Plastic is both amazing and destructive! It is an extremely versatile material which is used in everything from airplanes to smartphones. The problem is that most plastic items are designed to be used once then thrown away. 8 million metric tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans each year, strangling and poisoning countless animals. Here are a few ways that you can reduce your plastic use and save some money in the process.
1) Reusable Bottles and Cups: These are the tools that we use every day, so why not make them reusable? If you don’t normally drink plain water, try adding lemons or strawberries to your refillable bottle for that extra kick. If you know that you’re going to have a cup of tea or coffee, bring your own cup. Although mostly paper, disposable cups have a thin layer of plastic on the inside, so they usually end up in landfills rather than being recycled.
2) Containers and Cutlery: If you are bringing lunch from home, put your food in a reusable container and use your own metal cutlery. Even if you are buying food, let’s say a salad, ask if you can take it away in your own container rather than the single-use bowl provided.
3)Reduce Packaging: Buy your fruits and vegetables loose and plastic-free where possible. Most store-bought meat is covered in plastic. A way of avoiding this is by bringing your own container to the butcher. Most butchers will be more than happy to oblige.
4) Ditch the Straw: This one’s easy! Just don’t use a straw. People were drinking liquids without issue long before the plastic straw was invented. If you do need one, metal straws are now available.
5) Hygiene: A lot of plastic is produced by hygiene products. Use bars of soap rather than bottles of liquid soap. You can also get razors which only require the blade to be changed rather than the whole plastic razor-head.
6) Get People on Board: The most important one of all. Be an inspiration! If you can convince one person to reduce their plastic waste, then you can rest easy in the knowledge that you have done some good in the world.
Although some people can’t get rid of all the plastic it is about reducing the amount. Remember that just because it is recyclable doesn’t mean it will be recycled. Reducing and reusing are more effective than recycling and should always come first.
Seán Kettle – Science Writer