15 top tips to help you reduce your single-use plastic waste

Plastic is an extremely useful material due to its versatility, durability, cheapness and availability. However, it comes with a high environmental impact which needs to be addressed. Plastics are accumulating in the natural environment and threatening wildlife, damaging ecosystems and causing large scale littering. This has a devastating impact on our oceans and marine life.

Here we present to you some simple lifestyle tips to help you cut down on the amount of single-use plastic waste we use.

1. Carry a reusable bottle

In the UK we use over 35 million plastic bottles every day! Carrying a reusable bottle is a great way to cut your plastic use and save money too. You can use the Refill app to find a place to fill up your water bottle for free when you are out and about. Many cafes, restaurants and bars are also happy to refill your bottle too.

2. Take a reusable coffee cup

2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK – and less than 1 in 400 are recycled. Carry a reusable cup with you – some cafes even offer discounts if you use your own cup.

3. Avoid excessive food packaging

Whether it’s making different choices in the supermarket or choosing a different place to shop, we can all try and cut down on the plastic we buy. And as an added bonus, loose fruit and veg is often cheaper than pre-packaged alternatives.

4. Bulk buying and refill shops

Many people keep a shopping list and visit their bulk food store just once a month, to stock up on items such as flour, nuts, dishwashing liquid and more, in a way that doesn’t use single-use plastic.

Most bulk food stores and many general stores have paper bags that you can fill, or you can bring your own reusable produce bags, containers, and glass jars. You, or the counter assistant, can weigh your container before you fill it, so that you’re only paying for the product, not the weight of your container.

There are some products where it’s difficult to avoid a plastic container (for example washing up liquid or laundry liquid) – the good news is that there are an increasing amount of places where you can refill your old bottles.

Find your nearest refill station.

5. Say no to disposable plastic cutlery

We’ve all been there – caught out in a cafe or at a train station when we’ve bought a salad or a yogurt but the only cutlery on offer is plastic! Whilst it’s hard to plan for every opportunity, consider carrying a spoon or fork (or spork!) in your bag or keeping cutlery in your desk at work.

6. Get your milk delivered

Although the early morning sound of a milk float is not as common as it used to be, there are still lots of places where you can get milk delivered in glass bottles – which are then collected and reused. 

Find your nearest milkround.

7. Carry reusable shopping bags

Since the plastic bag charge was introduced in England, there’s been a massive 85% drop in their use. Many of us are used to carrying an extra bag with us – if you still find it hard to remember, try a foldaway one that you can carry in your normal day bag, or put some by your front door.

8. Ditch the cling film

There are many fantastic alternatives to plastic cling wrap that you can use to reduce plastic pollution. Storing and packing food in reusable containers is a great start. You can also purchase reusable silicone bowl toppers to cover food in bowls, pots and pans, or even get crafty with an upside down plate, reusable cloth cover or purchase some bees wax wraps.

9. Teabags

Make sure you are using plastic free teabags or you could even give loose leaf tea with a tea strainer a go instead.

10. Give up gum

Britons are the second biggest consumers of gum in the world, chewing an estimated 130 sticks per person each year. Chewing gum (made from plastic itself) can be swapped for plastic free alternatives on the market.

11. Glitter, the one member of the party that NEVER leaves!

Glitter is made from plastic of such a small size it’s especially lethal to our oceans. This microplastic can eventually end up in our food chain as plankton and shellfish can ingest it. But don’t worry, you can still sparkle guilt-free! There are many ranges of eco-friendly, biodegradable glitter out there.

12. Balloons and other single-use plastic party decorations

With a little bit of creativity, you can easily plan a party that’s free from balloons and other harmful single-use plastics. Popular decorations that can be reused time and time again, include bunting, tassels, tissue pom poms, lanterns, fresh flowers, and more.

13. Refuse disposable razors

More and more people are choosing to switch to safety razors, which are generally made of stainless steel and have replaceable blades. While they may be more expensive than disposable razors from the outset, in the long-run they can end up saving you money.

14. Bars of soap

Making the switch from shower gel to bars of soap is an easy way to reduce consumption of single-use plastics. Bar soaps come in different blends to suit body washing, face wash, shampoo and shaving, so your line-up of bottles may become a line-up of bars. Some people also go one step further and check the ingredients of the soap to ensure they don’t contain palm oil, which contributes to deforestation.

15. Tampons and pads

These days, there are many reusable alternatives to single-use sanitary items. This includes the increasingly popular menstrual cups, which are made by numerous brands and can be purchased online and in many health stores and chemists. These cups are inserted like a tampon, and typically need to be emptied and cleaned out a couple of times a day.

Period underwear and washable cotton pads and liners are also reusable alternatives, again with many brands available to choose from. These work more like pads, and can all be washed in the washing machine.

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