According to a report by Plastic Oceans, humans produce more than 380 million tons of plastic annually. Of this plastic, 50% is single-use, and 10 million tons end up in our oceans every year.
Next month will mark the beginning of Plastic Free July, an event designed to raise global awareness of our plastic problem. With over 100 million participants every year from 190 countries, the team behind the initiative challenges us to imagine a world free of plastic waste.
If you are interested in reducing the amount of plastic you use, find out how you could do so and live an eco-friendlier life for Plastic Free July this year.
Find the single-use plastics around your home
Plastics can infiltrate your home through products you might not suspect, so a good first step can be to identify and eliminate the single-use plastics that have made their way into your household.
In the kitchen, avoid pre-packaged food, especially meat and fish. Cleaning products are also major offenders, as many cleaning supplies such as dish soap or window cleaner come in plastic containers.
Be wary of items like disposable razors and plastic soap and shampoo bottles in your bathroom. Most wet wipes, sanitary products, and even toothpaste tubes are also unrecyclable plastics that end up in landfill.
Also consider items that are not a staple in everyday life that can still cause damage to the environment. For example, chewing gum, glitter, or balloons are designed to only be used once before ending up in the bin.
Start using viable alternatives
Once you have sought out the plastic in your home, you can start to look at alternatives to help you replace them.
Avoid pre-packaged foods by finding your local butcher, fishmonger, or deli counter, and bring your own reusable bags or containers to transport your food home. Try buying fruit and vegetables loose at the supermarket or visit local markets so you can purchase them without the unnecessary plastic packaging.
There are also dedicated “refill” shops that allow you to buy a variety of loose foods, from pasta and cereals to beans and pulses.
Bottles of cleaning and hygiene products can often be refilled so the bottle is used multiple times. Similarly, you can reduce your waste drastically by changing the blades of your razor rather than tossing out the entire thing, and using a flannel instead of wet wipes.
For the more unusual single-use plastics, it can better to invest in items you can use repeatedly. High-quality decorations for parties, whether handmade or bought, will last you plenty of birthdays or Christmases and remove the need for waste. You can save the planet and prevent glitter from ever sticking in your carpet again in one go!
There are also more interesting solutions to problems most people never consider. For example, you can buy bars of soap instead of liquid-dispensing plastic bottles, and you can even line your bin with newspaper instead of using plastic bin bags.
Buy high-quality, reusable items to replace weak, single-use plastics
Investing in reusable items will not only help you to be eco-friendlier, but can also save you money in the long run.
Reusing a metal water bottle instead of buying lots of plastic bottles when you are out and about is one way you can significantly reduce the waste you produce.
Other more innovative solutions could be using loose-leaf tea and a strainer. This can be more sustainable than buying teabags, as many brands surprisingly often contain plastic.
Say “no” when you are offered single-use plastics
Perhaps the most significant way you can reduce your plastic waste is simply by saying “no” when you are offered a single-use plastic item.
Whether it be a plastic straw, a carrier bag in the supermarket, or a plastic fork with your fish and chips, turning it down can have a huge impact on the planet.
Not only can you place confidence in knowing you have reduced the amount of plastic you use personally, but it might also encourage a conversation with your friends and family to convince them to cut back as well.
If you ever find yourself without the reusable items you bought, there are still ways to avoid reverting to single-use plastic. For example, using a water fountain or purchasing a glass bottle of water and reusing it will save you from throwing away a plastic bottle.
These changes may seem small on their own. But as they begin to accumulate, you can make a meaningful difference. By joining the company of millions of other participants cutting down their plastic use, you can make a significant contribution to the global plastic problem.