How to Break Up with Plastic

Since the release of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2, it seems that conversations around plastics and how harmful they are to the environment have increased exponentially, and for good reason. Plastic is so environmentally destructive and takes so long to break down (into even smaller micro-plastics which are just as harmful) that every single piece of plastic that has ever been made is still in existence in the Earth today. From every Barbie, to every Action-Man, every toothbrush to every menstrual pad – they still exist somewhere on this planet!

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I actually haven’t seen Blue Planet 2, but I have seen more and more people say they are making more conscious choices because of it. My journey to a more conscious life actually happened a year ago when I heard about Lauren Singer and Kate Arnell, two bloggers who aim to produce as little waste as possible. Whilst I am definitely not “zero waste” – I still recycle a lot of packaging and throw some items into the landfill – I do consider myself more conscious of my plastic consumption now.

I was recently asked by my friend “How do we keep a convenient lifestyle and reduce our plastic use?”, so here are some of the things you can do in order to reduce my plastic consumption that are so easy it’s laughable.

The Not-So-Fantastic Four

These items are most likely used at least in some form or another by every student and the replacements are easy to find, cheap (and in some cases free) and are much more sustainable than the disposable kind.

  1. Plastic Bags
  • Since the 5p charge was brought in 3 years ago, the number of plastic bags bought has dramatically decreased, but they are still being made. Use bags you already have to carry your shopping in – no doubt you have some from Fresher’s Week – and you will never have to buy a plastic bag again.
  • If you’re looking for a bag small enough to fit on your keychain made from recycled nylon, ChicoBag has you covered.
  1. Plastic Water Bottles
  • Most of the plastic waste we consume actually isn’t recycled – more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans (PlasticOceans.org) and with the wide-range of reusable water bottles on offer, there really is no excuse not to use one.
  • If you have one already – even if it is plastic – use that until you have to buy a new one and save yourself the money.
  • If you do want a high-quality bottle, I’d recommend Chilly’s bottles – they are an investment at around £25 but they will last you for years.
  1. Plastic Straws
  • You knew this one was coming. Plastic straws suck, both literally and for the fact that they are contributing the suffering of animals (need I remind you of the poor turtle with the straw stuck in its’ nose?). I ordered a set of stainless-steel straws last year from Amazon, they are still going strong and are always a conversation starter when I’m out with friends and family.
  • Have a search on Amazon for straws, the options are literally endless – I recently found out they have collapsible ones now so there is a straw for everyone.
  1. Plastic Cutlery
  • Did you know plastic cutlery is often not recycled? That’s because if it is contaminated by food it can’t be turned back into “virgin” plastic and will just be thrown into landfills. Bamboo cutlery is much more sustainable, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Lots of sets come with their own pouches to store them, just search on Amazon for bamboo cutlery sets and you’ll find something.
  • Alternatively, there is nothing wrong with bringing cutlery from your own kitchen if you want to save money!

These are the easiest things that anybody can do, student or not, but if you feel like going the extra mile then try some of these things to reduce your plastic waste.

  • If you’re a coffee drinker, the KeepCup is a brilliant investment and if you use it in coffee shops you could actually get a discount! Save money whilst saving the environment? How can you refuse!
  • Consider swapping your disposable razors for a safety razor with replaceable blades that can be recycled. The blades actually cost around 10p each when buying them in a multipack, so you save a fortune!
  • If you have a period, consider using a reusable menstrual product during your time of the month (this is definitely not for everyone but has saved me a ton of money).
  • Buy your food locally as much as you can – Nottingham’s market is fantastic for fresh fruits and vegetables – or package-free, for example PlasticFreePantry offers staples like cornflakes, teas and some toiletries with no plastic whatsoever!
  • Go to Lush for your shampoo, conditioner, soaps etc. as it often comes plastic free or you can pop it in their reusable metal tins.
  • Look into buying a bamboo toothbrush that is able to be composted.
  • Buy secondhand where possible – this isn’t limited to plastics but buying secondhand means you aren’t creating a demand for a new product, therefore reducing the amount of new plastics made. You can also use websites like Freecycle.org to find secondhand items completely free!
  • If you drink alcohol, stick to drinks on tap and in glasses as much as you can – cider is often served in recyclable glass bottles.
  • Don’t need the plastic item that is being offered to you? Politely refuse it!

I hope these tips were useful to you and that you feel you can do something new for the betterment of our environment – Mother Nature needs all the help she can get right now.

Items Mentioned:

ChicoBag – https://smile.amazon.co.uk/ChicoBag-Compactable-Reusable-Boysenberry-12-5-Inch/dp/B00CMNSXMU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1541016820&sr=8-1&keywords=chicobag)

Chilly’s Bottles – https://www.chillysbottles.com/

KeepCup – https://uk.keepcup.com/?country=United%20Kingdom

PlasticFreePantry – https://plasticfreepantry.co.uk/

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-This blog post was written by Abigail Flynn an undergraduate student at NTU,  Many thanks from the Green Academy!  

Want to write a blog post that’s featured on this site? Email us your ideas today at GreenAcademy@ntu.ac.uk!

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