Our wasteful lifestyles are littering the oceans with rubbish. Amy Dawson suggests some changes
It was that scene in Blue Planet II that did it – that one of a pod of whales surrounding and mourning a newborn calf killed by plastic and chemical waste. That moment has been credited with lifting the scales from the nation’s eyes when it comes to the extent of our problem with marine pollution.
With research published in Science magazine saying eight million tonnes of plastic rubbish enter our seas every year, killing wildlife and leaching into our food chain, the government has promised to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
Environmental groups have been saying no to plastic for years but it seems as if the rest of us are finally catching up, with increasing numbers of zero-plastic stores thriving around the country, from Earth.Food.Love (thezerowasteshop.co.uk) in Totnes, Devon, to east London’s Bulk Market (bulkmarket.uk).
Drinking fountains are popping up in London and Bristol in a bid to cut the amount of plastic bottles used and a new social media movement, #plasticfreeweek, is challenging people to spend a week neither using nor buying items containing the material (lessons: teabags are a surprising plastic-containing culprit and supermarket shopping is practically impossible).
Particularly enticing is the imminent opening of Re:Mind, an ultra-cool London meditation studio with an eco-lifestyle store attached offering refills for household products (Re:Mind opens on February 18. remindstudio.com). ‘People are worn out and they can only think of the easiest solutions, hence using single-use products,’ says Re:Mind co-founder Yulia Kovaleva. ‘Companies need to make sure they offer waste-free and refill alternatives.’
If you’d like to use less plastic, here are some simple ways to get started.
■ Buy a reusable coffee cup and glass water bottle or aluminium container and make sure you have them in your work bag each day. The UK throws away almost seven million takeaway coffee cups and 40million plastic bottles a day and most go unrecycled. Many coffee shops now offer discounts to people who bring their own reusable cup.
■ Unless they’re the new trendy bamboo variety, say no to straws in bars.
■ Beauty products utilise a lot of plastic and there are precious few places that refill them. Try Lush’s solid shampoo and conditioner bars, which eliminate the need for plastic packaging and smell like heaven. Each small bar apparently lasts a hundred washes. Plastic ear buds (set to be banned in Scotland) and face wipes are also environmental devils but you can buy compostable wipes that can go in your food waste caddy and ear buds that use paper or card instead of plastic for the sticks.
■ If you find the thought of half a cucumber wrapped in plastic particularly galling, sign up to a monthly veg box from a local community scheme. There’s also been a resurgence in getting milk from the milkman for the same reason – it comes in reusable glass bottles. A cross-party group of 200 MPs has written to the major supermarkets, calling on them to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging by 2023.
■ Invest in reusable tupperware and say no to a plastic fork – bring your own cutlery from home or invest in a reusable bamboo set.
Georgina Wilson-Powell, founder of eco-living magazine Pebble, says: ‘No one is 100 per cent perfect in living a plasticfree life every day. Sometimes it’s just not possible. But the next day is a new day