We need to do something about our plastic consumption. Fast. If our laden oceans (which receive 12.7 million tonnes a year) and suffering marine life (over 50% of the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic) aren’t enough of an indication, then the microplastics nestled in the Antarctic’s furthest reaches certainly are.
“The problem of plastic pollution is one that affects us all, and one for which we all share responsibility as individuals but also, more importantly, collectively,” says Will McCallum, oceans team leader at Greenpeace UK and author of How to Give Up Plastic (RRP £12.99, Penguin Life).
“As individuals we can change our behaviour, limit our use and help reduce, even by a little bit, the amount of plastic out there. But working together we can achieve much, much more.”
There’s alternatives to a lot of the big players on the plastic scene, nowadays – from cling film to shampoo bottles. Here are some of the most useful.
Instead of cling film...
Try wax wraps. Cover leftovers, store your sandwiches and wrap-up cheese in cotton, pine resin, jojoba oil and beeswax. As well as being a lot better to look at they can be washed, dried and re-used repeatedly. They can be on the more expensive side, but, as you won’t be buying cling anymore, you make the cash back.
If you’re DIY-inclined, make your own, using cotton and beeswax.
Beeswax Wraps, £10-60, Bees Wax Wraps
Instead of bottled shampoo...
Try solid bars. Totally package-free, Lush do a great range that lather up and smell a treat, as well as conditioner in bar form, too.
Lush solid shampoo and conditioners, £6.25-10.95, Lush
Instead of your regular toothbrush...
Buy a bamboo version. Fast growing, bamboo replenishes itself super speedily, making it one of the most eco materials out there.
Bamboo tooth brush, pack of 3, £12, Bristle
Instead of face wipes...
Try cotton face cloths. Wipes, adored for their convenience, are sadly bound with plastic – in addition to accounting for around 93% of the material that causes sewer blockages. Using a cotton cloth, with cleanser or micellar water, means less waste, as you can wash your cloths in hot water once a week and re-use.
Cotton face cloth, £2.25, Boots
Instead of tampons...
Try a menstrual cup. The average woman uses 11,000 tampons in her lifetime, and, when you factor in the often plastic applicators, that’s a problem. MoonCup and Diva Cup both have good reputations. (At around £20, you quickly save money every month, too.)
Mooncup, £19.99, Mooncup
Instead of buying vegetables at the supermarket...
Get a veg box. It means you’re also buying seasonal and local, so fewer travel miles, as well as eliminating plastic wrapping. The cheapest option is to find one in your area, that’s run independently, but Abel & Cole send theirs out country-wide.
All British Veg Box, £12.99, Abel & Cole
Instead of a disposable coffee cup...
Get a reuseable one – KeepCups are stylish and made from glass and cork, or try a Huskup, which are made from rice husk. And it means you can get a black filter from Pret for 49p, which makes your heart do a little flurry of joy, every time.
Reuseable coffee cup, £10.95, Huskup
Instead of plastic-stemmed cotton buds...
Try paper-stem versions, which will naturally degrade. You can pick some up for 90p, at Waitrose.
Paper stemmed cotton buds, 90p, Waitrose
Instead of tea bags...
Amp up your brew credentials, and go loose leaf. Superior flavour and zero waste – plus, you’ve eliminating the plastic-in-teabag issue. Just add leaves to a pot, brew and strain into a cup.
Loose leaf tea, £1.75-14.75, Teapigs