Posted September 4th, 2012 by Stephen Roper

The Problem With Plastic

Plastic is found in pretty much every household product that you could possibly think of. The biggest problem with plastic apart from the fact that so much is manufactured every year is that not all of it can be recycled. Some will be ‘downcycled’ into other products but much of it will end up at landfill sites where its estimated it will take up to a 1000 years to fully break down.

So exactly how big is the problem? In the UK over 5 million tonnes of plastic is used every year but only 24% of that is currently being recovered and recycled. The rest is ending up in the world’s oceans, rivers and landfill sites. Recent research has found that there is now 46,000 pieces of plastic per square km in the worlds oceans, that’s a mass as big as the size of France. This waste plastic is killing as many as a million sea birds and 100,000 mammals every year.

What Changes Can I Make to Help?

Every single one of us could be doing more than we are currently doing to try and reduce waste plastic. The following are 20 ideas of where you can make a start today:

1) Bring your own bags when you go shopping. Probably the oldest tip in the book but definately worth remembering. Over 8 billion plastic bags are given out by supermarkets every year and the vast majority of these go straight in the bin.

Another option is to buy your own shopping trolley!

2) Don’t buy plastic drinks bottles. Every year over 13 billion bottles of water are sold in the UK alone, only around 25% of these are recycled. A good solution to the problem would be for you only to buy glass bottles or drinks in cartons. You could also carry your own ceramic or steel reusable bottle around with you everywhere. Another option would be to refill one plastic bottle that you have bought with drinks from home, not only will this help to reduce waste but it will also work out a lot cheaper.

3) Don’t buy products in squeezy bottles. Products such as mustard, ketchup and salad dressing that comes in squeezy bottles cannot be recycled at all, instead buy glass containers.

4) Make your own bread. Buy a bread maker and make your own, not only does it taste much nicer but you won’t be putting all that packaging in the bin every day. You could also buy bread from the bakery or other specialised shops where 9 times out of 10 you will find that it is wrapped in paper.

5) Say no to a straw. Always tell your waiter or waitress that you don’t want a straw, if you really need one then buy a stainless steel one off the internet and carry it around with you.

6) Buy your laundry detergent in a box instead of a bottle. Cardboard and paper can be recycled a lot better than plastic bottles.

7) Take your own reusable containers to the takeaway. When you place your order and are picking up a takeaway (doesn’t apply to drop-offs) tell the restaurant you’ll be bringing your own containers, most of them will be fine with this.

Food from Chinese or Indian takeaways can also be washed out and used to store frozen or other food in.

8) Use matches instead of throwaway lighters. If you need a lighter to light cigarettes, candles or anything else then use matches instead of a throwaway lighter. Plastic lighters are sold in the millions every year and take thousands of years to fully degrade at landfill. If you don’t like matches then buy a refillable metal lighter and use that instead.

9) Buy music online. Buy your music online rather than in CD format in order eliminate the packaging.

10) Keep fruit and vegetables loose in the supermarket. Have you ever stopped to think how much waste must be produced by those little plastic bags that your fruit and vegetables go in at the supermarket. Why not just keep them loose or put them straight into your shopping bag that you’ve brought with you, don’t forget to scan them at the checkout though! You could also buy them loose at your local farmers market or farm shop.

11) Have the milkman deliver your milk. Not only will you be supporting the local economy by having your milk delivered but it also comes in glass bottles. Glass bottles can be washed out at the diary and reused.

12) Grow your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. Rather than buying fruit, veg and herbs in un-recyclable plastic punnets why not grow your own.

13) Do not buy air fresheners. Air fresheners tend to be wrapped up in loads of packaging and are made out of plastic. Instead use a scented candle or just open the window.

14) Don’t use cling film. Instead of using cling film to put over your leftovers, cover them with another plate or put it in your old takeaway containers.

15) Buy soap instead of shower gel / body wash. Buy soap that is packaged in a cardboard box.

16) Don’t use plastic cutlery. If you are going on a picnic, getting a takeaway or eating at work also take your own stainless steel cutlery. If plastic cutlery is easier for you to carry around then you could consider buying environmentally friendly biodegradable and recyclable cutlery from The Bong Tree.

17) Use rechargeable batteries. By using rechargeable batteries you will not have to buy any which come wrapped in plastic packaging.

18) Recycle mobile phones and other gadgets. There’s loads of plastic on mobile phones and other electronic gadgets, so what happens when these devices are sent in to mobile recycling companies to be recycled? If phones cannot be reused then the plastics are melted down and made into sheeting or traffic cones.

19) Stop buying chewing gum. Chewing gum was originally made from natural rubber but now is made from polyvinyl acetate which is a type of plastic.

20) Leave plastic packaging at the Supermarket. You are well within your rights to leave any excess packaging at the tills in the Supermarket. Next time you’re shopping why not make a statement and leave your packaging for the Supermarket to dispose of.

If you can think of any more ways to reduce plastic waste then add them in the comments below.

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