Want to reduce your plastic footprint? Here are some tips to help get you started. These include how to responsibly dispose of existing plastic waste and where to look for plastic in your purchases.
What should I do first?
- Stop buying single-use plastic water bottles, get a reusable water bottle and download the Refill app
- Save yourself 5p and remember to take your own bags with you to the shop
- Refuse unnecessary plastic items, such as plastic drinking straws
What should I do with all my plastic?
So you want to reduce your plastic waste but you've just noticed that your home is already stuffed full of it? It can seem overwhelming but don't just throw away all your plastic things. It would be even more of a waste to not fully use an item you already have.
Then, as things start to need replacing, consider how to best dispose of that used item - can it be recycled? And start looking at alternatives which might work for you - browse our recommended alternatives
Never flush any sort of plastic down the loo, however small; this includes all wet wipes (including so-called 'flushable' wipes), contact lenses and sanitary products.
If you really don't want to use your existing plastic items then donate them.
- If they are unopened food or toiletries your local food bank might take these.
- Any unopened sanitary products could be donated to the Red Box Proejct (UK) or your local food bank.
- Opened food products or products just past their best before date may find a home vis the food sharing app OLIO.
- Makeup can be sent to Give and Makeup (UK)
- Toiletries can find a home via Toiletries Amnesty (UK)
Be realistic about the changes you make - will they be sustainable for you?
For example, choosing to change to cloth nappies is a big investment and while it has a fantastic environmental benefit, keeping up with the maintenance or buying the wrong type of nappy for your child's needs would make this a costly change. In this case, see if you can get advice from a local nappy library first or check out the awesome Nappy Lady - thenappylady.co.uk
There are some plastics we just can't live without; for example inhalers, feeding tubes, insulin injections, pill packets etc. You should not consider replacing plastic items which are required for medical needs, including birth control. However, it would be worth checking if any of your plastic medical waste can be recycled - for example, inhalers can be recycled at many chemists.
Spend some time understanding where your plastic waste comes from. Consider keeping all the plastic waste you produce in the next week and store it somewhere really annoying - such as in a box in the middle of your kitchen so you really can't forget about it! You will soon be see where the most plastic comes from, and will very likely be food packaging.
This will give you a clear indication of where you should look to make changes first.
Change how you shop
Changing your approach to shopping will almost instantly reduce the amount of single-use plastic entering your home. First ask yourself if you really need an item - can you borrow it or buy second-hand? Can you get it without plastic?
It can be hard to change habits and difficult to reject the bombardment of marketing messages we see daily, but asking these questions each time you shop will reduce waste, reduce plastic and may even save you money.
Becoming a savvy food shopper will reduce a lot of plastic waste. Write a list so you only buy what you need. Pick items in cardboard, jars and tins over plastic-wrapped goods. Take your own containers for use at the deli counter. Try the fruit and veg stall at your local market. Switch to a milkman for more than just milk in glass bottles. Try buying in bulk - a 5ltr bottle uses less plastic than 5 x 1ltr bottles.
- Find your nearest zero waste shop - zerowastenear.me
- Buy plastic-free dried goods online - plasticfreepantry.co.uk
- Find your nearest milk refill station - beeswaxwraps.co.uk
- Find your local milkman - findmeamilkman.net
Get tips from others
Journey to Zero-Waste in the UK
Large Facebook group covering general zero waste topics, not just plastic-free.
Zero Waste Parenting UK
Large Facebook group of parents trying to reduce plastic and general waste
Zero Waste Making Circle (UK)
Great group for those who are crafty or interested in making more of their own items. There is a large files section with recipes for cleaning solutions, beauty products and food items as well as guides for making wet wipes, produce bags and more.
A summary of popular plastic-free living books... The Independent
No. More. Plastic.
by Martin Dorey
This short read is perfect for those just starting out. It give an insight into the devastating effects of plastic pollution and some practical tips for changes you can make.
Turning the Tide on Plastic
by Lucy Siegle
For those wanting to learn more, this book has a more in depth look at the history of plastic and the growth of our love affair. The second half of the book covers changes you can make to reduce your plastic footprint.
- Tell your friends about the changes you've made
- Share your story on social media
- Tell manufactures and retailers that you want sustainable packaging - tell them why you've stopped buying their products
- Share your plastic-free alternatives with us!