I first became aware of Plastic Free July after a friend and I discussed how disgusting the amount of plastic cups were used at a festival we went to last year. The festival took place on a beach and there were literally thousands of cups left at the end of each day. My friend told me about her intention to sign up for Plastic Free July. I took her advice and promptly followed her lead.
I have always tried to be aware of the amount of plastic I use; I was an early adopter of the wee reusable shopping bag that nicely pack down to fit in your handbag but it is easy to forget and to become complacent. This is why campaigns like Plastic Free July (and Plastic Free June, created by the Marine Conservation Society) are so effective. You sign a pledge and hopefully a month is enough time to create new, more environmentally friendly habits. Plastic Free July is particularly effective as it has clear options; you can try and go completely plastic free or you can avoid particular items, which is far more manageable if you are new to trying to reduce the amount of plastic you use. Last year, I chose to avoid the four target takeaway plastics:
1. Plastic bags
2. Plastic bottles
4. Takeaway coffee cups
Since doing the challenge, I have tried to continue using what I learnt last July and this July I will be refreshing myself and I will try to be even more conscious of the amount of plastic I use. To help you on your plastic free journey, here are my four takeaways for reducing takeaway plastics:
1. Be prepared!
In order to reduce your plastic consumption, my biggest tip is that to you need to be organised! First and foremost, organisation is key but once you have adopted these habits enough times then they will soon be second nature. Always have a reusable shopping bag in your handbag or rucksack. Always have a reusable water bottle and always have one of those reusable heatproof cups if you like to buy takeaway coffees and teas. It is really is easy and worth the effort as you will save money on purchasing plastic bags (they cost 5p in the UK), on purchasing bottles of water and you might even get a discount on your takeaway coffee if you go to the right coffee shop.
2. It really is easy to give up straws
By far the easiest item to give up was straws and it is not because I am someone who never goes to bars. I do like to go to the pub (especially on a sunny Sunday :D ) but it was especially easy to say no to straws, I even did not need to purchase the reusable straws that everyone recommends. My biggest piece of advice is that if you are purchasing the kind of drink that the bar staff might put a straw then tell them as soon as you order it. If they put it in and you say you don’t need it when they bring the drink to you then it kind of defeats the purpose as they will take it out and throw it away. It sounds pretty obvious but this did catch me out a few times!
3. Not everyone is perfect but if the intention is there, it is worth the effort
However, sometimes life does get in the way and you might not be prepared! I know what I am like and every now and then even with the best of intentions, I do forget. I never have enough space to carry a reusable cup and I usually buy a coffee spur of the moment so I do not buy takeaway and I sit in with my coffee. It is actually far more relaxing than rushing around and gives me a proper break! Sometimes, I buy more than I expect and I do not have my extra reusable bag so I end up purchasing one. I suppose it is about accepting that if we all at least try our best then cumulatively we can make a difference but sometimes we can’t all be perfect! What it especially highlights is that supermarkets and shops need to help the consumer make more environmentally friendly choices.
4. It makes you think
Focusing on four simple items really does work. By being more conscious about items it highlights the fact that these small items make up a relatively small amount of your overall plastic consumption. For example, I do not use plastic bags for my shopping but I do use a bunch of my old ones for the small waste paper baskets that I have a home. I am steadily going through my spare plastic bags using them in this way but ultimately they do go to landfill and are therefore still part of the problem! Therefore, I am sourcing some biodegradable bags for the bins in my home and I hitting my local supermarket to recycle my plastic bags. Unfortunately the UK’s local council recycling do not tend to accept plastic bags but you can go to several national supermarkets (https://www.recyclenow.com/what-to-do-with/carrier-bags-1).
I hope these takeaways are useful for you and inspire you to reduce your plastic consumption. This year I am taking ownership of my own plastic consumption and in order to this, I need to identify the areas of my lifestyle where I consume the most and to subsequently reducing the amount of plastic I use. I will keep you updated with how I am getting on!
1. Plastic Free July: http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/
2. Marine Conservation Society: http://www.mcsuk.org/plasticchallenge/index.php
3. Less Plastic: https://lessplastic.co.uk/
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