This week marks Zero Waste week: join the millions of people globally reducing their plastic waste
Wondering how to go plastic free and really not sure where to start?
FYI, this week marks Zero Waste Week: an entire month dedicated to encouraging you to join the millions of people globally reducing their waste and live sustainably. As they put it, you can be part of the solution and help make our streets, oceans and communities cleaner, and your carbon footprint smaller. How? It’s simple: choose to refuse single-use plastics for the month.
While you’re here, do read our top need-to-know recycling facts, guide to ethical fashion and tips for making your WFH office more green, or, if you’re keen to read more about living plastic free, keep scrolling. Here, one writer shares how she found from going plastic free – keep reading for the all-important lessons she learnt along the way.
Knowing how to go plastic free can feel like a minefield. I’ve always considered myself a mindful person when it comes to the environment. I’m vegetarian and conscious of the origins of my food; I use food waste apps and am an avid recycler; and I take public transport as much as possible.
But, if I’m being honest, I’ve never delved into what actually happens to my rubbish or recycling after I chuck it into the respective bins. And when it comes to sustainable periods and sustainable beauty? Honestly, I’ve never really thought about them not being sustainable.
So, I decided to take on a challenge to live without plastic for a week. The realities of the stats I learnt was really shocking. Although I may never be zero waste – that is, totally plastic and waste free – I can certainly put a dent in how much I’m contributing to landfill. That’s a start, isn’t it?
To learn exactly how to go plastic free and my top tips for how to hack it in a world that’s geared towards plastic, keep reading.
Wondering how to go plastic free?
If you’re educating yourself on how to be more sustainable, you’re in the right place. I learnt a lot from going plastic free for a week – and the stats are enough to convince you to do your bit, in whatever way you can.
For six simple steps covering how to go plastic free in your day-to-day, keep reading.
1. Assess your recycling habits
As a nation, we only recycle 14% of recyclable plastic. And around 50% of the plastic we do recycle is never actually recycled because it’s not been properly disposed of.
I admit I never looked at my local council’s recycling policy before I went plastic free, so was guilty of putting things like plastic bags in my green lid wheelie bin (rather than at a specific plastic bag collection bin) and being completely confused about what I should do with bubblewrap (which can jam recycling machines if not put in the right place).
Read up – it’s important. Learning how to go plastic free really isn’t that complicated, once you start doing your research.
2. Buy a reusable coffee cup
Think about how much coffee you drink every day. Now, think about how many cups you chuck in the bin. Yeah, I quickly realised that it all adds up, with 7 million coffee cups thrown away in the UK every day – which adds up to 25,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste every year, to be exact.
I bought a reusable coffee cup instead – I opted for bamboo, as, sustainability wise, it’s the world’s most sustainable. While COVID has put a bit of a spanner in the works on this front – some stores won’t accept reusable KeepCups at current – we’re sure coffee shops will be happily accepting your reusables soon.
KeepCup Cork Brew Reusable 12oz Glass Coffee Cup, John Lewis, £22.00
Bru Reusable Coffee Cup, Amazon, £16.00
Stojo On The Go Collapsible Coffee Cup, Amazon,£9.99
3. Ditch the plastic bottles and packaging
London consumes the largest amount of plastic bottled water in the UK. I’m guilty of it. I liked the convenience of it. But, considering that by 2050, there will be more plastic bottles in the oceans than fish, we really need to fix this.
Plastic bottles make up 10% of all litter in the Thames, with ¾ of the fish inside consuming it, and considering how much I care about animals, these stats really hit home for me.
4. Educate yourself
Did you know you can’t really recycle plastic bags? It takes the average plastic shopping bag 100 years to decompose and that’s only if it’s exposed to sunlight and air (which landfill rubbish often isn’t). So, that plastic bag you chucked in the bin last week will probably outlast us all.
I now use reusable tote bags for everything. I have one for ‘fresh food’, like fruit and veg, and one for dry goods, aka everything else.
Considering 12.2 million tonnes of plastic litter enter the marine environment each year, it’s no wonder that 94% of the plastic rubbish that enters the ocean ends up on the sea floor. It’s not realistic for me to think I’ll never buy another plastic bottle of water again, but I can make sure I only bin it in a recycling bin and never in one that’s overflowing. These will likely just end up blowing away.
5. Protect your health
You probably already know that plastic is seriously unhealthy for you. So why do we keep buying it? One answer: convenience and lack of planning.
Chemicals like BPA and phthalates are used to make plastics and resins. When plastic is heated up, which can happen if your plastic bottle is in the sun, for example, these chemicals can leech into the contents.
Since they’re known endocrine disruptors, they can cause a whole load of health issues. I’ve traded in for a glass and stainless steel as they’re both natural elements, so are free from chemicals, and are wholly recyclable.
6. Opt for reusable cutlery and straws
I’m normally the first person to choose a plastic fork rather than a metal one. But, as it’s too small to recycle, it just adds to our ever-growing landfill.
There is, however, a way around it. Opt for an eco-friendly travel cutlery set, instead. After finding out that the UK and US use almost 550 million straws a day – most of which end up in the ocean or take 200 years to break down into toxic particles – I’m all buying reusable straws, made from stainless steel, glass or bamboo. I got mine from Eco Straws.
nuoshen Bamboo Cutlery Set, Amazon,£7.29
VEHHE Metal Straws Reusable Stainless Steel Straws, Amazon, £4.59
How to go plastic free: your essential product checklist
– A reusable water bottle, to replace plastic water bottles
– Delphine used this BKR glass bottle, £28
– A reusable coffee cup, to replace plastic coffee cups
– Bamboo coffee cup, £10.97
– A folding spork, to replace plastic cutlery when eating out
– Stainless steel folding spork, £7.99
– A tote bag, to replace plastic bags
– Orlebar Brown natural organic tote bag, £20
– Reusable food bags, to replace cling film and plastic sandwich bags
– Koella reusable sandwich bags, £12.96
– Glass Kilner jars, to replace plastic lunchboxes or waste from lunch bought out
– Kilner breakfast jar set with spoon, from £6.75
– Recycled toilet paper, to replace non biodegradable toilet paper
– Who Gives A Crap 100% Recycled Toilet Paper, £24 for 24
– A bamboo toothbrush, to replace plastic toothbrushes
– Eco-friendly bamboo toothbrushes, £6.11
– A soap bar, to replace plastic bottled soap
– All Naturals soap, £4.99
– A facial cleansing cloth, to replace face wipes and pads
– Myroo facial cloth and cleanser, £27
– A plastic free shaver, to replace disposable plastic shavers
– Friction Free Shaving razor, from £5
– Plastic free make up products, to replace plastic beauty products
– Kjaer Weis make-up, from £20.
What I learnt from going plastic free for a week
I was heartbroken by what I learnt about what we’re doing to the environment and wildlife (as well as to ourselves).
I feel I’ve finally seen just how unnecessary so much of my disposable plastic use is. Plus, it’s amazing to see just how much a difference we can all make by refusing, reducing, reusing, repurposing and recycling everything we can.
This article was originally published in 2017.