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Planet-wrecking plastic waste is everywhere, and worse - it’s not going away.
Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced worldwide, and because none of the most commonly used plastics are biodegradable, they accumulate in landfills and the environment, where they take up to 400 years to degrade.
Only 14% of plastic is currently recycled and 30% of the plastic that could be reused isn’t because it contains multiple materials or is simply too small to collect and sort.
Call it the Blue Planet II effect (the iconic series’ images of albatrosses feeding their chicks with plastic has arguably done more to raise awareness of the issue than any eco-campaign or political pledge), but change seems to be happening.
The UK government aims to limit avoidable plastic waste by 2042 and consumer power is forcing brands to rethink their plastic use. McDonald’s has pledged that 100 percent of its packaging will come from recycled sources by 2025 and Waitrose announced it will stop selling plastic straws by this September. The supermarket has also reduced its packaging by almost 50 percent since 2009 and 80 per cent of its packaging is widely recyclable.
“It feels like a tipping point and legislation is really important to push a quick move away from plastic, but ultimately it’s down to individuals,” says Georgina Wilson- Powell, founder of sustainable lifestyle magazine pebble.
“Taking a reusable cup to the coffee shop has a big impact. We need to re-programme ourselves to think a little less about convenience and a little more about the impact of our decisions.”
It’s one reason the #plasticfreeweekchallenge has been such a success on social media; it forces us to be conscious every time we shop or order a latte, and helps to break our plastic habit one purchase at a time.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go in the fight against plastic pollution, and we all have a part to play. Here are seven easy ways you can help reduce your plastic consumption…
This stainless-steel bottle keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours or hot for up to 12 hours. It comes with a screw cap or sport cap, which is great for sipping on the go.
Hydro Flask, £26.95, cotswoldoutdoor.com
The Keep Cup is the perfect size for a flat-white and made from toughened glass. You can customise your colour combo, too.
Brew glass coffee cup, £14, uk.keepcup.com
These handy reusable bags are roomy, wipe-clean and they roll up to the size of a potato! Stash a few in your handbag so you’re always ready for a plastic-free shop.
Reusable shopping bag, £4.50, typhoonhousewares.com
This food canister is great for taking salads or leftovers to work for lunch.
16oz Food Canister, £22.95, kleankanteen.co.uk
Fizzy water habit? Eliminate wasteful plastic bottles and still get your fix with this handy DIY machine.
SodaStream Crystal model with reuseable glass bottle, £149, sodastream.co.uk
Ditch the cling-film and wrap your sandwich in this plastic-free, silicone bag.
Stasher storage bag, from £9.99, johnlewis.com
Try reusable cutlery made from sustainable bamboo. It’s heat- and stain-resistant and won’t absorb food flavours.
Bamboo cutlery set, £20, Aspiga at notonthehighstreet.com
Words: Andréa Childs