A practical guide to reducing your household’s plastic waste
Globally 79% of plastics end up in landfills or the natural environment, including our oceans. Just 9% is recycled. If this kind of trajectory continues, 12 billion tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050. Plastic already accounts for up to 80 percent of all debris in the Pacific or Atlantic Ocean. (Greenpeace)
“just 9% of plastic is actually recycled globally, and only 30% of our UK plastics are recycled”
In the UK our recycling statistics are better, however still only a third of our plastic packaging used in consumer products is recycled each year, with almost two-thirds sent to landfill (and potentially for ocean dumping) or incinerated, according to new research. (Guardian)
We have all seen the shocking images of plastic pollution in our oceans, and whilst a huge part of the issue is waste dumping by developing nations, our continued use of single use plastics is still part of the problem.
“our continued use of single use plastics is still part of the problem.”
Ultimately the solution lies with government legislation to reduce the amount of single use plastics manufacturers can use, and the assistance of developing countries by the richer nations, to enable them to implement regulated refuse and recycling collections. On this basis we should all be petitioning Governments to act.
However there is also much we can still do ourselves to cut our plastic use, to reduce plastic pollution and to help lead the way in showing others and our children a greener way to live.
To put it very simply if we were all to cut our single use plastic usage in half, we would halve the amount of plastic pollution entering our environment.
“if we were all to cut our single use plastic usage in half, we would halve the amount of plastic pollution entering our environment.”
We are a very typical family, and like all families it isn’t easily practical to currently completely do without products in plastic packaging, (until manufacturers are forced to change to reusable or biodegradable packaging,) however it is much easier than you think to take a few simple steps and to cut your plastic waste by well over half.
“it is much easier than you think to cut your plastic waste by well over half.”
Although there is lots more the we can all do to reduce our consumption and waste to an even greater extent, I have looked at cutting plastic use in terms of what every family can easily do, without necessarily altering their lifestyle or the products they consume. In the real world this is what is most achievable, and this approach is what has enabled me to make these changes within our home and with my family. This is step one and the fact that we have managed to reduce our single use plastic usage by over two thirds is a really positive step in the right direction, and one that I hope most families can follow.
25 Ways to reduce your plastic waste
I have put together this guide of what I feel are practical changes we can all easily make to reduce our plastic waste dramatically. As a bonus these changes are also money savers. These changes are based on the products we consume in our household, and whist your family’s habits may be different, hopefully it will give you some good ideas, and principles you can duplicate to the products you use.
“In general it is buying bulk sizes, refilling, reusable plastics, and non-plastic packaged options.”
Please share any extra ideas you have relating to products you use, as I would very much like this to be regularly updated and what I hope can become a definitive practical family guide to reducing household plastic waste.
1. Silicone covers instead of Cling Film
Reusable and washable silicon bowl covers can completely replace cling film.
2. Buy loose vegetables
Almost all veg are available loose. If you don’t like taking them to the till loose, put loose veg into reusable or compostable bags, or reusable containers. No more plastic trays and cellophane wrappings. Better still, grow your own where practical, although that is a separate subject in itself. Buying loose however will still save loads of plastic packaging.
3. Bulk Cooking oil
4. Reusable bags
Carrier bags are the scourge of planet and by now we should all be using reusable bags.
5. Bulk packs of toilet and kitchen rolls
The bigger the pack the less plastic wrapping. Plus lower cost and you will never run out of loo rolls again.
6. Reusable drinking bottles
These can save so much waste and also so much money. Fill with water and take it with you. Never buy a drink out and about again, which would otherwise have left you with an empty plastic bottle, often then going into public refuse, and therefore rarely recycled.
7. Drinking squash in big, extra concentrated, or glass bottles
Naturally water is better, however people do like their squash. Buy bigger and concentrated bottles, that can be decanted into smaller bottles, which will go much further, therefore less bottles going into recycling. There are also many glass bottled squashes and cordials available which means no plastic.
8. Compostable bags
If ever you do find you need or want to use a plastic bag, use a compostable one instead. They work as bags and are the same price – they are not just for your food waste and can be used for anything.
9. Fruit Juice in reusable glass bottles
Please don’t buy juices in plastic bottles or plastic lined tetra packaging. Fruit juice just like milk is available in reusable glass bottles from Milk and More for example
10. Bulk Washing up liquid
Available in bulk sizes that can be decanted into smaller bottles. Less bottles used, less plastic waste overall. Choose a green variety like Bio D.
11. Bulk Bleach
Easily obtainable in bulk 5l sizes, that you can decant into your toilet duck (or similar) bottles to use. Many less bottles overall.
12. Bulk Multi-surface cleaner
Cash and carry’s and catering / office supply companies (many of which are online and can be used by anyone whether a business or not) sell it in 5l contains, but get the biggest you can and decant it into a smaller bottle for use. The bigger the refilling bottle the less plastic waste. For heavy or commercial use choose an Ecover bulk product or similar
13. Cleaning spray Refills
Refill sizes are available so please use them instead. Even a 1l refill still halves the amount of plastic waste.
14. Drinks in cans
If you have to have coke or similar fizzy drinks – and lets face it, we all like a treat drink from time to time – you can still have them, just buy it in cans rather than plastic bottles.
15. Reusable sandwich bags
Reusable and washable sandwich bags mean you don’t need to use cling film or food bags to wrap your sandwiches in.
16. Milk in reusable glass bottles
Milk doesn’t have to be in a plastic bottle, so please buy milk in returnable glass bottles from Milk and More for example If you can switch to a non-dairy alternative at the same time – all the better.
17. Bulk Hand soap
Liquid soaps are available in bulk from cash and carry’s and here on Amazon that will last for ever and are easy to decant into smaller soap dispensers. Paper wrapped bar soaps are another alternative.
18. Treat Drinks from glass bottles
In our household we all love a bit of fizzy water, so to get the family to switch away from this I now buy nice glass bottled cordials which the family now have as their treat drink, meaning no more plastic fizzy water bottles going into our recycling.
Another replacement for food bags to keep food fresh. They come in also sorts of sizes, even good for smaller treat items in the kids lunch boxes (like a flapjack or a couple of Hob Hobs for example.)
20. Homebaked treats
A tray of flapjacks for example couldn’t be simpler to bake, are comparatively healthier, and save loads of plastic wrappers from packaged treats you might otherwise have instead.
21. Concentrated Bubble Bath
Instead of bubble bath you can get really concentrated bath oils which make for a luxurious bath, but without the plastic bottles. A little 200ml bottle can last for months.
22. Reusable coffee cups
Coffee cups are currently non recyclable, so if you regularly want a coffee out and about please carry a reusable cup. Many coffee shops will now discount if you bring your own cup. Also take a coffee with you and save buying your morning coffee from one of the big chains.
23. Cakes and Biscuits not individually wrapped
Instead of individually packaged treat cakes and biscuits, a pack of chocolate Hob Nobs for example only has an outer wrapper and not loads of individual plastic wrappings. Kit Kat’s have recyclable wrappers if you need a treat snack that is individually wrapped.
24. If it comes in a non-plastic packaging option, buy it instead
There are many products that are available in plastic bottles as well as glass bottles or tins. If there is a choice, go for the glass or tinned options instead of plastic. The more consumers switch away from plastic packages products, the more likely manufacturers are to change their packaging to maintain sales.
25. If it is plastic or non-recyclable and non-essential, don’t buy it
Always look for the most environmentally friendly packaged, or better still totally un-packaged options, wherever possible. However that isn’t always going to be possible with every product. I would then suggest if it isn’t essential and comes in plastic or non-recyclable packaging, don’t buy it.
Milk and More delivery fresh milk and fresh fruit juices in reusable glass bottles. www.milkandmore.co.uk
Naturally Good Food not only supply loads of great healthy natural and organic foods, they also supply lots of bulk items, and are a great purchasing resource for reducing your plastic use. www.naturallygoodfood.co.uk
Do your bit and create pressure for change
Using less plastic and non-recyclable wrappings is the goal. Depending on how committed you are to achieving this, you will be amazed at how much you can reduce the amount of plastic waste going into your recycling and general waste bin. Ultimately any steps you take to reduce the amount of plastic waste you create by any amount makes a difference. If enough people do the same, we will not only be reducing plastic pollution, but also putting pressure on manufacturers to move towards greener packaging practices.
I hope my suggestions have been helpful and are practical for your household and lifestyle, and I look forward to adding to this article with more ideas and suggestions that come from the experiences and efforts of other families.
Thank you for reading.
Author Details: Richard Norris, founder and Director of ‘Completely Green’ and ‘Drive Green’, family man, and sustainable living enthusiast.