We wanted to create a really useful article to help people reduce their plastic waste. However, aside from the very obvious, we found that to be really useful, the recommendations and tips would need to unique for each and every one of us. We are all at different stages of our eco journey, and our jobs, family situation and lifestyle mean that there is no one size fits all checklist.
So instead, we asked Charlotte, our freelance copywriter, to share her recent experience in trying to reduce plastic waste, and to share where she thinks she can do better. If one of your resolutions is to use less plastic, reflecting honestly about the plastic you do use today and where you could improve is a great exercise, and we encourage you to create a list for yourself.
Here’s her honest and open journey, filled with plenty of helpful recommendations to inspire yours…
As a quick introduction to myself- my partner and I used to live just outside of, and work in London. A couple of years ago we made a big move to Devon. We bought a house and introduced a daughter to the mix alongside our dog.
When thinking about this blog piece, I have identified some areas which were my old London working lifestyle, as well as some which are my new, at home mummy lifestyle.
Although it's not a new year's resolution, and I am certainly no expert on the subject, my aim this year is to be more eco-friendly and try to reduce plastic in my home, especially single-use plastic. I thought by sharing my ideas it might help anybody else who is wanting to make some eco-friendly changes but isn’t sure where to start.
There are some things that we already do which can be done better, and there are some areas which we could just improve on, full stop.
So let’s start with why I want to reduce my plastic waste.
With Christmas over and recycling collections having been delayed over the break, it was quite eye opening to see the amount of recycling bags filled to the brim with plastic waiting to be picked up. Despite there being more than usual, it still got me thinking about how much is out there on a fortnightly basis throughout the year, and what impact that will be having on our environment.
It turns out that although most types of plastic are in fact recyclable, councils don’t have the infrastructure in place to carry out this energy-intensive process, so most will end up in landfill or worst still, our oceans. “Eight million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans every year, killing and harming marine life.” WWF. This is a shocking statistic.
Plastic is everywhere, and it is estimated that “by 2050 there will be a tonne of plastic for every tonne of fish.” (Recycling technologies). These facts really got me thinking, I appreciate that some people do manage to live an entirely plastic free lifestyle, but for the majority of us it is more realistic to try and reduce it. So what can I do?
How do I use less plastic today?
As a household, we are strict on recycling and we make sure we rinse out our cans and our plastic containers before we place them in our recycling bins and although it's a good start, I know we can easily do more.
Back in the days when I worked in London and would go out at lunchtime to grab lunch to take back to the office, I must admit this is one that I was extremely guilty of. I naively didn't give it much thought that my lunch would always come accompanied with single-use plastic cutlery, which I would often use despite us having perfectly good reusable cutlery in the office kitchen. When this was pointed out to me I realised that by simply asking the food establishment for no cutlery, it was easy to cut out the endless single-use forks and spoons.
Although I no longer use plastic cutlery, my partner used to have a stockpile in his van for his lunches at work. He now has metal work cutlery which he takes in with him every day to reduce the amount of plastic he uses on a daily basis.
We all know that plastic bags are terrible for the environment and thanks to the government introducing a 5p and then a 10p charge for them, there has been a huge improvement in the reduction of plastic bag sales in all major supermarkets. I could easily cut them out of my life altogether.
Due to the recent pandemic, I rarely venture into a supermarket any more, and my partner is exceptional at always remembering to take reusable bags with him, but it is definitely on my list for one for the future where I can do better, I will often get to the till and remember I have left the bags in my car, or worse still in my house. (I’m sure I’m not alone here!)
If I have forgotten them, I will try to opt for a paper bag or better still, to balance the items in a pile in my arms and walk slowly to the car. But this isn't always possible, especially with an inquisitive toddler in tow.
Nowadays there is such a wide range of reusable bags available, most of which fold down and can be kept in my bag, so I have no excuse. I recently came across Kind Bag London who turn waste plastic bottles into beautiful, reusable and 100% recyclable bags. They fold up into a size which can easily fit into my pocket, I have ordered one to permanently keep in my changing bag (gone are the days I have a lovely handbag!)
Another quick win for those of us who are getting food deliveries is to opt for plastic bag free deliveries. Although it may seem like more hassle whilst the food gets delivered, it is a quick win to reduce the use of plastic bags.
Thanks to a certain television programme where people go to an island to find love, refillable bottles with your name written on them have become hugely popular and I am no different.
Although they are reusable and not single-use, they are still plastic, I have recently switched mine to a glass bottle which is a much eco-friendlier alternative and keeps my water colder for longer. Children's bottles are often plastic too (it goes without saying a glass version is a big no-no! But there are other options such as these stainless steel ones from Kid Kanteen if you’re looking for a child-friendly, plastic free alternative.
With my other half being a plumber, he is funny about drinking the tap water (I don’t want to know any more than that) and we were drinking bottled water day in and day out, you can only imagine the amount of plastic we were putting in the recycling each week. We have cut this out completely and now have a Brita water filter jug in our fridge. Brita were actually the first company in their industry to establish a recycling programme for used cartridges, and nowadays they have a refined process which ensures all parts of the cartridges are reused or recycled.
As we become increasingly aware of the detrimental effect plastic has on the environment, single-use plastic drinking straws have been another product in the government firing line resulting in them being banned completely in 2019.
I rarely used straws when at home, however they became invaluable when I had a newborn attached to me 24/7. I took advantage of a Facebook advert which popped up offering me a free metal straw to help save the turtles from Turtle Savers, and I have since purchased a range of all different shapes and sizes. Some are perfect for smoothies and milkshakes!
You can get some great reusable straws which come with a travel case, such as this one from Zero Waste Club. By always having it in your bag when you are on the go, it means you will never be without, and won’t have to opt for the dreaded paper straw which we all know disintegrates before you’re even halfway through your drink!
Before I started working with nookary, I had no idea about the impact kitchen sponges have on the environment and the amount of micro-plastic which get washed into our water systems. I have since switched my washing up sponges for an eco-friendly dish brush with replaceable heads, this was a very quick and easy change for me, and a good starting point if you were wondering where to begin on your journey.
Single-use sandwich bags/cling-film
This is a bit of a bone of contention in my household, as my partner seems to be a major fan of a single-use plastic food bag. My aim is to rid our home of them altogether and I am currently looking into alternatives such as these plastic free products at Lakeland.
When it comes to being out and about with my toddler (in the times when we were allowed), rather than wrap her packed lunches in cling film or tin foil, I bought a set of reusable snack boxes from Paperchase, and I use them every day whether we are on the go or not!
Another quick fix was to buy some food clips to keep her endless supply of snacks air tight and fresh without the need of a plastic bag.
Buy local/more sustainable
This one might seem very specific, but I wanted to share a revelation I had a couple of months ago. With the closing of many shops throughout 2020, we make the conscious effort to shop more locally, visit the butchers and the greengrocers rather than our local supermarket. During the first lockdown, a Zero Waste shop opened in my town. Cue my discovery of the best peanut butter ever! Palm oil free and no plastic container. You take your own jar and fill it with pure ground peanut butter. Delicious. You could have a look around your area and see if there are any places like this near you, and buying locally means reduced carbon footprints on products too.
Before I had my daughter I vowed I would never have any garish, loud, plastic toys in the house. Cue reality; unfortunately it seems to be the thing they like the most, but where I can, I opt for wooden toys such as the classic fruit and vegetables which go with her play kitchen. There are many companies now offering more eco-friendly toys, such as Kidly who also have a range of products made from recycled materials too.
Wooden toys can be more expensive than plastic, however at certain points in the year Lidl and Aldi have a wooden toy event which are very affordable. I stocked up on a few things at their event in December, and have hidden them in the loft.
What can I do next to reduce my plastic use?
That question has endless answers, and given the situation we are all in with lockdown 3.0 I don’t want to stress myself out with the eradication of everything and anything plastic in my home. But two areas where I could make easy changes are:
Although I have never been much of a coffee drinker, back in London I worked in a team who were largely fuelled by it, which is not uncommon. One person would pop out and return a while later with a dozen varieties from our local coffee shop.
It was during that time that more and more high street cafes joined the war against single-waste plastic, and began to offer a discount on your favourite latte or flat white if you use a reusable coffee cup rather than one of their disposable ones. Thanks to that initiative, reusable coffee cups started appearing in the office.
Although my London days are behind me, my first few months of motherhood were often spent in a coffee-shop with fellow mum’s, or getting a takeaway drink to fuel our pram walks, chatting about lack of sleep or our baby's latest development. Although it might feel like a thing of the past at the moment, it will be back. And so will I. With a reusable cup in hand!
When it comes to cleaning products, the majority come housed in plastic. Another aim of mine is to purchase some reusable bottles such as these from Ampulla and fill them myself with cleaning products from either the local zero waste shop or another shop nearby that offers refillable cleaning products.