regarding the dangerous chemical additives it may contain or the role of single-use plastic items in polluting our planet as plastics take up to 500 years to decompose. On average, a person living in Western Europe or North America consumes around 100 kgs of plastic each year, only a fraction of which is recycled¹,². The imperative for reducing our consumption of plastic items becomes all the more urgent when one takes into account the increasing resource pressures our planet is facing: plastics are made of finite materials extracted from the earth.
But we can rise above plastic by following 15 tips for reducing our individual plastic footprint:
#1 Stop using plastic carrier bags. Try using shopping bags made of cloth; you can find them in all imaginable shapes and designs!
#2 Avoid using single-use items such as plastic cups, straws and cutlery. Get yourself a thermos or other glass container to use when getting a coffee or smoothie to go!
#3 Avoid purchasing over-packaged goods wrapped in layers of plastic. For example, buy loose vegetables and fruit from your supermarket and if needed use brown paper bags rather than plastic ones!
#4 Don’t buy plastic bottles, drink tap water or carry your own reusable bottle. The average American uses about 167 water bottles of which only 38 are recycled³.
#5 Try to buy goods that are not packaged or made from plastics. For instance, minimise plastic packaging in your groceries by substituting condiments in plastic containers to those in glass jars, or in the case of larger items, opt for those that are primarily made from other materials, for instance garden furniture made of wood rather than plastic.
#6 When you have to buy something made from or packaged in plastic, try to pick something made from recycled or recyclable plastic. You can easily check this by looking at the product’s label.
#7 If you are buying something made with bio-based plastic, make sure that it has been made in accordance with the highest verified sustainability criteria. This should also be marked on the product’s label.
#8 Once you have bought a plastic item, try to re-use in your household – this will also be exciting for any younger members of the family interested in arts and crafts! For example, you can use plastic bottles or containers as planting pots.
#9 After the plastic has really outlived its use, recycle it! Recycling plastic saves a lot of resources.
#10 Opt for clothing made from natural and not synthetic materials. This will not only be a signal to major clothing companies to eliminate plastic where possible but will also minimise the particles of microplastic that escape from synthetic materials to enter our environment.
#11 Repair or sell your electronic equipment rather than throwing it away. This way you could even make some money from selling your old pc!
#12 Stop using cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads which find their way into our water and seas. Plastic ingredients are applied in a variety of products such as deodorants, shampoos, moisturizers, shaving creams and sunscreens. A typical exfoliating shower gel can contain roughly as much microplastic in the cosmetic formulation as is used to make the plastic packaging it comes in⁵!
#13 Reduce the number of take outs and deliveries, as they use a lot of packaging and single-use items.
#14 Join a beach or other plastic clean-up in your local area. A total of 12.2 million tonnes of plastic enters our marine environment each year, you can do something to help with that⁴!
#15 Support organisations that work to reduce plastic pollution by donating money or signing petitions for measures to eliminate plastic pollution.