plastic that is being manufactured. So if you’re looking for simple swaps to achieve a greener lifestyle, look no further…
1. No more plastic soap dispensers
This one is so easy, and begs the question: why did we ever stop using bars of soap? Sure, I can understand it’s more hygienic in hospitals and doctors’ surgeries to minimalize contact with other people’s germs, but within our own homes and bathrooms? No problem! (Give it a little rinse under the tap first if you’re really concerned about germ transfer).
Just be sure to choose a soap that’s wrapped in recyclable paper or card, to really go green. The soap bar pictured above is from The Body Shop and had paper wrapping. Goodbye plastic liquid-soap dispensers!
NB: Also consider shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled liquids. Lush‘s shampoo bar comes highly recommended!
2. Ditch the throwaway face wipes
These things are not only dished out in plastic packaging, often smothered in chemicals and contain varying levels of non-biodegradable plastic, but they also end up getting flushed down the loo instead of thrown in the bin; and it certainly begs the question: What’s worse? Landfill polluting our soil and landscapes, or products clogging our water ways?
London’s sewers are notorious for getting clogged with fatbergs, which are often perpetuated by face wipes and baby wipes. Eradicate all of the above issues with one easy change over!
These bamboo wipes by Close, Pop-in are super soft and don’t reduce quality after lots of washes. Billed as baby wipes, I team them up with cloth nappies when tending to my daughter, and have a second set (in different colours I might add — very important for not muddling them up!) for removing my make up at the end of the day.
3. Cut out the disposable coffee cups
Working in a busy district in London, it blows my mind to think about how many people go through the doors of all the local high street cafe chains and come out again with non-recyclable, non-biodegradable plastic products. Multiply that with all the other busy districts in the City, all the odd branches and kiosks next to train and tube stations, then add in all the chains in towns and cities across the country; and finally map that idea on a global scale… and I’m pretty sure coffee shops must be some of the biggest offenders in supplying single-use plastic. In fact, we use 7 million disposable coffee cups every day in the UK alone – that’s 2.5 billion every year!
It’s estimated that only 1% of paper cups ever get recycled, that’s because they’re often lined with plastic polyethylene to make them waterproof — which deems them unsuitable for recycling in most facilities (only three recycling facilities in the whole of the UK can actually do it). Also, the fact that they are contaminated with drink presents further difficulties in the process.
Often, this symbol: ♻️ is misunderstood to mean the product can be recycled in our household recycle bins, whereas in actual fact, it doesn’t always mean it’s possible to recycle from home. If the numbers 3-7 are written within the triangle, it means the plastic it’s made from can’t be recycled into something else very easily, and requires a specialised recycling facility. If it’s thrown into household recycle bins, it’s destined for landfill.
As an incentive to reduce the use of disposable cups, many franchises are now onboard with offering a discount to customers who refill a reusable coffee cup — Pret offers 50p off, for example.
But what if you’ve left your reusable cup at home? Or didn’t expect to be in such desperate need of a coffee this morning? It’s surprising to think that even a brand as seemingly eco-conscious as Pret (known for it’s high quality foods and vegan and vegetarian ranges) doesn’t even give customers an option to use ceramic mugs/cups if you’re drinking in. Which would be my recommendation here: if you don’t have a reusable cup, sit-in for your coffee this time, and opt for a chain that provides non-disposable crockery for you to do so.
4. Choose a manatee over a bag of tea
While we’re on the supject of hot drinks; did you know that the majority of tea bags are made with non-biodegradable plastics? The stuff is literally everywhere!
Many of the major brands make their tea bags using polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to stop them from falling apart. This includes: Tetley (who have promised a change), Clipper, Yorkshire Tea and Twinings‘ ‘heat-sealed’ and ‘string and tag’ ranges.
An easy way to banish the bad bits from your brew is to turn to looseleaf tea. Reusable tea infusers, like this manatee (given to me by the lovely people at Bradenton Anna Maria Island Longboat Key) mean you can make a looseleaf tea in a cup instead of a pot (thus saving the energy of boiling surplus water), working in exactly the same way as a tea bag. I’ve spotted these little guys for sale in Pylones stores.
MAKING COFFEE AT HOME? Did you know 55 million coffee pods are used everyday, and most of them end up in landfill? A single pod may take up to 500 years to break down. Companies like Nespresso boast recyclable pods, but they’re too small to be recycled with household rubbish and collection points are scarce. To go green, swap them out for making coffee with a plunger.
5 Give a Guppyfriend a go
I’ve been hearing about Guppyfriend washing bags for a while, and they’re the next purchase on my list for Plastic Free July.
Designed to catch microplastics released from our clothing (yes, even washing your best-loved garments is releasing tiny shards of plastic destined to one day pollute our drinking water!), simply pop your washing into a Guppyfriend bag before putting it into the machine; let it collect those pesky plastic fibres and brush it off into the bin when you’ve emptied your clothes from it.
I know sending the fibres to landfill isn’t much better, but at least it’s not contaminating our water and leave behind plastics prone to ending up in human and animal stomachs. Have you used one yet? Let me know your thoughts and any tips for using it.