Plastic pollution has grown into one of the world’s most pressing environmental problems. This ever-growing pile of plastic is invading precious habitats – toxic chemicals that are released from the material are also poisoning sea life. Global production of plastic rose from 2.3 million tonnes in 1950 to 448 million tonnes in 2015, and this figure is expected to double by 2050. The stats don’t look good – but that doesn’t mean change isn’t possible.
What can be done to prevent the rise of plastic pollution? Well, you can start by making some small changes around your home. If you’re serious about fighting back against this worldwide plastic trend, read on to discover some simple domestic alterations you can make that will help you lead the charge.
Single-use plastic is the key culprit when it comes to plastic pollution. Our need to have things on-the-go has increased our reliance on plastic massively.
1. Shopping bags
Since the 5p bag charge was introduced in 2015, sales of single-use bags in the UK have fallen 90% – but don’t celebrate too soon. This has led to more people buying ‘bags for life’, which has seen supermarkets’ plastic use skyrocket to 900,000 tonnes annually.
Why not cut out the plastic altogether? Here are three alternatives you can try to carry your weekly shop:
- Baggu – This reusable bag folds into itself, and can hold up to three plastic bags worth of shopping
- Natural Jute Bag – A classic, cheap, sturdy alternative
- Lucy & Yak – These tote bags are a little more expensive, but are both organic and waste-free. They’re 98% cotton, and made from leftover material
2. Cut the bottled water
The amount of bottled water sold in the UK has doubled in the past 15 years, and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Shockingly, the average adult in the country goes through 150 plastic water bottles a year.
Instead of piling on the plastic, try swapping your one-use water bottles for a reusable one:
- Chilly’s – These bottles are BPA free (meaning they don’t contain bisphenol A, an industrial chemical), and will keep your drink ice-cold and fresh for up to 24 hours – not to mention they look amazing!
- WAKEcup – These bottles are crafted from sustainably sourced bamboo. WAKEcup also donate 10% of profits to The Marine Conservation Society.
- Jerry – These bottles are visually simplistic. Not only will you gain a new, stylish water bottle, but 100% of profits go straight to different water projects around the world.
3. Need your morning coffee fix?
In the UK, we use 7 million disposable coffee cups every day – that’s 2.5 billion every year. So if you can’t go about your day without your morning coffee, it’s time to invest in a keep cup.
- rCUP – This is one of the more visually attractive reusable keep cups. There is a collection of colours to choose from, and they’re all made from recycled single-use coffee cups.
- Ecoffee Cup – Ecoffee Cup is leading the way in the war against plastic with its fully biodegradable cups. Once the cup reaches the end of its life, you crush it, soak it in boiling water, and throw it on your compost heap.
- Stojo – This compact cup collapses into a leak-proof disk that can be easily tucked away. These nifty cups are made from silicone, fully recyclable, and BPA free.
Our kitchens are filled to the brim with plastic tools and chemicals – but is it all necessary?
4. Silicone bags
Silicone is much more durable and more ocean-friendly than plastic. It’s safer for your family, with no toxins (like BPA) to worry about. It’s odourless, stain-resistant, hypoallergenic, more hygienic… the list goes on!
So instead of struggling with sticky cling film and taking your food to work in sandwich bags, try some of the following:
- Stasher – This brand has a variety of bags to suit your needs. On top of this, its bags are fridge-, oven-, and microwave-friendly.
- Yuggen – Similar to Stasher, Yuggen provides silicone bags in a variety of shapes and sizes, which are also colour-coded.
- ModFamily – ModFamily specialises not only in silicone bags, but also lids to prevent spillages.
5. Wax wraps
Fed up of fiddling around with sticky cling film, only to throw it away after one use? Wax wraps act as an effective alternative. By acting as a protective layer around your food, wax wraps can keep your food fresh throughout the day.
You can get vegan and non-vegan options in a range of sizes and styles.
- The Beeswax Wrap Co – This is the company leading the way on wax. It provides the widest variety of sizes and styles, with vegan options available too.
- Lilybee Beeswax Wrap – Although these wraps are good for covering both big and small kitchen items, their extra-sticky material is more effective for covering bowls and other less fiddly items.
- Biome – Biome produces vegan and non-vegan wax wraps. Both options come in a variety of styles, and are proven to hold well.
6. Reusable fruit and veg bags
Single-use plastic continues to be a major sticking point for modern environmental efforts. In fact, experts have recently estimated that supermarkets create around 900,000 tonnes of plastic every year.
We can all reduce our plastic consumption in supermarkets by walking past the fruit and veg smothered in plastic, and choosing the loose option instead. And rather than reaching for the plastic bags to carry them, why not buy a few reusable ones?
- Turtle Bags – These grocery bags are made from sturdy, organic cotton mesh, and come in two different sizes.
- Onya – Onya’s five-pack of white, densely woven mesh bags weigh just 10g each, and can carry up to 2kg. A range of other handy bags to carry bread, produce, and bulk food are also available.
- Postera – These bags are extremely durable – don’t be afraid to pile up the potatoes! – and also include large colour-coded tags for attaching barcodes.
7. Chuck the chopping board
Although they’re easy to clean, plastic chopping boards are not sustainably made – bamboo, meanwhile, is an excellent alternative.
Why bamboo? Not only does it look more appealing and elegant within your kitchen, but it also only takes six months to decompose. For comparison, plastic can take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. On top of this, bamboo chopping boards are also much more hygienic, as bamboo doesn’t cling onto bacteria as much as plastic. Everybody wins!
8. Can’t go without disposable cutlery?
If you’re holding a party, disposable cutlery can be unavoidable – but this doesn’t mean you have to use plastic. Whether you go for biodegradable cutlery made from recycled material, stainless steel, or bamboo, it’s all better than plastic.
Why not try:
- Black and Blum – This cutlery is neat, compact, and made from stainless steel.
- Bambaw – This handy set is made solely of bamboo. It comes with its own organic cotton pouch too, so you can keep it safe and sound.
- We Earth – This reusable cutlery is made from a natural wheat fibre and polypropylene blend (BPA free), which can be recycled at the end of its life.
9. Get rid of cruel kitchen tools
Who would have thought that sponges and scourers could cause so much damage? A lot of people don’t know how much plastic goes into these scrubbers.
If you want to keep your kitchen sparkling whilst also staying green, try cellulose sponges. These are made from wood fibres, and are 100% biodegradable. You can also shop for some coconut scourers, which work to keep your kitchen spick and span.
Looking good may make us feel good, but it’s leading to the deterioration of our planet. So what can we do to get the best of both worlds?
10. Reusable cotton buds
They may be small, but they do a lot of damage. It’s estimated that the population of England alone uses 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds a year.
After the damage they’ve caused our oceans, cotton buds, as well as other plastic pests, will be banned in April 2020. So, what are your options once this ban comes into effect?
- Simply Gentle – These buds are made from 100% organic cotton wool, with paper stems.
- Pura Source – These buds are sourced from 100% natural biodegradable bamboo and cotton wool. It also comes in biodegradable packaging.
- LastSwab – The least wasteful option is LastSwab, a reusable alternative to single-use swabs that can be cleaned by hand using soap and water.
11. Menstrual products
Although these are essential for most women, the damage they cause to our planet is catastrophic. The products themselves, along with the packaging and individual wrapping, generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.
So what changes can you make to cut down on waste?
- Menstrual cups – Menstrual cups are made of flexible silicone, and shaped like a bell. You only need to clean it once every 12 hours, ideally with boiling water and eco-friendly femfresh wipes.
- Menstrual discs – These work the same way as menstrual cups, but are shaped differently
- Go organic – Some brands (e.g. BON, Seventh Generation, Organyc) have adopted organic material to reduce plastic waste
12. Steel razors
We all like to keep up appearances – but do we need to do this in such a wasteful way? It’s estimated that two billion razors and cartridges are tossed away each year.
To give our oceans a helping hand, why not ditch the plastic and choose one of the following?
- Steel razors – FFS are leading the way here. They offer a stylish rose gold metal razor, which comes in plastic-free packaging. Once you’re done with the razor heads, you can return them for recycling.
- Bamboo razors – Bambaw offers a razor with a bamboo body and metal head. The metal parts can be recycled, while the bamboo is compostable. Replaceable heads are also available.
- Recyclable razors – Preserve offer a razor that is not technically plastic-free, but uses repurposed plastic and plant-based compostables.
13. Bamboo toothbrush
Use of plastic, disposable toothbrushes has been steadily increasing since the 1930s – but just how much can the Earth handle? Each year, one billion toothbrushes are sent to landfills in the US alone (most made of plastic).
Can you keep the environment as clean as your teeth? It’s worth a shot, but you’ll have to be prepared to ditch the plastic.
- The Pearly White Club – This brand was the UK’s first bamboo toothbrush subscription service. On top of this handy service, a toothbrush is donated to the homeless every time someone subscribes.
- Georganics – This brush has nylon-6 bristles that are infused with activated charcoal – known to absorb plaque, help whiten teeth, and prevent bad breath.
- Wowe – This is the best-value option if you’re looking for a charcoal-infused bamboo toothbrush. Wowe has also pledged to donate 1% of its sales to the One Tree Planted charity.
14. Wipe away that enviro-guilt
Wet wipes may be efficient for cleaning, but they’re one of the products causing the most harm to our oceans. Within the last decade, there has been a 400% increase in the number of used wipes found on beaches – and since they take 100 years to biodegrade, rivers and oceans are suffering too.
So what can you do about it?
- Use reusable bamboo pads – These work much more efficiently for removing make-up – simply put the make-up remover on the pad and wipe away. Once you’re finished with them, chuck them in the washing machine, and they’ll be ready to use again.
- Use biodegradable wipes – Some major brands, such as Simple and Dettol, have recently adopted these. Better still, these wipes can biodegrade in compost within six weeks!
15. Reusable tea bags
In Britain, we drink 165 million cups of tea a day – but what a lot of people don’t know is that some tea bags are toxic for both us and our oceans. Plastic tea bags, often used for more expensive teas, release around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion smaller nanoplastic particles per bag into the water.
So, how can we drink tea safely?
- Check whether your favourite tea brand uses plastic to seal its bags – throughout 2019, a few brands made announcements to become 100% decomposable, so a plastic-free future for tea is well and truly on the table.
- Use reusable tea bags – These bags are made from natural, unbleached, organic cotton. As well as not releasing billions of toxic microplastics, one of their best features is that they’re available for as little as 55p!
16. Reusable straws
A few years ago, a photo of a turtle with a straw stuck up its nose was doing the rounds on social media. This triggered fury, outrage, and a movement to get rid of plastic straws altogether. And following on from Scotland’s recent success, England will also be banning plastic straws in April 2020.
But of course, for those that have certain illnesses or are on bed rest, straws are necessary to eat food. So, once the ban comes around in April, what can you use as an alternative?
- Steel straw – If you’re into a more stylish drinking straw that’s also easier to clean, metal is the way to go
- Bamboo straw – Bamboo is also easy to clean, and has natural bacteria-fighting properties (meaning it’s able to repel mould)
17. Say ‘no’ to disposable nappies
It’s no secret that babies are messy. New parents might not exactly have the environment on their mind, but it’s something that everyone should still be concerned about. It’s estimated that three billion nappies are thrown away every year in the UK – and there’s no sign of them disappearing any time soon, as they’re thought to take between 450 and 550 years to degrade.
The solution? Reusable nappies. The main downside to these products is that they’re undeniably expensive, with the average set costing around £80. That said, you’ll make your money back by not having to buy as many nappies – plus they’re up to 40% better for the environment.
Ready to make the swap?
Let’s start off the decade with a fresh, plastic-free home. Plastic is not only harming our environment, but it’s affecting our health too – by making these simple changes around your house, you can rid yourself of any harmful plastic chemicals, and do your bit to keep the environment ticking along as it should.