So it seems that the world is now committed to reducing the amount of plastic we use in our every day lives. For the sake of our planet and in particular our oceans, the consensus appears to be that things need to change. There is big pressure on the supermarkets, Government and manufacturers to make this easier on all of us by innovating, legislating and just making it all a little bit easier to do since ultimately they are the ones that profit from our high consumption convenience-driven lifestyles. But there is no doubt that we all need to adjust our behaviour.
If a job seems too big, however, ultimately it can be doomed to failure. For that reason, we believe that the best approach to solving this problem is to take one step at a time. We all have very busy lives where sometimes feel we can barely juggle the vast array of demands on our time as it is, and to make major changes means there’s, even more, to worry about. So our advice is to start small and start slowly. One change can make a big difference and be much more manageable than changing everything in your household overnight.
We made a small change last year by using re-usable bowl covers and more recently investing in some really nice reusable sandwich wraps. Now I can’t imagine not having them – cling film and aluminum foil use reduced dramatically, and so has food waste!
So, here are our easy fix ‘starters’ to reduce your use of plastic and start you on your plastic free road!
1. TRY TO BUY LOOSE FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Buy packaging free fruit and vegetables in the supermarket where you can. This won’t necessarily be cheaper, but it is certainly more sensible! There are lots of reusable produce bags on the market if you need them, such as those from Miu and Earthwise, but I tend to just allocate one bag for fruit and veg and scan the barcoded labels as I go.
It is harder to ‘shop loose’ if you shop online, however – Ocado don’t seem to have a packaging-free option, and the other supermarkets tend to put things in bags regardless. So another idea is to go for a weekly fruit and/or veg box delivered each week. Generally locally produced and organic, the produce tends to last longer, and although some of the items inside are separately packaged, the supplier will always take away all of the packaging for recycling, or will provide it in biodegradable or recyclable packaging – they have certainly prioritized this over high street supermarkets to date. We have tried both Abel & Cole and Riverford and really enjoy the experience.
Of course, if you’ve got a local greengrocer, apart from the fact that I envy you, that also has to be the way go!
2. BUY IN BULK AND USE REFILL STORES
Clearly buying bigger packs of things will reduce the amount of packaging used, of we could just dispense with packaging completely by using our own containers to put products in. The amount of refillable products is increasing fast, with more and more ‘refill’ centres and services popping up. Even some supermarkets are bowing to consumer demand and accepting people’s own containers for deli products. Check out your local area for specialist shops, or market stalls or even an online delivery service such as Pack Your Own in Birmingham.
In terms of your regular grocery shop, think a little bit laterally. We buy a 5-gallon bottle and refill the small one that stays in the cupboard. But you can also you can also buy specially manufactured concentrated products that you can refill such as Splosh available online and YOU stocked on Ocado and in Waitrose, and environmentally friendly brand, Ecover will refill their bottles and have an extensive ‘refill’ network supporting this including a locator map on their website.
Buying in bulk goes for other items too that you may be used to buying in smaller or multipacks – you can always separate a big pack into smaller ones in re-usable packaging, particularly crisps, lunch box snacks and larder staples, such as rice, pasta, spices, etc – I buy Uncle Ben’s rice now, just because it comes in a cardboard box rather than a plastic bag!
3. TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME COOL REUSABLES
Yes, it’s time to shop! Get yourself to some great reusable – we are on the hunt for a nice drinking bottle, preferably one that doesn’t leak or weigh a ton, and we’ll share our findings with you! Other obvious re-usable to try are coffee cups, sandwich wraps, cutlery, and even straws, but top of our shopping list this month is ‘re-usable make up remover wipes’. The re-usable market is booming, and there is some really neat stuff out there – and of course, you can totally justify paying a bit more for something based on the inevitable savings of re-usable products.
4. KNOW YOUR LOCAL RECYCLING SERVICE
Finally – know your local recycling services particularly your kerbside collections. You may well be very surprised to find out what can actually be included. We know that we are surprised every time we check! Did you know you can usually recycle blister packs, butter boxes and where I live you can actually recycle disposable coffee cups too! Black plastic is always the confusing one, but there should be a detailed guide available on your local County Council website. Regardless of the fact that your refuse collection is organised by your District Council, it will be the County Council who organises the central recycling service, so check it out – we have put together a database of the relevant links to make it a bit easier, and I feel a detailed spreadsheet coming on!
Do you have any questions about recycling in your area – we love to find out what is what!!! Join our Facebook group and send us your queries!