After recent news, it’s clearer than ever we need to ditch plastic ASAP.
The worrying reason UK readers need to ditch plastic right now
A few weeks ago, I felt so proud as I read this article from the Guardian reporting that Wales is the second best household waste recycler in the world, second only to Germany, who we were on track to overtake within the next year or two.
I mean, hell YES. I don’t need convincing that us Welsh ones are amazing, but this is icing on the cake for me. At least, it was: until I read this article from the Telegraph reporting that the UK is no longer able to take care of the massive amounts of plastic it needs to recycle. China has implemented in import ban on plastics for recycling, meaning that unless the UK Government can find somewhere else to export our recycling or find a way to do it here, all the plastics we “recycle” will either be burned (releasing toxic fumes into the air) or sent to landfill anyway.
The frustrating thing is, the UK Government has known this was to become an issue since last summer. What have they done about it? You guessed it – nothing! In an ideal world, we would be able to trust our Government to react to anticipated problems accordingly. Since that hasn’t happened, it’s up to us. Again. Great.
7 ways to ditch plastic you can start this week
Thirsty while shopping? Swap plastic bottles for cans.
Even for those of us that have smoothie cups, a KeepCup or a water bottle, there will always be a time that you have forgotten it. At this point, you might well grab a bottle of water or (if you’re like me) sugar-free cola. STOP. This will go to landfill or be burned either way, remember? Grab a can instead.
Put spare carrier bags everywhere.
I really do mean EVERYWHERE. Put a small bag in the pocket of every coat. Put a few more in your regular handbag. Put some in your car. Put some in your partner’s coat, the children’s bags, literally everywhere you might actually need a bag. When your bags wear through, don’t buy more plastic ones: either buy bags made from cotton, jute or other fabrics or make your own out of your old clothes.
Stop ordering takeaways.
I love Kung Po Tofu. It’s probably one of my favourite treat meals, something I reward myself with after an extra-productive week, or an extra-stressful week. It’s hot, sweet and has cashews and chilli flakes scattered through it. The fried tofu drinks up the flavoursome sauce, releasing bursts of kung po flavour with every bite… and it also happens to be delivered in a plastic dish. As does the rice. And the noodles. And pretty much everything else I order from the Chinese at the same time. That was fun while it lasted – time to get experimenting in the kitchen!
Refuse straws – even if they’re already handed to you.
Short of walking around with a big badge saying “Keep Your F***ing Straws”, it’s inevitable you will be given a straw at some point. Perhaps you forgot to say when ordering, or perhaps they didn’t hear you. If you’re given a straw and you take it away anyway, your server will think nothing of it. If you give it straight back and make it clear you don’t want it, maybe they’ll think about it more next time. Even if that straw has already landed in your drink, give it back!
Refuse food packaging.
If you can buy food without the packaging, then do it – carrots and broccoli are fine naked in the trolley as you wash them before you cook them anyway. If you have to buy food with packaging, opt for cardboard, paper, glass or metal where you can. Where you can’t, leave it at the point of sale. This is their unnecessary packaging, and it should be theirs to deal with.
Switch to paper stems.
Did you know plastic stemmed cotton buds are the sixth most common type of marine litter found on UK beaches? Some supermarkets and high street brands have made the switch to rolled paper, which will disintegrate – make sure you’re using them! You can also get bamboo ones.
Take a plastic waste audit.
As sexy as this doesn’t sound, the action couldn’t be much simpler. Simply chart all of the plastic you use in a week and make a commitment to eliminate the plastics showing up most often. Whether you’ve just read this post or have spent the last hour reading posts from all over the web, chances are we won’t have an answer for everything. That’s because, like everything else, household waste is subjective, changing with the habits of the user. Tape a piece of paper to the recycling box and get the whole family to participate.
So there you have it – this won’t solve everything, but this is a great place for us to start without having to rely on the powers that be to get the job done. Of course, there is more you can do: write to your local councillor to find out what your local authority plans to do with their plastic waste. Ask your MP to hold the Government to account and put pressure on them to act.