During the month of July many people around the globe take part in a movement known as Plastic Free July. Throughout the month people aim to reduce their plastic waste by making swaps, refusing, reusing and rethinking the plastic they accumulate. So, to get you started I thought I'd suggest some simple swaps anyone can make!
1. Plastic Water Bottle. Single use plastic water bottles can readily be found across stores and shops in the UK, due to this they are highly convenient - This leads to a massive 7.7 Billion Plastic bottles used each year in the UK alone with a million created each minute! A 2018 report by Ocean Conservancy showed that plastic bottles were the 3rd most found single use plastic item found on beach clean ups.
By swapping to a reusable water bottle, you could save a large number of single use plastic bottles being used. I don't think this is a very difficult swap, however, because I am quite a forgetful person I did end up leaving it at home on many an occasion, so do not beat yourself up over it - Over time I did get a lot better. Some people like my Dad, decide to invest in more than one bottle as each bottle belongs in a different place e.g. Work or the Car, this could make it a lot easier for you to avoid plastic bottles but try with one first and see how you feel.
You can pick up a good water bottle for between £10-40, I know that a lot of people invest in a Chillys metal water bottle, which can be a tad towards the pricier side but they are high quality and it's better to invest in an item that will be long lasting rather than cheaper not as well made one. I picked mine up (a non-branded one) off of Amazon over two years ago now, which at the time was the most viable option for me.
2. Plastic Straws. Plastic straws are everywhere, in your takeaway iced drink, in your drink at a restaurant and even in your cupboards at home. It's no wonder that 8.5 billion straws are thrown away in the UK each year, with this type of single use plastic being the 7th most found item during beach clean ups.
Plastic straws seem to be bearing the brunt of people's anger towards single use plastic, especially after a video surfaced of a turtle having one removed from its nostril, with campaigns set up to try and completely ban them. However, I feel that this just dismisses those who without them would be unable to drink. If you are able bodied and can do without a plastic straw then do so by refusing them or if you really can't live without one then invest in some.
Each straw alternative has its own advantages and disadvantages;
Glass + Can be used for hot or cold drinks - Easily breakable
Metal + Durable and reusable, plus are cheaper in the long run - Initial cost is higher than plastic straws and they are not suitable for hot drinks
Bamboo + 100% Natural and can be composted after use - Reusable but not for very long
Paper + Cheap - Can quickly turn to mush in your mouth
Compact straws + Easy to have on you - Can be a hassle to clean/get back into the case
I personally carry round two metal straws with me in my bag, along with a straw cleaner, this way I can offer the other to someone I'm with.
3. Plastic Bag. Since the 5p plastic bag levy came into play in the UK, the number of plastic bags used has declined by 86%, the government are thinking to raise this levy to 10p and to implement it across all shops rather than just large chain stores. I find this has helped people to remember to bring their shopping bags with them, however these can be made of plastic which as soon as its got a hole in would be thrown away.
So what can you use instead? Well, I'd suggest investing in some fabric tote bags - think cotton, jute or bamboo - which can be easily fixed if broken or if entirely unsalvagable can be either recycled, composted or turned into something new. Try to avoid fabrics like nylon, polyester and any other plastic derived fabric as these can release up to 17 million fibres of microplastic in a single wash, which can be ingested by small creatures like plankton.
4. Coffee Cup. I love coffee and tea just like any stereotypical British person, but I no longer contribute to the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups used each year in the UK (out of which half a million are littered every day!). How? Well I decided to invest in a reusable coffee cup, which has saved me using approximately 70 cups since I got it in November last year.
Wait hold up a sec you may be thinking Steph, those cups are made from card, there's no plastic in them. But, I hate to break it to you, you're wrong. See, the reason why your single use coffee cup doesn't leak boiling hot liquid down your leg, is that there is a thin layer of plastic covering the inside of them. This thin layer makes the cups essentially unrecyclable, unless given to specialist recycling schemes or centres.
Bringing along your own cup instead of using a single use one grants you the bonus of many shops giving you a discount e.g. Pret =50p, Starbucks = 25p, Costa = 25p (Many other shops give discounts but I just wanted to provide you with some examples).
The cup I use is a 12oz Clear KeepCup, where I got to choose the colours for myself. I know it is made of plastic, but the product is made to a high quality and so will last for a long time, they also sell replaceable components if parts do break and the plastic used in one KeepCup is equivalent to that from 20 single use cups.
I hope you've found these tips helpful, let me know if this blog post has helped you to reduce your plastic waste. If you'd like to discuss anything with me or suggest a blog post you would like to see, you are more than welcome to either contact my through my email firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on my instagram @ofatravellingnature.