10 Tuesday: 10 ways to reduce your plastic waste

Written by Isabel Attwood

Plastic waste has been getting a lot more attention recently, and it’s clear we need to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our day to day lives. I recently watched the BBC documentary Drowning in Plastic (which you should definitely check out!) and it inspired me to find more ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste I help create.

So what are the simple ways we can reduce how much single-use plastic we use?

1. Buy a refillable water bottle.

Whether it has unicorns, bunny ears or a pug in a dinosaur costume offering breathing advice (yep), display your personality with an awesome reusable water bottle. Not only will this stop you buying a new plastic bottle every time, but it will also encourage you to drink more water, making you more hydrated!

2. Ditch plastic straws

Plastic straws are designed to be convenient, but they’re also incredibly wasteful. Some people need them and that's fine, but if you don't then when you go out, say no to plastic straws. Many places now offer alternatives such as reusable metal or recyclable paper straws which is fantastic! To stop paper straws getting soggy as quickly, balance them on your glass when you’re not taking a drink.

3. Use a reusable cup for hot drinks

Are you a tea lover? Can’t quite start the day until you’ve had your coffee? If you regularly use coffee shops for your caffeine fix, consider taking in your own reusable cup. Not only are there some cool designs but some places will offer a discount if you bring your own cup!

4. Ditch the glitter

We know, glitter is awesome. However, what looks great on your latest craft, festival wardrobe or cosplay doesn't look so great when it makes its way to the ocean. Glitter is a microplastic, and when we wash it out of our hair, off of our skin or put it into the bin it can make its way to all kinds of habitats and even be ingested by animals and sea life. Next time you go to use glitter in your project, decide if it's really necessary, or if the project could be done another way and still have an awesome impact. If you can't quite let the glitter go, you're in luck as there are plenty of guilt-free sparkle alternatives! Take a look at this blog about the history of glitter, why environmentalists are concerned, and links to some great eco-friendly glitters!

5. Buy reusable makeup removers

The makeup industry is slowly waking up to how much waste they create. We’ve banished micro-beads in the UK and now the focus has shifted to another big culprit: makeup removal wipes. Instead of buying packets of wipes that will end up in a landfill, invest in one of the many reusable makeup removal cloths, mitts or cotton pads that have popped up. They feel soft on your face and all you need to do is chuck them in the washing machine once they need a clean! I started using a 'magic cloth' about a month ago and it works really well, all you need is warm water and the makeup comes right off. I tend to wash mine about once a week, but it'll be different depending on how much makeup you use day to day.

6. Make your period waste free

It's estimated that on average everyone who has a period will use around 11, 250 single-use pads or tampons throughout their lives, and each one could take up to 800 years to degrade!

Reducing the amount of plastic your period produces will be different for everyone, as it depends on what you’re comfortable with. However, there are some simple ways to reduce period plastic. If you use nappy sacks to dispose of menstrual products, consider wrapping your pad or tampon in some tissue instead. If you use pads, take a look at reusable pads. If you use tampons, try using non-applicator or cardboard applicator alternatives. If you really want to tackle period plastic, and it's something that works for you, give a menstrual cup a go! They might seem daunting at first, but they’re becoming more and more popular, and not just because they reduce plastic waste. You can read more about menstrual cups from the awesome Betty blog here, and you can find out more about how long common items take to degrade here.

7. Make your life more digital

Though not necessarily plastic, we create a lot of needless waste by having things mailed to us rather than getting them online. Companies will often send us physical copies of policy changes, special offers and other miscellaneous mail which we could request to receive online or opt out of instead.

If you get your bank statement or utility bill mailed to you every month, see if you can switch it to online delivery. If you're subscribed to a mailing list but you're no longer interested in getting mail from them or you could get it through an email instead, take some time to opt out of their mailing list. Not only will this reduce the amount of paper, plastic and greenhouse emissions created but you'll get less junk mail and it will make it far easier for you to file and locate your important documents without the need for physical copies taking over your space!

Take this leaflet for a Sky mobile deal I got through the post recently. I've got no interest in the offer and it went straight in the recycling, but not before I scoured the small print for how to opt out! (It was on the last line...!) So that's one less bit of needless post for me and a little bit less of an impact on the environment.

We're not saying this will work for everyone. You might like to have physical copies of things, or don't have the means to access e-communication. However, it's something which not many people have thought about in the mission against waste so we wanted to encourage more people to give it a go!

8. Use bars instead of liquid soap and shampoo

Instead of buying a plastic pump bottle of liquid soap, opt for a bar of soap to wash your hands with instead. A lot of the time it will be cheaper and you’ll prevent more plastic from hitting landfills and oceans. There is also a great selection of ‘bath blocks’ on the market from companies such as Lush, who offer bars of body wash, shampoo, conditioner and skincare. One bar of shampoo could last as long as three 250ml bottles!

9. How did grandma do it?

I was recently talking with some friends about how we can reduce plastic waste in our lives, and one of them raised the point that at some point in the not-too-distant past, people managed perfectly fine without so much plastic. Because it is so ingrained in our lives we often think there’s no alternative to the plastic products we use. However, once you start looking there are alternatives out there, like the ones mentioned above. When thinking about how to reduce plastic waste in your life, take a moment and think to yourself: how did grandma do it?

10. Come out of your comfort zone

Plastic is everywhere. It’s convenient and when we use a plastic straw, unwrap a cucumber or wipe off our makeup, it’s easy not to realise how those products affect the planet. Sometimes we don’t realise because we hadn’t thought about it before or don't know the alternatives, and that’s ok. Sometimes, though, we don’t realise because it’s easier not to think about it. It’s easier to continue using convenient single-use products rather than trying out or exploring alternatives. However, if everyone stays in their comfort zone, change won’t begin to happen. Remember when the 5p carrier bag charge was introduced? Many people were confused, said they would refuse to pay the charges and that no one would ever bring their own bags to a supermarket. Now, though, it’s sometimes hard to remember a time where you didn’t walk into the supermarket with a handful of bags. We came out of our comfort zone, changed our habits and it’s had a huge impact on the reduction of plastic waste in the UK. Almost everything in this article requires us to come out of our comfort zone, even just a little. But if everyone came out of their comfort zone just a little each time, imagine the impact we could make together.

Have you made an effort to reduce plastic waste? Have you done some upcycling activities in your units? If you’ve got any tips or recommendations on ways to reduce plastic waste, let us know in the comments and on social media!

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