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Environment

8 easy ways to reduce your plastic consumption

Recycling infrastructure is poor and nearly everything we use day to day comes in plastic. But you don't have to take an all-or-nothing approach to cutting plastic use

Plastic is everywhere. We eat from it, drink from it, wash using it and even brush our teeth with it. It’s difficult to avoid, but there are easy ways we can all cut our plastic pollution for Plastic Free July and for good.

Every year millions of people around the world take part in the month-long challenge, but there are significant barriers to going completely plastic-free long term.

Recycling isn’t the answer, according to Daniel Webb – founder of sustainability project Everyday Plastic – because the UK does not have the infrastructure to keep up with demand.

“There is just too much stuff being produced, used and thrown away,” he added.  

But it doesn’t mean ordinary people can’t make a difference. That’s why Everyday Plastic has set out eight practical tips to help you reduce your plastic consumption.

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Webb said people looking to cut down their plastic habits should feel free to “take it slowly”. 

“Rome didn’t go plastic free in a day,” he said. “Identify the area in which you feel you can have the biggest impact or that you care about most and run with it.”

Every UK household can contribute to ending plastic pollution by reducing the amount of plastic they throw away by 501 pieces per year, according to an Everyday Plastic report.

On a bigger scale, the UK could prevent around 14 billion pieces of plastic from blighting the environment by following these simple but effective – and money-saving – tricks.

Let’s say that if just a quarter of the population strictly followed our tips, we’d still be able to stop 3.4 billion pieces entering the waste system or environment,” Webb added. 

Opt for reusable water bottles

It doesn’t get simpler than this. Stop reaching for single-use water bottles and invest in a reusable bottle instead. They’re affordable, there are designs to suit everyone and they’ll save you money in the long run.

Ditch plastic bottles of shower gel

It’s time to swap out shower gel bottles for bars of soap. There are several brands selling bars without any plastic packaging and they smell just as good as bottled products.

Reuse your shopping bags

The price of a 10p plastic bag charge may not seem like much, but every carrier bag you take away from a shop could take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. Reusable shopping bags are cheap, significantly better for the planet and less likely to burst, leaving you to watch your shopping roll down the street.

Cut your use of milk cartons by 75 per cent

The plastic used for milk bottles is just as damaging to the environment. Fortunately it’s quick and easy to track down greener options.

You can order milk in glass bottles from Milk&More or find your local milkman at findmeamilkman.net. If that doesn’t work for you, consider buying larger bottles to be frozen and decanted into smaller bottles when you need the milk

Swap single-use wet wipes for an alternative

The number of wet wipes washed up on British beaches – which already have a plastic pollution problem – increased by 50 per cent since 2013, according to the Marine Conservation Society. Wipe your conscience clean by opting for using reusable cloths instead when it comes to wiping down surfaces, and try to avoid relying on make-up and baby wipes.

Leave fruit in plastic packaging on the shelves

Reducing the amount of plastic packaging you buy for fruit by at least a quarter can make a big difference to how much plastic you later throw away. Buying loose fruit and vegetables – without the small, thin plastic bags offered up by supermarkets – is just as easy and often cheaper than buying in packets.

Be mindful of how you buy meat and fish

Avoid the chiller aisles in supermarkets and ask the butcher or fishmonger to fill your product in a reusable container. The prices of fresh counter items compared to aisle products could save you 40 per cent gram on gram, according to Money Saving Expert

Cut down on snacks – or make your own

By cutting out just one snack per week – most of which come in difficult-to-break-down plastic packaging – your plastic footprint will shrink considerably, and it could be a chance to break out your lockdown kitchen skills.

To find out more about how you can make a difference, visit everydayplastic.org.

Shop brands tackling plastic pollution in the new #PlasticFreeJuly collection on The Big Issue Shop.

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