Yes, plastic is one of those ‘miracle’ materials that’s enabled some of the greatest medical, scientific and security breakthroughs of the past century but that now means that it’s everywhere. From the toothbrush you put in your mouth every morning to the Oyster card you use to get to work, we’re drowning in plastic waste and it’s affecting the planet in increasingly worrying ways.
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest problems facing the 21st century, with about 380 million tons produced worldwide each year, of which only 9 per cent is recycled. This means a vast amount of plastic is seeping into the environment, releasing harmful chemicals into soil and filling up the oceans with micro particles. Some scientists suggest that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea than fish. And considering that most plastic takes around 400 years to decompose, it’s a problem that’s only getting worse.
It’s hard to know what to do, particularly as big supermarkets and companies are yet to fully commit to going plastic free. At the moment, it’s impossible to do a weekly shop without buying some plastic – and a lot of it is single use plastic, to boot. But there are a few choices you can make to help lower your plastic footprint, and mean you feel a little less guilty every time you watch Our Planet.
Swap plastic shampoo bottles for shampoo bars
Just think how many plastic bottles there currently are in your shower – I’m guessing at least three or four. Just by switching your shampoo bottle for a bar is an easy way to cut down on plastic waste. Christophe Robin’s hydrating shampoo bar is formulated with aloe vera, glycerin and castor oil to gently cleanse and moisturise your hair.
£17.50 for 100g, mrporter.com
Swap cling film for wax wraps
Cling film is notoriously difficult to recycle, meaning the vast majority of it ends up in landfill each year. It’s also made from small plastic pellets called nurdles, which end up being washed into the sea, and eaten by fish and birds. There is an easy solution, though. Wax food wraps are made from organic cotton and beeswax, and are washable, reusable and compostable.
£13.95 for three, abelandcole.co.uk
Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo toothbrushes
Most of us will buy and throw away around 300 toothbrushes in our lifetime, and the unfortunate news is that most varieties are non-recyclable. A better option is a bamboo toothbrush with nylon bristles, which cuts down on the amount of plastic used. Pearly White Club offers a yearly subscription of new bamboo toothbrushes every six weeks. Its handles are made from Moso bamboo that’s panda-friendly and ethically sourced in China, while the bristles are made from Nylon 6, which degrades faster than lower grade nylons.
From £2.50 a month, pearlywhiteclub.co.uk
Swap paper towels for linen napkins
Paper is also a significant environmental issue, contributing to water, air and land pollution, and resulting in the worldwide destruction of forests and ecosystems. Make the switch to linen napkins for your dining table instead. This set of four is made from flax grown organically in France, woven at a CO2 neutral mill in Belgium, and stitched into napkins at a social enterprise in London.
£75 for four, ecosophy.co.uk
Swap your weekly shop for a trip to a zero-waste supermarket
While we wait for mainstream supermarkets to catch up with the plastic-free movement, there are more and more zero-waste alternatives opening up around London. These offer everything from pasta and olive oil, to eco-friendly cleaning products. You can find your nearest here.
Swap your regular deodorant for an eco-friendly alternative
Deodorant is where many people draw the line when it comes to living a more planet-friendly lifestyle. Luckily, brands like Nuud have come up with an alternative to plastic roll-ons and – even worse – aerosol cans. Its all-natural deodorant is 100 per cent vegan, with no aluminium, parabens, propellants, artificial fragrances, and no alcohol. It comes in a sugar cane tube and a biodegradable cardboard box, and is sustainably produced with a CO2-neutral distribution method. Even better, you only apply it once a week, and it’s effective for up to seven days – even after showers and exercise.
£12.95 for 15ml, nuudcare.co.uk