In a recent post, I wrote that one of my goals for 2018 is to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in my life. So, below are 7 simple steps I’ve taken to get me started.
1. Bags for life
Ok, I’ve been using these for years. But this is probably the simplest step anyone can take to reduce their use of single-use plastic. They hold more weight and last a long, long time. No brainer.
Difficulty: 0/10. Piece of piss.
2. Cups for life
Let’s get the depressing stuff out of the way first. 35m plastic bottles are discarded every day in the UK, lots of which end up in our oceans. As for coffee cups, we get through 2.5bn of them a year. That’s not the crazy part. What’s absolutely bonkers is that less than 1% of coffee cups are recycled, as only 3 recycling centres in the UK can separate the paper from the plastic.
So, I’ve bought a stainless steel flask for water. And for my much needed coffee, I’ve gone for a Keep Wales Tidy coffee cup for life. £15 all in, which included a complimentary first coffee with my new cup. If I’m off hiking with my wife and we need a brew, I’ve also got the trusty thermos. Job done.
Difficulty: 0/10. Cleaning my coffee cup for life isn’t a hardship.
3. Tea leaves
I had no idea teabags contain plastic. When someone told me, I said ‘Ah it’s alright, I buy these organic Clipper teabags, there’s no plastic in them.’ How wrong I was.
Well, screw that. My wife and I bought a strainer and some tea leaves. And now we make a pot of tea. If it’s just a cup I’m after, I also bought an individual tea strainer which sits in my cup while the tea brews. All in, including the leaves, cost me about a tenner.
Difficulty: 1/10. There’s a bit of extra cleaning faff, but not much.
4. Veg box
Supermarkets currently generate about 1m tonnes of plastic packaging every year. Paradoxically, the worst culprit is organic fruit and veg. You can pick up a handful of apples free from wrapping, but if they’re organic, they’ll be in a bag. Something to do with cross-contamination. Hmmm…
Anyway, my wife and I have had a vegbox delivery for years. Yes, it can be a pain. Sometimes, we’ll get veg we don’t like, stuff that’s a pain, and we regularly have a fridge full of leeks. But there’s lots of vegbox options to choose from – I just forget to mix things up. It’s organic, tastes great and best of all, comes in a recyclable cardboard box. So, absolutely no plastic.
Difficulty: 2/10. The 2 comes from having to plan meals around the veg we get. Which we don’t always do.
5. Packed lunches
During the working week, my lunch used to consist of a sandwich, packet of crisps and some kind of ropey extra, a veggie samosa or something. A bit yellow, and all covered in plastic.
That changed a couple of years ago when my wife ‘treated’ me to a lunch box. It coincided with me getting into my running, so I was eating more healthily. Yes, the lunchbox is plastic. But I use it Mon-Fri every week. And as much as I love yellow food, my packed lunches are now much better: salads, veg, cheese, olives, oils, meat/fish, nuts etc. Yum.
Difficulty: 4/10. Making a packed lunch every day is a faff. Buying sandwiches and other crap is easier. Price wise, it’s about the same. Overall, it’s healthier and much less plastic.
I get freaked out when I think that every toothbrush I’ve ever used still exists, somewhere. It’s a horrible thought.
But as far as I can tell, there’s no perfect solution on toothbrushes at the moment. Producing plastic toothbrushes produces toxins, leaves a carbon footprint, and they never biodegrade. There are non-plastic versions available, but bristles tend to be an issue, as most are nylon.
So, what to do? For now, I’ve opted for a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles. It’s biodegradable, packaged in recycled materials (still plastic though), and is non-toxic, BPA free. So not too bad.
Difficulty: 0/10. Costs a little bit more than a normal toothbrush, but it’s nicer to use.
If I want to stay clean – and I really do – how do I avoid plastic? Shampoo, shower gels, hand wash, creams. The list goes on and on.
To be honest, this one’s a bit of a challenge. So I’ve started small. Goodbye plastic bottles of hand wash, hello soap.
Difficulty: 0/10 to replace hand wash, but tricky knowing how to swap some of the other stuff. Work in progress.
For now, that’s where I’ve got to. But this is just the beginning, and I want to do a lot more. Here’s a few things on my to-do list for the next few months:
- Arrange milk bottle delivery to my home
- Make my own snacks for running
- Buy a wheel of cheese – this is undoubtedly my highlight of living with less plastic
- Make my own toothpaste
- Talk to my butcher about getting meat in a box
Over the course of the year, I’ll be posting updates of how i’m getting on.
If you’d like to find out more, you won’t go far wrong with these sites: