It seems impossible to escape our disposable plastic lives, whether it’s the mountain of plastic covering our food and cleaning items, to the micro plastic fibres in our clothes entering the water system every time we wash our clothes.
I can’t help but feel saddened by all the articles on social media showing plastic pollution in our oceans, this story really stuck with me, where a Cuvier’s beaked whale has been found off the coast of Norway with 30 non-biodegradable plastic bags in its stomach, and the wardens had to put it down. The extent of our plastic addiction and the suffering it is causing on a global scale is enormous, imagine if free Willy was found 6 months later washed up on beach filled with plastic…
Since the 5p charge on plastic bags, I can help but think of what an amazing achievement it has been in preventing our plastic pollution entering the oceans, according to WRAP, Britain’s 7 mains retailers sold 83% less plastic bags in 2016 in comparison to 2014, along with raising £66 million for good causes. Hardly surprising the Marine Conservation Society Great British Beach Clean 2016 Report has seen almost a 50% reduction in plastic bags found on beaches last year! Tesco is also trailing phasing out 5p plastic bags in three of their stores.
So it seems we really have made head way in reducing plastic bag usage, but what about the rest: bottles, cups, straws, toothbrushes, lighters… the list goes on and on.
So what can you do?
I first initially wanted to rid myself of plastic altogether, but soon realised after looking at my bin liner, or my deodorant, that I probably just need to do all I can to reduce my plastic usage. So here are my lessons of plastic free July:
My first lesson: purchase a reusable coffee cup and water bottle, there really is no excuse! Top tip: fill your water bottle once you get to work, at least that way you’re not carrying extra weight on your morning commute. I’ve had my BRITA filter water bottle for just over a year, you can recycle the cartridges and it tastes so much better than other plastic bottles (as long as you clean it often).
My second lesson: Avoid plastic food packaging, bring your own lunch in when you can, it will stop you buying that cheap sandwich and packet of crisps, it will save you no end of money and it didn’t even taste that good anyway. Top tip: cook extra in the evening and bring the leftovers in the next day, my partner and I saved £200 a month by doing this!
My third lesson: refuse plastic straws and get yourself some reusable cutlery, make a point to everyone around you that you don’t need that fork that snaps when you try to eat, you are much smarter than that!
And if you want to go a bit further, go for loose fruit and veg items, mushroom black plastic tubs are the bane of my existence since I found out you can’t recycle black plastic (in fact avoid coloured plastic when you can, two-thirds of plastic does not get recycled!).
Why not check out a local farm shop, I visited Trinity Farm Shop in Cosell, not only was I surprised by how little plastic they use, but I also signed up for their veg box to help support local farmers!
And finally, keep a reusable shopping bag in your backpack, handbag or car, it surprising how often you actually forget them. After I unpack mine I leave them on the front door step so I never leave home without them.
Want to know more:
Plastic adrift shows how plastic pollution moves across the ocean through an interactive map: http://plasticadrift.org/
Rethink plastic with Plastic Oceans: documentary endorsed by Noam Chomsky
Jack Johnson’s film exploring plastic pollution in the Sargasso Sea of the North Atlantic (he also had a sweet guitar made out of a pine tree killed by invasive bark beetles)
Want to do more:
Check out the marine conservation society, they have loads of information about ocean plastic, and if you sign up to help them protect the oceans you will receive a plastic free pack with a Brita water Fill & Go bottle, cotton bag and reusable coffee cup! (Click image below)Reducing your plastic waste is simple and we really don’t want to see more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050!
-This blog post was written by Vanessa Odell, an ESD Coordinator in the Green Academy Team at NTU.
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