By Mary Jones 26th September 2019

Communities across the UK are being urged daily to reduce the use of plastics because of the negative impact they are having on the environment.

Businesses, in particular food and drink companies, takeaway coffee venues and cafes have responded by replacing plastic products such as cups with compostable and biodegradable plastic alternatives.

However according to The Guardian, experts are now warning that widely used alternatives could also have a detrimental impact on our marine environments because there is no infrastructure in place to make sure they breakdown correctly.

The emphasis has to be on reducing the use of plastics at home, school and work rather than using alternatives and hopefully this list of simple ways to reduce the use of plastic will be a useful starting point for many.

Mark Bolland, the FSC’s lead on climate change

1) Use refillable water bottles and hot drink cups.

This is one of the easiest ways to reduce the amount of plastic in the form of bottles and cups entering our oceans. Many cafes will now provide free water refills if you supply your own bottle and often you can get a discount on hot drinks when providing your own cup. It’s a win win for us and the environment.

2) Make your own lunch

Taking a bit of time in the morning to prepare a packed lunch can reduce the need to stop at a supermarket or shop to buy a sandwich or salad which, in many cases, will be packaged in some sort of plastic wrapper or container. Try to use re-useable sandwich wraps such as those made from beeswax rather than plastic cling film or sandwich bags to  protects your sandwiches and if you like a few snacks and treats during the day, try and avoid anything which comes in a non-recyclable packet. Better still…

3) Make your own snacks

Unfortunately most of the inbetween-y tasty treats and snacks come in non-recyclable packaging – crisps, biscuits, chocolate – but if you make your own at home it’s easy to ditch the plastic. Cakes, biscuits or anything else you make at home can be stored in re-usable tins or containers. Although it takes a bit more time and effort, making your own snacks does also mean you can eat a lot healthier by controlling the fat and sugar content which is especially great for the kids.

4) Opt for plastic-free teabags

If like the rest of us you need a few cuppas to get you through a busy day in the classroom or office then be sure to opt for plastic-free teabags. Believe it or not several teabag brands use polypropylene – a type of non-recyclable non-biodegradable plastic – to seal the bags. So even if you think you’re doing a good job by recycling your food waste, these little bits of plastic still end up in the environment. Luckily many brands are trying to be more responsible so there are plenty of plastic-free options on the market to choose from or better still, opt for loose tea.

5) Support your local producers

Whilst it’s more convenient to do all your food shopping under one roof, it’s not always best for the environment. A large proportion of supermarket items are packaged using some type of plastic or another – plastic trays, plastic bags, plastic wrap. Some even come double-wrapped. Whilst the big name stores are slowly addressing the problem, more often than not your small local suppliers and producers will already be a step ahead using paper bags or better still asking customers to provide their own containers.  It’s amazing how much you can reduce your plastic waste acting and shopping a bit more wisely. And it’s not just food shopping we need to think about…

6) Eco-shop

Many small, independent high street shops will stock gifts, toys, cards etc which have been made locally and avoid the use of plastics. In fact there are shops popping up all over the place which are more eco-friendly and sustainable. From fashion brands to beauty products and bikes and everything in between, the independents seem to have it covered when it comes to minimising the use of plastic and being more sustainable.

7) Give your milkman more work

Years ago we all relied on the trusty milkman to deliver fresh to our door each day but then came plastic milk bottles and it somehow seemed easier for us to buy milk from the supermarket along with the rest of our shopping. Fast forward to 2019 and the shift back to the milkman and the appeal for milk delivered in glass bottles seems to be a growing trend as many people aim to reduce the amount of single-use plastic at home. If you’ve not yet made the switch, it’s well worth thinking about.

8) Wash less, use less and refill

Look under the kitchen sink at home and you’re bound to find a range of cleaning products. From washing up liquid to kitchen and bathroom cleaner and washing detergents. The likelihood is many of them will be plastic bottles which at some point end up in the waste/recycling bin. A great way to reduce this kind of waste is to purchase refills and reuse the bottles you already have. Replacing hand wash with bars of soap is also a good way to save on the amount of plastic waste as is reducing the amount of detergents you use each day.

* At each of our field centres across the UK staff and visitors are making tremendous efforts to becoming plastic-free champions by following the simple steps above. If you want to take action and tackle the war on plastic it’s worth conducting a plastic audit of your home or workplace before you start. This will help you track progress and monitor effectively how much you are reducing use of plastic. Once you’ve implemented some of the above ideas we bet you’ll see a big difference!