The trouble with a lot of advice about reducing plastic is either it’s very basic – take your own shopping bag level of stuff – or there are privilege issues. I’ve been giving some thought to ways of reducing plastic that don’t depend on your health or your income too much.
Avoid overpackaging. It’s not always easy to tell the first time you buy something if it will turn out to have layers of plastic on the inside, but once you know, these are easily avoided. Overpackaging is most often a feature on snacks – multipacks of crisps, cake bars, sweets and whatnot. These are hardly essential. If you’re desperate for snacks, there are options with less packaging.
Carry a water bottle or a thermos flask – this has the bonus of saving you money. If you can’t afford a fancy water bottle, re-using bottles is workable. Keep your bottle cool to reduce the risk of it leaching plastic into your water. If you have to buy a drink, there’s a lot to be said for a re-usable cup in a cafe if you can afford it. Failing that, fruit juice in tetrapacks is worth a thought – better than paying someone to extract and bottle water – which is a preposterous thing. You can then re-fill the pack with water – I’ve done this at events.
Re-use packaging – jiffy bags, bubble wrap and all that sort of thing can be re-used, saving you money at the same time. If you end up with a lot of it, give it to a charity shop so they can re-use it when people buy breakables.
Check the price for weight on fruit and veg. Unhelpfully sometimes loose stuff is sold by the item not the weight, so you may need to give it some thought. Sometimes the loose stuff is the same price, or occasionally even cheaper than the bagged produce. Also consider the food miles though – loose mangos and pineapples may not be as good an idea as apples in a bag…
Clothes made from synthetic fabrics release plastic particles when you wash them. Try to wash a bit less frequently and/or on gentler cycles, or going over to handwashing (I do this, synthetics are easy to handwash).This will reduce the amount of plastic you put out. It also increases the life-expectancy of your clothes, which saves you money, and saves you money on water, electricity and laundry soap – which also improves your sustainability. Win all round.
Car tyres are another source of plastic particles in our environments. If you have to drive, then going at lower speeds, cornering and braking to reduce wear and tear on your tyres will save you money on replacing them, and save you money on fuel consumption and that all helps with being greener as well. If you can do without the car of course that’s even better from both an environmental perspective and a body health perspective. For those of us who can, walking and cycling is healthier.
Picking up rubbish is a good way of helping if you have the time and energy. Plastic bags and other detritus end up in our water systems, and then get out to sea and into the bodies of marine creatures. Plastic breaking down in wild places can strangle and choke wildlife. It doesn’t solve the existence of the plastic in the first place, but you can at least reduce the harm.