The scale and impact of plastic waste on marine life, seen recently on Blue Planet 2, seems to have shocked us all.
Businesses are now starting to take steps to tackle single-use plastics – from coffee cups to food packaging - and recent government measures include a bottle deposit scheme and a ban on microbeads. But what can we do as individuals? How can we play our part in our own homes? Here are our top tips to get you started.
Start in your own marine environment
Our bathrooms are often full of single-use bottles and tubs of lotions and potions that end up in the bin when empty. There are plenty of alternatives though and the choice is growing all the time.
Why not switch from shower and hand-gels to solid bars of soap? There are oodles of gorgeous scented, nourishing soaps to choose from, many with natural ingredients and non-plastic packaging.
Single-use plastic bottles also tend to be used for most shampoos and conditioners. Alternatives are solid shampoo and conditioner bars or, look for recycled plastic containers.
Cotton bud stems are often made of plastic and can be a significant problem as people wrongly flush them down the toilet. They can then pass through the sewage treatment system and end up in the sea, often mistakenly eaten by marine life. Bamboo alternatives are available – but still please don’t flush them.
Like bathroom products, cleaning products for the home often come in plastic bottles and sprays. Some of these, like washing up liquid and laundry detergent, can be refilled at your local health food shop or you could buy in bulk which will reduce the amount of plastic. Dishwasher and laundry detergent can also be widely bought in cardboard boxes.
DIY cleaning products have the advantage of eliminating plastic packaging as well as reducing the amount of chemicals in your home. Vinegar and water make a good multi-purpose cleaning spray and baking soda is a good scourer.
Even the trusty washing up sponge often has plastic in it and is replaced fairly frequently. There are plenty of plastic-free alternatives with wooden dish brushes a great alternative to plastic ones.
Kicking the kitchen plastic habit
Many of the utensils and equipment in our kitchens are made from plastic so it’s worth thinking about alternatives when you come to replace them.
The kitchen can also be a hot spot for single use plastics which, with a bit of thought, we can find replacements for.
Plastic food wrap can be avoided by using plates, bowls or pan lids to cover left-overs in the fridge. You could replace sandwich bags with one of the growing range of stainless steel or bamboo lunch boxes or lined cotton reusable sandwich wraps.
The weekly shop can be challenging, with much of the food on offer being vac-packed, bottled or bagged in plastic. Try selecting loose fruit and veg rather than packaged and choose unwrapped items – for example you can often find both wrapped and unwrapped broccoli on the same shelves.
Cheese, pâtés, fish, and both raw and cooked meats are usually packed in plastic cartons in the aisles. Why not visit the deli counter or your local shops where you may be able to avoid, or at least substantially, reduce the packaging.
You could also go plastic-free with your milk by getting glass bottles delivered to your door.
Eliminating all plastics is a tall order and certainly not something you are likely to achieve overnight. It’s a work in progress but hopefully our tips will get you started in giving plastic the push in your home.