How do you reduce plastic waste?
It is time we took the task to reduce plastic waste seriously. I’m sure you can’t help but notice the recent increase in media coverage of marine litter devastating the world’s oceans. Seeing the catastrophic impact we have had on the planets largest ecosystem is sickening. And the truth is, we have all played a part. Even worse, we still do.
By 2050 there will be a tonne of plastic for every tonne of fish – Recycling Technologies.
Sadly this increased awareness about our impacts on the world just is not enough for some people. There has been an outrageous rise in illegal dumping in my area, as i’m sure is the same with a lot of other places. In response to this, all we can do is keep taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic waste we are accumulating.
The thoughts of trying to reduce the amount of plastic you compile can be really daunting. Looking around a supermarket, you might think there is nothing you can do. There is excess packaging everywhere. We are literally drowning in plastic. It’s not true though. There are so many things you can do, to reduce your plastic usage and waste. Keep reading for:
11 Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste:
Invest in some Reusable Cups.
Do you put your coffee cups in the recycling bin? A lot of these cups can’t actually be recycled because of their water proof inner coating. Trying to do good and reduce plastic waste can actually contaminate an entire recycling bin.
Now a days, it is so easy to pick up a reusable cup. They are everywhere. Although made of plastic, in the long-term they reduce the amount of disposable cups and plastic lids you consume. Keep one in your bag and bring it along with you. The more people go into coffee shops and insist on using their own cups, the less single use cups will be needed.
Now you can also get bamboo reusable cups. There is no excuse for single use anymore! If you’re worried about bringing your own cup into a cafe, some actually offer discounts for customers who bring their own cups.
If you’d like to see a list of Irish Cafes that offer a discount click for a LIST OF CAFES WITH REUSABLE CUP DISCOUNT.
2. Pick up some Multi-use Straws.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip. Stainless steel reusable straws are now a thing, which is fantastic. They are easy cleaned and are even dish washer safe. Some packs come with a small pipe cleaner for giving the inside a good clean.
There are loads of other options too, paper, or heavy plastic reusable straws. There are even biodegradable options. although some of the these straws can still have a negative impact. The safest bet is to try and stick to stainless steel or silicone options. I would say go straw free altogether, but it’s important to protect your teeth. Now with these reusable straws, there’s no excuse. I’ve seen ones that fold up into a small case – it literally couldn’t be made any more convenient!
3. Buy in bulk
Buying plastic items in bulk can significantly reduce the amount of plastic you are using. In my house, we drink bottled water due to poor tap water quality. If you’re the same, instead of buying a multi-pack (6 x 2L bottles), pick up the bigger, 5L drums of water. In the long run, you will be going through much less plastic bottles, better for the environment and better for your recycling bin. Although this tip is great for reducing plastic water bottles, it can be applied to a range of food and other products.
4. Reusable bottles & flasks
Like reusable cups, reusable bottles are ideal. I am one of those people that has to have water with me. I feel panicky when I don’t have water. Rather then spending money on bottles of water when I’m on the go, I now have a steel bottle that I fill with water at home and bring along with me. It also saves my car floor looking like a plastic bottle graveyard.
You can get these everywhere too and come in so many colours and patterns. I got mine in TK Maxx, but I’ve seen really cool ones in Home Store and More too.
Chilly’s are a great option for these . They currently have a collection called “The Sea Life Range“. The designs are so beautiful and minimal, and 10% of online sales is going to “City of Sea Charity”. To read more about this see the link below:
5. Use Bead-free Cosmetics.
I know the UK has banned the bead, but Ireland has yet to follow suit. It’s expected by the end of 2018 – UPDATE: still waiting on this ban. Until then, just don’t buy products with micro beads.
Millions of these beads get washed down your sink, make their way to the oceans and are mistaken as food by marine life. To avoid playing a part of this, you can make home-made exfoliators by adding sea salt, coffee, sugar or even cinnamon to your cleanser. You can make up your own masks using juice from lemon and other fruits, which are natural exfoliators because of their acids. There are a number of chemical exfoliators on the market too. Chemical exfoliators are just as good if not better. Although the name sounds scary, they are less abrasive to your skin than harsh micro beads. Before investing in a chemical exfoliator, do your research. You don’t want to use something too harsh on your skin.
6. Ditch the face wipes
As well as being bad for your skin, face wipes result in a lot of waste. The average pack contains 25 non-biodegradable wipes that will potentially float around the oceans for hundreds of years, or just as bad, clog up landfills.
Save the environment, as well as your pocket, by picking up some muslin clothes or normal facecloths – they are so affordable and can be washed in a washing machine. If you really feel the need for face wipes, there are some biodegradable, Eco-friendly options. To read more about this, see here.
Also, stop buying ear buds! These serve no good purpose and will not break down. You are not supposed to prod your ears. I don’t understand why people still buy these. If you want to clean your ears, you can use a wash cloth and oils to loosen wax. If you’re that worried about it, you can get them done properly and safely in the doctors. I’m sure you’ve all seen the photograph of the sea horse clinging on to an ear bud in the ocean, it’s so heart breaking. Don’t contribute to the problem.
7. Reduce the use of Plastic Bags
Did you know Turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish? If you’ve ever seen a plastic bag bobbing about in water, you will see just how hard it is to distinguish between the two. Having their stomachs lined with plastic leads to starvation.
Luckily in Ireland, you don’t really see single use plastic bags anymore. I don’t know what it’s like else where, but one sure way to reduce the use of plastic bags is to pick up some canvas shopping bags. Keep them in your boot so they’re there when you need them. It’s better for the planet and they don’t rip when you’re carrying them, win win!
Penneys/Primark do really nice ones with cool patterns. They are literally super cheap and are often on sale for €1.
8. Forget about Cling Film
Cling film may have been a must-have in the 50’s, but this is no longer the case.
A lot of people cook meals in bulk, in efforts to save time and be more organised. I am one of those. I used to dish the food onto plates and cover in clingfilm and put in the fridge, ready to be served. Then it dawned on me how wasteful this was. It is time we all ditch the cling film.
To avoid using plastic altogether, you can buy stainless steel ones with lids on ebay, and there are also ceramic options which are microwave safe. For some tips to reduce your food waste, check that post out too.
If you like to throw your leftovers in bowls and wrap them, then Beeswax food wraps might be for you. These wraps work similarly to cling film, except they are reusable and made from natural substances. To read a little bit more about food wraps, read this review.
9. Keep and reuse packaging
Do you shop online? Keep your ASOS packaging. This goes for any online store. When you’re next sending a package you can re use these plastic mailing bags. Stick a new label over the old one and you’re good to go! It is one good way to put these otherwise single-use mail bags to good use.
10. Reduce Bathroom Plastic
One big source of plastic in my house has always been from shampoos, conditioners and shower gels. Nowadays there is no real excuse for this. With a little extra effort, you can rid your bathroom of unnecessary plastic.
There’s a genius thing called a shampoo bar. It is just shampoo in a bar form. Lush is a great place to get them, cruelty free too. There is literally no waste. You can get a reusable tin cover to keep it in, or you can go without. These little bars of shampoo are actually better for your hair. Being homemade means they are made with good ingredients and not filled with unnecessary additives like commercial shampoos. Why not give these a go? Similarly, you can use bar soaps instead of shower gel.
Also this might be too much for some people but, look up mooncups. Apparently the average woman uses 240 tampons a year. The mooncup is safer and will save you so much money in the long run. I mean, for me it’s enough that it is so much better for the environment and I intend to try it out.
11. Buy loose
Walking into a super market and seeing all the fruit and veg covered in plastic is annoys me so much. Most fruits and vegetables have their own protective covering. Why cover a watermelon in clingfilm? Can a thin layer of plastic really protect a melon more than it’s own rock-solid coating can?! I know it’s not always possible, but when you can, buy loose fruit and veg. Why fill your own bins with packaging when you don’t have to.
I’ve seen that the government are encouraging consumers to leave excess packaging behind them in the super market when they do their shopping. I recently contacted my preferred supermarket, Dunnes, to see their stance on this. I was assured that if I want to leave any extra plastic at the checkout when paying, this would not be a problem. They will dispose of it properly. If you’re going to do this, which you should, just contact your supermarket to see their policy on this.
What type of plastics are recyclable?
I know it’s almost impossible to rid yourself of plastic altogether, so whatever plastic you do have, check if it’s recyclable. Plastic bottles and thick packaging generally is recyclable, while thin plastic like clingfilm and also Styrofoam isn’t.
As a general rule, the first two symbols above are recyclable, the second two are usually recyclable in most centres while the last two are not.
For more information on what plastic you can recycle, head over to Repak for a list of recyclable plastics.
Benefits of Reducing Plastic Waste
If for some reason you are still unconvinced to reduce your plastic footprint, know that there are numerous benefits to reducing your plastic waste.
- Environmental benefits: If you’ve been reading this post you will see that a lot of our plastic waste not only ends up in the ocean, but in the stomachs of millions of marine animals. This leads to an agonizing death. Reducing the amount of plastic we use will start to impact our oceans in a good way as well as reducing land pollution as well. Plastic doesn’t just have a negative impact on our oceans, but on land too. Plastic pollution is also ugly and an eye sore. Another reason to want to reduce it.
- Health: Plastic has begun to infiltrate our food chain. It ends up in water and the micro plastics are ingested by fish. Similarly, nasty chemicals from plastic can leach into our drinking water and food from the plastic they are stored in. In fact, each month we unknowingly consume a credit card sized amount of plastic. This is a very scary thought, knowing that these plastics contain dangerous carcinogenics. Reducing your plastic usage means reducing the amount of plastic you are accidentally ingesting. Avoiding plastic also means cutting out a lot of junk food and focusing on eating cleaner.
- Money saving: If you consciously make the effort to not buy items packaged in unnecessary plastic, you will be cutting out a lot of avoidable spending.
- Leads to a more conscious life: Taking steps to reduce your impact on the environment can lead to a more happy and conscious life. This can serve as a reminder of what is really important. Choosing this more thoughtful lifestyle results in slowing down a little and enjoying the simple things in life. Instead of rushing around a supermarket and piling your trolley high with plastic wrapped food, take joy in visiting the farmers market once a week and seeing where the food comes from. Refusing to use unnecessary plastic makes good organisation and planning a head essential. This means less last minute rushing around giving a less hectic life in general.
- Reduces Oil Consumption: Did you know plastic is made from crude oil derivatives? The production of plastic makes up a huge reason for the use of fossil fuels. Reducing our need for plastic means also significantly reducing the use of non-renewable fossil fuels.
In University, I studied Earth and Ocean Science and Zoology. For as long as I can remember, how little people care for the environment is something that’s really bothered me. My favourite module in college was the one on marine litter. It was so interesting but also incredibly demoralizing. I’ve long realised that a lot of people don’t care about reducing their impact. However, for those of us that do, it is time to really make a change, for the benefit of ourselves, our health and our planet.
I’m not going to try shame anyone into going zero plastic overnight, it’s hard! But, if everyone made these little changes, imagine the difference it would make in reducing your plastic footprint. I hope you found my post on “11 Tips to reduce Plastic Waste” helpful and picked up a tip or two.
I’ve now turned this into a reducing waste series, check out the other posts.
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These images were sourced from pixabay.