14 simple ways to use less plastic that you can try today

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March 7, 2018

14 easy ways to use less plastic that you can try today

The statistics surrounding plastic pollution are alarming.

Read 14 ways plastic is harming us and the environment to discover shocking facts about the effects of plastics on wildlife, humans and the planet at large.

But that doesn’t stop us wanting to do our bit.

The trouble is, the problem can feel so overwhelming you don’t know where to start.

Fortunately, taking small, simple steps is the way to start.

Just imagine – if we all did one more thing to reduce the amount of plastic we use, it could add up to significant change!

Here’s how to get started. Choose just one to do this week or use it as inspiration to come up with your own ideas:

Eating out

Show your bottle

We’re throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year in the UK. With stores like Waitrose phasing them out, it’s easy to do your bit by taking a reusable coffee mug when you’re out and about. Some companies will even offer you a discount if you present your own cup to the barista – what’s not to love!

It’s the same with bottled water. You’ll save a tonne of money, and lots of plastic if you refill your own water bottle. There are more and more companies offering free tap water refills in cities throughout the country.

Ditch the straw

Many takeaways shops and cafes automatically assume you want a straw. I would go so far to say that unless you have a medical condition which dictates otherwise, nobody needs a straw. We can all raise awareness by saying no and encouraging eating establishments to go straw free. If you need to use one, you can purchase reusable ones made from stainless steel.

Grab a spork!

Many meals on the go include disposable plastic cutlery. Consider carrying mini cutlery with you – toddler cutlery is ideal, or a camping spork!

Cleaning the home

Refill

Refill stations for cleaning products such as washing up liquid, laundry liquid and fabric conditioner are becoming more commonplace. You’ll save money and reduce the amount of plastic containers you use.

Make your own

For household cleaning items you can’t refill, consider making your own. It doesn’t have to be complicated or time oncoming – Glass and mirror cleaner can be made with equal quantities of white vinegar and water. And here is my recipe for an amazing antibacterial multi-purpose cleaner.

Health and beauty

Go plastic free

Open your bathroom cabinets and you’ll probably be met with an array of products all wrapped in plastic. When these run out and you need to replace them, search for plastic-free alternatives. Try solid shampoo bars, switch to bar soap, use coconut oil and a skin moisturiser and hair conditioner, try washing your skin in clay and you could even make your own toothpaste and deodorant!

Ditch the wipes

Are you using make up wipes? Why not switch them for something that is reusable? It will save you money and reduce your landfill. Try a flannel, muslin cloth or crochet your own make up wipes. I just use my hands – no plastic there!

Keeping hair free

Living with less plastic doesn’t mean embracing your inner cave man / woman. Instead of disposable razors, switch to an old fashioned safety razor. These will last for ages and a blunt blade can be recycled as its metal.

Teeth cleaning

Most toothbrushes are made from plastic. Fortunately more and more plastic-free options are coming into market. Here are four ideas to get you started. From bamboo to trees, I’ve covered it all! You can buy pure silk dental floss in glass bottles from Sally at Natural Spa Supplies.

Microbeads

Microbeads are the new bad boy on the block; causing devastation to marine life. While microbeads are banned in rinse-off products such as facial scrubs, they are still used in leave on products. Check your labels for Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA).

Shopping

Carrier bags

The first thing we did on our zero waste journey was to stop using disposable plastic carrier bags. You can make your own from old t-shirts or buy reusable bags that will last for years. Remember though, the most ‘zero waste’ purchase is not to make one at all, so if you have old plastic carrier bags at home, just keep using them until they are no longer usable – then recycle them. Most large supermarkets will recycle carrier bags for you.

Fruit and veggies

Buy loose where you can – most supermarkets sell some of their fruits and vegetables loose. If you have a local farmers market or farm shop support them instead – you can buy just the amount you need which not only saves plastic packaging, but reduces food waste too. If there is nothing close by, check out a box scheme delivery – most products will come in just a cardboard box which will be collected for reuse.

Reusable containers

If you have considerable amounts of packaging from meat and deli items such as cheese, why not take your own reusable containers? Ask the person to put your container on the scales, tarre off the weight then put your purchases straight into your own container. This will save heaps of packaging over the course of a year and you never know who might be in the queue behind you being inspired!

Speak up!

If you have a favourite product that you’re not prepared to go without, but comes in excess packaging then make your voice known! You can either leave the packaging at the checkout or return packaging back to the manufacturer by post with a letter outlining what you’d like them to do instead. You might feel like you are a lone voice, but if we all do the same it’s amazing what impact it can have!

Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss
Rachelle Strauss is founder of MyZeroWaste.com and ZeroWasteWeek.co.uk Both are leading websites for helping householders reduce landfill waste. Her work has attracted media stories and engagement in documentaries, film and radio both locally and abroad.

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