10 ways to reduce your over reliance on single-use plasticJuly 10th, 2023 | Water and Sustainability
Reducing Single-Use Plastic: My own story-by Helen Haider
So, what’s the problem?
In today’s world, the overuse of single-use plastic has emerged as a significant environmental concern. Plastic bags, bottles, straws, and lids are designed for our convenience but pose a severe threat to our planet’s health. We hear from all the large FMCG companies that they recycle their plastic, but research shows us a different story.
7.7bn single-use plastic bottles in the UK
There are about 7.7bn single-use plastic bottles used in the UK per year. 45% are recycled but only 17% goes into RPET which is then used to make more bottles. 55% of the 7.7bn bottles end up in our landfill, rivers, and oceans where they can take around 450 years to decompose fully. This environmental disaster is bad enough, but then you find out, that as part of the decomposition, tiny bits of plastics break off and enter our water systems. This plastic enters both our drinking water through the water cycle, and into our food system through animal ingestion. It has been shown that these microplastic particles are now in human bodies. They are in our blood, in our brains, and even in our breast milk.
Don’t drink bottled water that has sat in a hot car
Even just consuming drinks or food that have been packaged in PET can be contaminated. Heavy metals such as antimony trioxide can leach from the PET bottle into the food and drink we consume if the temperature rises. Very little leaches at room temperature, but on a hot day, if you leave the water in the car, it is more liable to release into your drinking water.
My plastic-free journey:
I have been working for LUQEL an innovative water dispenser company for 18 months now, and during my time there I have really understood the problems of single-use plastic on both the environment and upon my own health. So, I have actively changed my lifestyle and that of my family to reduce our dependence on plastics.
I was shocked at how much plastic I was using in the everyday upkeep of my house. The washing up bottles, the washing liquid, and conditioner for clothes, shampoo bottles, deodorant, razors, cotton buds, and spray cleaners. So, I made changes.
I tested a selection of eco-friendly household products:
I tried BOWER COLLECTIVE. The product was OK in terms of cleaning, but I found their reusable bottles flimsy and difficult to hold/use. https://bowercollective.com/collections/household-cleaning
I tried SMOL and loved their fragrance-free range of dishwasher tablets. https://smolproducts.com/
In the end I preferred METHOD, as I have always liked their ethos, their cleaning products actually work, but now I just buy the refills and bulk packaging to help improve my own sustainability. It’s great for laundry products and bathroom products. https://www.methodshop.co.uk/departments/home-cleaning
Then I looked at the bathroom and made the change to Fuss-free shaving, a subscription service where I am sent blades in the post to use with a beautiful re-useable handle. What I loved about these guys, was that you could also send the blades back after use, so they could be recycled.
My shampoos and conditioners are now refillable ones from MINIML, https://minimlrefills.co.uk/collections/hair, and my deodorant is from WILD, a metal case with refills wrapped in card. https://www.wearewild.com/
Of course, when it came to my kitchen, I was already getting mineralised water from work, so that made it easy not to buy single-use bottles of mineral water. When I purchased fruit and vegetables, I made sure I moved away from purchasing pre-packaged produce wherever possible. I felt I was making good progress.
The company I work for, LUQEL’s mission is to try and help remove single-use plastic bottles from the world, by delivering mineralised water from a mains supply. So, when we decided to support Plastic-free July, Maisie and I wanted to make this event more personal. It already fit our ethos as a company, but as staff members, we felt we needed to make a commitment too. As the Marketing Director, I felt that I should lead the way, and being a bit of a perfectionist, I decided to see where I needed to make changes early on to prepare myself.
I kept all the plastic I used for just one week in June, to gauge where I was, and possibly to gloat…as I had already made a huge effort in the last 18 months. I was feeling pretty smug, on day one, but I was in for a shock. Despite all the changes I have already made, I still had a black bin liner (yes, I know they are plastic) full of plastic waste after just one week. I didn’t realise I still had a way to go to really improve. When I looked at the plastic waste I was still throwing away it fell into these categories:
- Plastic trays and wrap for soft fruits, such as strawberries and blueberries
- Plastic trays and wrap for fish & meat
- Plastic bottles of milk, fruit juice
- Plastic wrapping for feta cheese
- Spreadable butter container
- Plastic wrap for my printer cartridges
- My asthma and hay fever medicine containers
What this made clear to me, was that there were still improvements to be made if I wanted to try and be plastic-free for July. https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
Actions for me:
Looking at the above list, I do need my medications, but I have now found how to recycle them, by returning them to the pharmacy.
I will look at purchasing my cheese and meats from counters where they use waxed paper not plastic. I will buy blocks of butter packaged in foil, rather than the spreadable type, and I will try and source my other food and drink from suppliers who are trying to make improvements in their plastic usage. Saying that any small change is a good change if we all give it a go. I might not be 100% plastic-free, but I’m trying.
Simple ways to reduce your over-reliance on single-use plastic
- Choose reusable bags when shopping.
- Carry a reusable water bottle and refill it instead of purchasing bottled water.
- Use a travel mug for coffee or tea.
- Say no to plastic straws and bring your own reusable straw.
- Choose products with minimal or no packaging.
- Use paper, cloth, or mesh bags for loose fruit and veg.
- Invest in reusable food containers for storing leftovers and packed lunches.
- Avoid cling film – look at purchasing re-usable covers, or just use another plate to cover food in the fridge.
- Avoid buying single-use plastic cutlery and opt for reusable utensils.
- Try and buy in bulk or choose refills rather than purchasing a new product – eg Method dishwasher liquid refill pouch.
Just making a small change can help:
By actively reducing our consumption of single-use plastic, we contribute to a sustainable future. Through small but meaningful changes in our daily habits, we can collectively make a significant difference. By choosing reusable alternatives, we can protect the environment, conserve resources, and foster a healthier planet for generations to come.