How plastic free can you really be?
Plastic is killing our planet. It’s littering our seas and if we don’t make urgent changes, our oceans will be more plastic than fish (by weight) by 2050. Thankfully, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make the switch. Some of the tips here are about going back to basics and doing what people have done for thousands of years. Others are more modern solutions, using new techniques and technologies to leave plastic behind us. BALANCE looks at your day to see how and where you can be part of this sea change…
Quite often, the first thing many of us do when we wake up is reach for a cuppa. However, it may shock you to discover that teabags, of which almost 160 million are thrown away every day in the UK, are made with polypropylene which doesn’t break down. Switching to loose leaf tea will make a world of difference.
By making sure you eat something before you rush out of the door, you’ll avoid the plastic that can come with grabbing breakfast on the go. Here’s how to have a plastic-free start to your day…
Eggs Whether scrambled, boiled, poached or fried, eggs are cracked open every morning in homes across the land. Some are packaged in a (non-recyclable) plastic or polystyrene container, but eggs in cardboard boxes and recycled paper pulp trays are easily found. These can even be put on your compost pile as they are biodegradable. Chickens make delightful pets, too.
Milk We’ve become used to the high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles that contain fresh milk at unfathomably cheap prices. These bottles, while not made from reused plastic, are at least recyclable. And yet, the possibility of home delivery hasn’t completely died out. If you live in a large town or city, you can probably have a daily delivery of milk in glass bottles at a very reasonable cost. Try milkandmore.co.uk or findmeamilkman.net to see if your area is covered by a delivery service.
Bacon & sausages If you eat meat, bacon, sausages, black pudding and other delicacies can be bought without a plastic wrapper at the old school butchers or supermarket fresh meat counter. Go prepared with a tin, reusable plastic Tupperware or other suitable container to take it home in.
Veg Mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach can be bought fresh and loose, and beans come in recyclable tins. Avocados, of course, have their own compostable packaging.
Fruit juice Like milk, fruit juice now comes in HDPE bottles or Tetra Pak containers. Doubtless, it is just as good for you as anything sold in a glass bottle, but why not do your own juicing? A freshly squeezed fruit juice cannot be beaten for flavour and nutrient content, but if you don’t have the time to do this, it can be delivered to your doorstep along with your milk.
Fresh fruit Always try and buy your fruit loose. This is very easily done for more robust choices like apples, pears, bananas and citrus fruits.
Experiment with shampoo bars These can last three-times as long as regular bottles. Head over to the Lush website and see heaps of shampoo options complete with lots of testimonials.
Avoid microbeads, banned in skincare and cosmetics, these tiny balls of plastic are still used in cleaning products, like dishwasher tablets and washing machine sachets. Be careful not to inadvertently buy cosmetic products containing them when overseas.
Ditch the face wipes… Super convenient and easy, these seemingly disposable beauty godsends are incredibly damaging to our planet. Make‑up wipes, along with other household wipes, won’t break down… And plastic toothbrushes. According to dentists, we should replace our toothbrush every three months, adding to the growing plastic mountain. However… The bamboo brush is back. It takes some getting used to, but they’re fully-biodegradable and once you’ve got past the less-than-familiar feeling, you’re good to go.
Natural resources Choose stationery made from cardboard, wood or cork.
Bottle job Flasks or reusable plastic bottles (these days, you can even find fancy ones that filter your water) are everywhere, while water fountains are also increasingly common. You’ll save quite a lot of money, too!
Plan for the planet Take your time. Plan what you want to eat, buy (or grow!) the ingredients plastic-free, and prepare your food at home to avoid all that unnecessary waste.
Switch to a reusable cup Ecoffee, Brita and a whole range of brands do jazzy reusable cups and water bottles. You can even get money off drinks at certain establishments.
Dodge the Meal Deal The £3 combo of sandwich, crisp packets and a plastic bottled drink is a lethal blow to our planet. Bring lunch from home in a reusable box.
Make a bee line for all-natural wrap Cling film and foil last, at best, one lunchtime. However, compostable food wraps are now widely available to keep your food fresh.
How to Live Plastic Free by the Marine Conservation Society (£12.99, Headline Home) is out now