Plastics are everywhere and are undoubtedly one of the biggest environmental concerns of our time. Some scientists estimate that we will have more plastic than fish in our Oceans by the year 2050 (Source: Guardian 2016), an absolutely horrifying thought, but this is a problem that we all contribute to and we all have the possibility to change. So why are plastics specifically such an issue?
Plastic is not recyclable in the same way other materials such as glass and metal are, these materials can be recycled and used to create similar products, for example a glass jar can be melted to make another glass jar, but the plastic that is recycled is often down-cycled to create materials that won’t be recyclable again in the future.
Not all plastics can be recycled in all areas, this creates a huge amount of confusion for people and is problematic for local councils in terms of costs. Plastics will often have a recyclable symbol printed on them, this simply means they can be recycled, it doesn’t mean they will be. It is worth checking with your council to see what kinds of plastic items they will and won’t take for recycling as those rules vary from country to country and even within regions and councils. Even where there are the facilities to recycle plastics often they are sent to landfill anyway.
Plastic pollution is particularly problematic because it enters our waterways in several ways. Plastic is light and easily carried by the wind, meaning it can travel long distances. Plastic items such as baby wipes, cotton buds, tampon applicators are also often flushed in to our sewage system which in turn leads to them making their way to the oceans and seas. Micro plastics are an increasing problem, microbeads in cosmetics, microfibers from synthetic fabrics and plastic items breaking down whilst in the sea all contribute.
The more I look at plastics, the more I realise what a problematic material it is. But where do you start if you are trying to make a difference to your plastic waste? The first thing I will say is that living completely plastic free in todays world is undoubtedly a hard task, so do not feel you have to change your entire life over night. I have created a checklist of items you can avoid or swap for better alternatives to get you started. I have been making these changes progressively over the course of the last few months and still have lot’s of changes I can make, so it’s a work in progress. This month I will contributing a donation to the Marine Conservation society who are educating people on the dangers of single use plastic options.
Plastic free checklist ideas (don’t feel you have to do all of these, simply pick the ones you feel work best for you):
Food – Buy unpackaged produce where possible. Take reusable bags for produce and to pack your groceries. Instead of buying items such as bread and cakes, make your own. For those items where packaging is unavoidable, try buying in bulk, larger sizes often have less packaging. I find local shops tend to be more accommodating than big chains when it comes to taking your own glass and stainless steel containers. Buy glass storage containers for keeping leftovers and prepared food in the fridge. Ditch the plastic cling film and use a container with a lid or beeswrap instead.
Home – Use Soapnuts or a laundry egg for washing your clothes. I also use non-bio in cardboard packaging for my nappy laundry. Make your own multi-purpose spray for surfaces, there are lot’s of recipes available. Instead of air freshener scent your home with essential oils. Use a bagless hoover. Buy toilet roll that is packaged without plastic.
Toiletries – (My personal weakness when it comes to waste!) Buy products that are packaged in glass or aluminium. Buy make up that comes in refillable packaging. Ditch the cotton buds or use ones with paper stems. Use a safety razor or the sugaring method for hair removal. Choose bar soap or a shampoo bar over items with plastic packaging. Use reusable menstrual products.
Related posts: Zero waste beauty.
Baby and child – Get children’s toys second hand or if you are buying new get ethically made wooden toys. Buy metallic children’s cutlery or options made from bamboo. Get them a high quality reusable bottle to drink from. Use cloth nappies and wipes instead of disposable ones.
I have lot’s of reviews for plastic free and eco-friendly alternatives on the blog, so take a look at the categories and use the search bar to find reviews of products you are interested in. I have also linked some of my plastic free alternatives below. These are just some suggestions, there are so many small changes we can make that add up to a big difference for our planet! You can find more details about the plastic challenge and take part yourself here. If you have any great tips for reducing plastic in your home I would love to hear them, let me know in the comments.