The average household in the UK produces more than a tonne of waste every year, which is equivalent to around 25,000 plastic bottles! Recycling that tonne of plastic bottles would save 1.5 tonnes of carbon. Obviously the tonne of waste we produce a year isn’t composed entirely of plastic bottles, but plastic does play a large part in our everyday lives and using less of it can only be good for the planet.
Plastic is widely used in the food industry, as it’s cheap to produce, versatile and hygienic. It’s not always the bad guy, as it helps to preserve food and give it a longer shelf life thus avoiding food waste.
Even if you religiously recycle as much plastic as you can, though, it’s still best to try and avoid it wherever possible to help reduce your carbon footprint. Here are our top tips for making small changes that will have a big impact.
- Use glass, not plastic. If you currently buy milk in supermarket plastic bottles, consider changing to a milk delivery service using glass bottles. Not only will you be supporting a local business, but you’ll also be moving away from disposable bottles – and you won’t run out of milk! Do remember to send the bottles back to the supplier for reuse, though, where they’ll be scalded out and sterilised ready for next time. In rural areas, farmers and small dairies have started setting up help yourself ‘milk kiosks’ where you can go and fill your own container directly from a refrigerated tank.
- Use your own containers. When you’re buying long-life dry goods, such as pasta and rice, there’s no need to buy it sealed in plastic. Some wholefood shops sell dry goods by the scoop out of bins – take along your own Tupperware box or even a paper bag, and decant it into a larger container when you get home. You could also buy in bulk, and split products with family and friends.
- Use Bags for Life. This is an easy win, just requiring you to be organised enough to remember to keep some bags in your car! You can also buy fabric bags that fold up and slip into a handbag for impromptu purchases.
- Choose cardboard packaging over plastic. Some products such as laundry detergent come in a choice of tubs or boxes.
- Forget single-use plastic. Buy a refillable sports bottle, and take your own water with you when you’re out and about. Not only does it help reduce waste, but you’ll save a fortune as well! You can also take your own thermal mug to coffee shops when ordering a hot drink, and many places will give you a discount on your drink as well.
- Shop at farmers’ markets. Many growers use sustainable packaging such as paper, and some encourage you to bring more durable packaging back for refills. When you’re in the supermarket, opt for loose fruit and veg and pack them into your own bag rather than buying prepacked.
- Buy refill products. Many manufacturers make refill packs which use considerably less packaging than the original! It’s also generally cheaper to buy the refill. Dried herbs are a good example – buy the glass jar once, then the cardboard boxed refills thereafter.
- Ditch clingfilm. Clingfilm is great at its job, but is only designed to be used once. Nowadays you can buy reusable beeswax and soy wax wraps, made from cotton coated with wax, which can be washed and used repeatedly to wrap food.
- Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo ones. You may have grown up buying and using plastic toothbrushes, but they’re no good for the environment. Instead, swap to natural bamboo toothbrushes, from a company such as Ecoy. You won’t look back!
- Find specialist refill shops. More and more shops entirely dedicated to reducing plastic waste are being set up across the country, like Lemon and Jinja, who sell refills of everything from oat milk and rice, to household cleaning products and chocolate.
You won’t be able to avoid all plastic, it just can’t be done – so the most efficient way to recycle is to reuse. Make plastic bottles into bird feeders or garden cane toppers, or wash out butter and margarine tubs and give them a second life as storage boxes.
There are more great tips about being more eco-friendly in your home over on Rachel Bustin’s blog. If you have any favourite tips, we’d love to hear about them too!
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