Unless you’ve been living in a bubble recently, you’ll be aware of the current plastic crisis that we are in the midst of. We are a nation of ‘plastic junkies’ probably without even realising it. Just think about your average day, if you commute to work do you buy a coffee or a bottle of water? Let’s stay with the coffee for a moment as incredibly over 1 billion single use coffee cups end up in landfill globally! Or what about your weekly food shop, how much plastic are you taking home and putting in the bin without realising? Shockingly, each year over 300 million tons of plastic are produced globally and sadly it’s estimated that ten percent will end up in the sea. If we carry on producing and disposing this much plastic, it’s thought that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the sea will outweigh the number of fish!
What is the major problem with plastics I hear you ask? Well, plastic is notoriously difficult to recycle with only 12% of household waste being reprocessed. So where does the rest go? This is where the problem lies as the rest of the plastic either gets burnt or goes into landfill. As a nation we are really good at sharing shocking statistics, but what can you actually do to make a difference and what are large corporates doing to reduce their plastic consumption? Well keep reading to find out more.
Have you heard what’s happening in the Houses of Parliament?
In a bid to make a sustainable stand point, the Houses of Parliament are making some drastic changes to the amount of plastic they use on a daily basis. Over the next couple of years the Houses of Parliament will get rid of all plastic bottles, cups, bags, cutlery and sauce sachets and put reusable options in place. In fact over 125,000 plastic water bottles will be removed from sale immediately.
If you buy a coffee and want a reusable coffee cups instead of bringing your own re-usable cup you will still incur a 25p charge. I’m sure if you use Instagram and follow any health and wellbeing influencers you will have seen the variety of sustainable re-usable coffee cups on the market these days. Whilst prices range from £5-£20, this might seem like a lot of money, but think how many times you will use it and how many plastic cups you won’t be putting in the bin as a result! If you want to be ethically minded also, there are brands out there selling products that have been made from sustainable material such as bamboo.
How many people will these changes actually impact? Currently there are 650 MPs and 800 peers in Parliament, with over 2,500 staff working in Houses of Commons and Lords, not to mention there were over 1 million visitors to the Palace of Westminster in 2017. So it’s safe to say, quite a few! In order to help people with this new mind-set, there are extra water stations available so people can fill their bottles up and the restaurants will only have sauces in refillable containers. Could you implement some of these changes on a smaller scale in your office? Go on, give it a go!
How can you spot eco-friendly packaging?
How many food items do you put into your trolley on a weekly basis and feel that you’re over loaded with excess packaging or plastics? If you find yourself in this situation why not make some small changes, next time you pick up a bunch of bananas, don’t put them in the clear plastic bag, put them straight into your basket or trolley.
Finally, supermarkets are doing something to help us make better informed decisions when choosing what items we want to purchase. The world’s first plastic-free Trust mark will appear in supermarkets in the UK from May 2018. Iceland will be the first supermarket to launch this on their own brand eggs, cottage pie and vegetable burger packaging, with plans to include soft fruit, mushroom and potato packaging later in the summer. The Trust Mark will show customers easily and quickly that the packaging is plastic free. Whilst over in the Netherlands they already have a plastic free aisle! But hey! One small step for mankind and all that!
What are car companies doing to combat the plastic crisis?
Before we dive into this topic, another shocking stat for you. Did you know that plastic can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose? So with around 10% of modern cars being made up of twenty different plastics, car manufacturers have a responsibility to do something. So, who’s doing what? Most of the major car manufacturers have schemes in place and for full details its best to check out their websites. For example BMW have committed to collecting plastics found in the ocean and recycling them and Ford are using 22 recycled plastic bottles to make one seat cover in their new Ford Focus!
So what can you do?
In the UK cars have to be scrapped at legally approved centres, so when your car reaches the end of its life, make sure the centre you take it to an approved site. Not sure where you’re nearest scrapyard is, use this vehicle scrapyard finder tool to help. If your car is due for service and you think it might need some new parts ask the garage to give the old parts back to the car manufacturer so these can be recycled and reused.
Top 10 ways you can reduce your plastic consumption
Ok, so down to the nitty gritty, how can you make some small steps to reducing the amount of plastic you use on a daily basis? We’ve gathered some simple tips below to help you get started.
Ditch the plastic water bottles
Whether this is on your daily commute, in the gym or using plastic cups in the office, put the single use plastic bottles down and use a reusable one or a glass. There are so many brands out there today offering really fun, personalised, quirky water bottles so making the swap is easy. Worried that you won’t be able to fill your bottle up when you’re thirsty? Don’t panic! Most cafés, restaurants and coffee shops will happily fill these up for you, however, if in doubt there are apps available so you always know where your nearest watering hole is.
Put down that plastic straw!
I’m sure most of us use plastic straws on nights out without evening realising and sometimes more than one straw at a time. Ever had a fancy cocktail and it comes dressed with two or three straws? Next time you’re in a restaurant if you don’t need a straw, simply ask the waiter to not give you one. Having a summer picnic or birthday party and you really want straws, why not swap them for paper ones.
Watch what you wrap your lunch in
How many of us are guilty of having a fridge full of sandwich bags or cling film keeping food fresh in the fridge? Simply swap the cling film for tupperware for storing food and leave the cling film off your next shopping list. If you have sandwiches every day for lunch, again instead of using a sandwich bag you can now buy sandwich boxes, genius! If you want to take your green credentials one step further, you can now buy sustainable sandwich wraps that are made from cotton and coated with beeswax!
Carry a shopping bag
Most of us have already got the memo on this one, but it’s still worth noting. Since the plastic bag charge came into England there has been an 85% reduction is plastic bags used! If you find you’re still getting caught short without the reusable bags, make sure you always have some in the boot of your car and in your handbag (if you carry one) or why not leave one in your desk drawer.
Mindful supermarket shopping
I know nobody wants bruised fruit or veg but do you really need a plastic bag for one pepper or that single banana? The answer is no! Make a conscious effort next time you are doing your food shop to not put all your fruit and veg in individual plastic bags and look at the products you are buying, have they got excess plastic packaging, are there alternatives with less packaging? Small but effective steps to making a difference.
How many of us have floor wipes, surface wipes or face wipes lurking in our cupboards at home? As the government plans to ditch disposable wipes, you might as well make some changes to your beauty and cleaning routine now! If you feel you can’t live without wipes, there are biodegradable versions on the market, so make sure you do your research before purchasing.
Bring back the milkman
Do you have a milkman in your area? If so, why not make a change and instead of buying milk through the supermarket, hook into your local milk man service. Not only are you supporting local farmers and businesses, the glass milk bottles are collected and reused. You can find your local milkman here.
Carry a re-usable coffee cup
Did you know 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away In the UK each year and only 1 in 400 are recycled, so by carrying a re-useable cup you can help reduce this number. Some coffee establishments also offer discounts for using re-usable cups, so not only will you be doing your good deed for the day, you will be saving money also.
Say no to sachets
Do you use plastic sauce sachets for your lunch or when you are in fast-food establishments? More often than not, there will be the most popular sauces available in dispenser form as well as sachets, so next time you’re having that famous burger and chips, use the dispenser. Why not leave your favourite condiments in jars in your desk to save you dipping into the salad cream sachet.
Hopefully this has given you food for thought on simple ways you can make a difference. Instead of overwhelming yourself with doing to many, pick one, stick to it and when it becomes normal make another change.