Single-use plastic has become the plague of our time, polluting rivers, oceans and the environment. It has become such a danger to wildlife and sealife that it is believed that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the planet’s oceans.
Such is the extend of the problem that microplastics have been found in human stools for the first time suggesting the tiny particles created when plastic decomposed may be widespread in the human food chain.
Just over 100 years, that’s how long it took plastic to take over our lives. In fact the first mass consumer plastic-based products only appeared in the 1940s. Light and versatile, with the added bonus of not being easily breakable, plastic quickly came to replace glass and ceramic containers. Convenience, of course, also played a major role in the expansion of the use of plastic.
Avoiding plastic all-together can be tricky and maybe also counter-productive. For example, reusable storage containers such as Tupperware can be used for years and avoid food waste. It is worth noting, though, that there is a wide range of health arguments for avoiding some of the constituents of plastic, such as around BPA or phthalates, which I have talked about before here and here.
Reducing the amount of single-use plastic though is a pressing issue. Avoiding over-packaged products is a good start, but we can all limit the amount of plastic in our lives thanks to a host of products (some available from our eco online shop By Nature), services and tips.
- SHOP FOR LOOSE PRODUCE
Forget individually wrapped cucumbers, bananas shrinked wrapped on polysterene trays or whatever other nonsense, overpackaged formats shops use to sell fresh fruit and vegetables. Head for the loose section and use produce bags such as the ones below instead. Washable and reusable, they are perfect for small and bigger produce. Made from organic cotton mesh, so that the cashier can easily spot what’s inside at the checkout.
- PACK A STYLISH REUSABLE SHOPPING BAG
Since the 5p charge was introduced in the UK, single-use plastic bag usage has dropped 85%. Still, there are occasions where personally I am still caught out by not carrying a reusable bag while shopping. And on those occasions, I get really mad with myself. First, because I end up having to take a plastic bag, second because I hate wasting money.
Here are some of my fail-safes to always have a reusable bag with me:
– Keep one in my handbag.
– Keep one in my work bag / backpack.
– Have one in the glove box of the car.
– I literally add “reusable bags” to my shopping list so I remember to take them: yes, I do get that frazzled at times
– Any kind of reminder works (phone, sticky note on the fridge etc..)
– As soon as I have unpacked the shopping, I gather some up next to the front door ready to go back in the car.
- BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS WHEN SHOPPING
While many people have been using their own containers when shopping at their local zero-waste shops, did you know that most supermarkets now encourage shoppers to do the same at fish, meat and deli counters? While it takes a bit of pre-planning, using your own containers greatly reduces the amount of single-use plastic packaging.
You might be confused about what type of containers to use. Personally I find reusable plastic containers such like the ones below from Addis really practical when picking up groceries from zero-waste shops. They are light and easily stackable and less likely to break than glass containers.
- FORGET CLING FILM
Instead of cling film, wrap left over food with a reusable alternative such as the beeswax wraps below. For a vegan alternative, look out for soy wax wraps or rice bran wax wraps.
Wax wraps are flexible and slightly adhesive so they can easily be shaped around food and bowls or folded into packages to store food at room temperature or in the fridge. They are generally made of (organic) cotton or hemp, with the wax added, and can be composted at the end of their lives.
- REUSE YOUR MILK BOTTLES
Have you ever thought of how many plastic milk bottles you dispose of every week? Why not switch to re-usable glass bottles instead. Since last year we have been using Milk & More to get organic milk delivered to our doorstep. The milkman picks up our empty bottles when delivering. Each bottle can then be reused on average 25 times before they are recycled. Conveniently Milk & More also delivers Plenish Dairy-Free Milk, organic fruit and vegetables, as well as fresh orange juice in glass bottles and organic porridge in plastic-free packaging.
- BRING YOUR OWN LUNCH CONTAINERS
Earlier this year, environmental charity Hubbub found that with many people now having their lunch on the go, “the average person generates 276 pieces of rubbish each year – from sandwich boxes, to crisps and napkins” alone.
Packing your own lunch, whether for work or school, is a great way to reduce this unnecessary single-use plastic waste. Hubbub suggests that, if you do buy lunch, you can take your own container to the shop and ask them to fill it.
Some containers like the one below from A Slice of Green even include compartments and stackable trays so that to combine different dishes or snacks.