This week we share some advice on how to use less plastic and save money from expert authors Martin Dorey (No. More. Plastic) and Will McCallum (How to Give Up Plastic).
1. Stop buying plastic bottles
Why? Around 500 billion plastic bottles are sold every year – that’s 20,000 a second – and growing. And plastic is persistent. It doesn’t go away, just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, becoming a toxic soup in the oceans that fish and seabirds mistake for food.
How? Getting a reusable bottle is an easy win. You don’t have to buy a top-of-the-range bottle, just something you can use time and time again. You can get them in most supermarkets, sports or homeware shops for as little as £1, and you can also download the free Refill app to find out where can you top up your bottle for free.
2. Banish balloons from parties and events
Why? Plastic rope, and particularly ribbons from balloons, strangle seals and entangle sea birds.
How? Don't ever release balloons, even if manufacturers tell you they are safe - they’re not. If you feel the need to celebrate a big life event or a loss, you can do it without causing damage to the natural world or spending a fortune. Blowing bubbles, planting flowers, or seed bombing somewhere that’s unloved are all wonderful, affordable ways to commemorate or celebrate.
3. Avoid non-recyclable food packaging
Why? Lots of plastic cannot be recycled, particularly composite plastics. Plastic food cartons and packaging turn up on beaches every day, which means we're not disposing of them properly. Once in the ocean they can get mistaken for food and choke animals, attract toxins and break down into thousands of pieces.
How? When you shop, look out for labels on packaging saying 'not currently recycled’. Avoid these! One purse-friendly swap is to make your own snacks - flapjacks in tupperware are a win for the environment and your wallet, and they taste great too. Another tip is to take your own tupperware or cleaned takeaway containers to deli counters.
4. Make some swaps in your bathroom cabinet
Why? Plastic cotton bud sticks, tampon applicators, sanitary pads and wet wipes (which contain plastic) can escape sewage plants and get washed out to sea, particularly after heavy rain.
How? Do not flush anything other than the 4 Ps (Paper, Poo, Pee and Puke). If you find you are using plastic products, swap them for non-plastic alternatives like cotton buds or tampons made with cardboard (which are usually cheaper, too!). Natracare sell a range of plastic-free sanitary pads, or another alternative that will save money over a few months is to opt for a reusable menstrual cup. Cotton wool is an easy, more affordable swap for wet wipes.
5. Forget travel-sized toiletries
Why? Sachets seem convenient for traveling, but unfortunately, they are generally made using a non-recyclable combination of a thin film of plastic and aluminium, and are winding up on the beaches across South East Asia as people cannot easily dispose of them responsibly. Meanwhile, all those mini bottles are adding to the plastic poisoning the oceans.
How? Consider switching from liquid soap, shower gel and shampoo to solid versions that aren’t plastic-packed. Lush have been leading the way on these. At first look they may seem pricier than regular brands, but they are actually super-concentrated – when one shampoo bar lasts as long as three bottles of shampoo, you are actually getting a pretty good deal.
6. Rethink your wardrobe
Why? The clothes we wear are one of the greatest sources of plastic in the ocean. Miniscule strands of clothing, normally made of nylon or polyester and much finer than a human hair, detach from our clothes every time we wear them, wash them, or throw them away. A single fleece jacket could be responsible for releasing as many as 250,000 microfibres into the ocean.
How? Buy fewer clothes, and head to vintage or second-hand shops for those you do buy. Opting for natural materials (cotton, linen, wool, silk) where you can, and washing your clothes less regularly, will also help.
7. Cut the plastic from your morning brew
Why? Unfortunately, in the general move to use plastic in everything, many tea companies started using plastic to seal their teabags, leading to many of us polluting the environment unwittingly as we throw them in with our food waste.
How? If there is no ‘plastic free’ label on the brand that you choose, then it will contain plastic! You could consider making your morning cuppa with loose leaf tea, which is often cheaper than teabags. You can pick up a tea leaf ball infuser to use in your mugs, or a strainer to put inside your teapot, for a couple of pounds, and as loose leaf tea is generally cheaper than teabags, this swap will also save you money in the long run.
Read next >> 3 ways to "zero-waste" your grocery shopping