6 Steps to Reduce Single-Use Plastic From Your Life
It’s no secret that single-use plastic products (SUPPs) are a major threat to environmental and human health.
As reported by Recycling Facts, 5 million tons of plastic are generated within the UK every year. This is equivalent in weight to roughly 25,000 blue whales, 714,286 elephants or 5,000,000 walruses. That’s a lot of blubber, if you ask us. 🐳
But the tragic fact of the matter is, this plastic will take up to 500-years to fully decompose; with its production, distribution and eventual disregardment contributing towards escalating ramifications of the global climate crisis. As reported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), there is currently between 75-199 million tons of plastic waste in the ocean, with 9-14 tons entering the aquatic ecosystem in 2016 alone. We really shouldn’t be giving ourselves, or our 25,000 remaining blue whale friends, another thing to worry about.
This may seem dystopian, which it very much is, but there are impactful things that we can do as individuals, groups and as a larger society to tackle the issue of single-use plastic waste – and we’re about to give some steps on how to do just that. ☝️
So whether you’re a planet-positive-pro, or you’ve just watched a David Attenborough documentary and are mid environmental-existential-crisis, we’ve got your back. Here’s our list of 6 introductory ways you can live with less single-use plastic:
Image credit: Алсу Вершинина on Unsplash
1) Rethink your Christmas tree 🎄
As we’re approaching the holiday season, we thought we’d start off with a topical one. Did you know that most artificial trees are made from toxic PVC (or polyvinyl chloride)? But with British households being estimated to buy 8 million real Christmas trees this year, what is the greenest and most sustainable option?
For a start, choosing the most sustainable tree will vary depending on your circumstances. For people who already own artificial trees, it’s best to keep on using those over buying ones anew – as you would in reusing your Christmas decorations year on year. This ultimately cuts down on unnecessary plastic waste, and will leave you with more money to spend on (hopefully) sustainable gifts for your loved ones or, perish the thought, your in-laws.
Alternatively, if you want to buy a new one: go local. Buying a tree from a local tree-grower won’t only support your local economy, but will limit its otherwise potentially large carbon footprint. Equally, if you’re a sucker for commitment, you could always invest in caring for a potable tree – one that can be moved to the garden and cared for all year round.
But sourcing and decorating the tree aside, it’s actually how you dispose of it that is debatably more environmentally significant than where you got it from or how you brought it home. This is because if it becomes landfill fodder, its environmental impact would be so much worse due to its contribution to the already overwhelming global plastic pollution (if fake), or due to the methane it would release during decomposition (if real). And we promise you, this would do worse for the planet than any odour you could ever release – even after eating your Christmas dinner brussel sprouts.
Image credit: Hannah Morgan on Unsplash
2) Thrift your clothes 👔
As Macklemore once said; “I'm digging, I'm digging, I'm searching right through that luggage. One man's trash, that's another man's come up.” And he couldn’t be more right. In 2019, resale service ThredUp reported that around 40% of Gen Z-ers bought clothes second-hand, up from less than 30% in 2016 for comparison.
In the UK, there are plenty of quality thrift stores, from London to Liverpool, Belfast to Brighton, and Glasgow to – well, you get the jist. Thrifting is on the rise, but so is plastic pollution, so this lifestyle change is one that would lessen your wastage while maximising your wardrobe. Is this a 2-for-1 we’re sensing? Bargain.
Image credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash
3) Shop at local food markets, or sustainable supermarkets 🥕
Giving your custom to local farmers markets could be a great way of reducing your plastic consumption and waste. Not only would your food be local and fresh, reducing your carbon footprint, but most produce is completely plastic free – including the little plastic labels you find on most fruit and veg in mainstream supermarkets. Mother Nature likes this option.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a different solution, then supermarkets with an emphasis on sustainability and seasonality – such as HISBE in Brighton - are perfect places to visit. Short for ‘How It Should Be’, HISBE encourage their customers to bring reusable containers and shopping bags to store their goods. Built on the foundation of ‘waste not, want not’, they work with local farmers, claim to have sustainable and planet-positive food production practices, and reduce waste through avoiding food packaging and throwing away edible produce. This is a community-driven practice we can all get behind.
Image credit: Haneen Krimly on Unsplash
4) Reduce your soda intake, or buy glass bottles 🥤
Most fizzy drinks are sold in single-use plastic bottles. Companies such as Coca-Cola (Coke, Fanta, Sprite, Lilt, Oasis, Poweraid, Schwepps and Costa Coffee) and PepsiCo (Pepsi, Starbucks, Lipton, Tropicana, Rockstar Energy, Naked Juice and Mountain Dew), who heavily rely on SUPP packaging, are consistently ranked as some of the most notorious plastic waste polluters globally. Reuter reports that according to Greenpeace, PepsiCo uses 2.3 million metric tons of plastic each year. Equally, Coca-Cola is said to be responsible for 100 billion plus bottles of single-use plastic. Now if we had a £ for every bottle produced, we still wouldn’t be as wealthy as Warren Buffet. Not even close!
While both companies have established targets and initiatives to reduce their plastic production and dissemination, they have become regular targets for global climate activism. NGOs, such as Break Free From Plastic, have featured them on their list of “top global polluters” for three years running. Clearly, more change needs to be done, and quickly, so reducing your soda intake or buying drinks stored in glass bottles or 100% recycled materials could be a really beneficial individual step.
Image credit: Johnny Briggs on Unsplash
5) Consider upcycling ♻️
“What’s upcycling?,” I hear you hollering from the rafters. Well, Steve, we’ve got you covered. Upcycling is the concept of taking something old, broken or unwanted, and transforming it into a new and more desirable commodity. Think of it as creative reuse, like what Amy Schumer believes she’s doing by retelling other people’s jokes (sorry, not sorry). By doing this, you’re contributing to a circular economy.
For instance, you could take a scratched or broken vinyl record and transform it into a customisable wall-mounted clock, or turn the bottle caps from the step mentioned earlier about soda bottles into ambient tea lights. The goal is to be as creative and sustainable as possible. Truly, the sky’s the limit. Now we wouldn’t say we’re DIY experts, but that soap bottle you’ve made out of a bottle of pop? It really makes the tiles on your bathroom wall sparkle, Steve. We’re proud of you.
6) Try out Homethings 🌟
Aha! A shameless plug. But we wouldn’t suggest it to you if it didn’t have its environmental and personal benefits. Here at Homethings, our mission is to ‘clean up cleaning’ by inviting people to rethink the products under their kitchen sink. Did you know that big cleaning brand products are 90% water packaged in single-use plastic? We think that’s pretty bonkers.
As a solution, we’ve compacted active cleaning ingredients into non-toxic, vegan and cruelty free tabs that – when added to tap water – allows you to refill the same bottle over and over again. Not only does this leave you with more space in the kitchen and bathroom cupboards to store your knick-knacks and paddy-whacks, but it also works wonders for the planet. With every tab you buy, you save one single-use plastic bottle from ever being produced. Additionally, you drastically reduce your carbon footprint, as each refill tab has over 90% less Co2 emissions than a single-use bottle.
With Greenpeace UK finding that microplastics and chemicals can now be found in Antarctica, meaning that every point of our oceans – from the north to the south pole – have been contaminated with microplastic waste, it’s important to strike while the iron (and sadly ice caps) are hot. We must think smart about the products we’re consuming and businesses we’re supporting in order to eliminate our single-use plastic waste. And not just for ourselves, but at the very least for our walrus pals. 🦭