Plastic is an undeniably revolutionary invention. It’s lightweight, durable, and takes a long time to break down. It’s an ideal material for countless objects and devices, from electronics to sports gear to the lining on certain takeaway coffee cups. Today, life without plastic would be unrecognisable.
The problem is that it’s lightweight, durable, and takes a long time to break down.
Plastic pollution has become one of the most urgent environmental issues and we are, quite literally, swimming in it. According to National Geographic, about 8 million tonnes of plastic waste escapes into the ocean every year. The internet is saturated with photos of turtles tangled in plastic bags and dolphins trying to swallow six pack rings. Plastic has been found in some of the planet’s most remote places, from the peak of Mount Everest to the Mariana Trench, the world’s deepest ocean trench. It poses an enormous risk to both animal and human life.
Here at ecoeats, we’ve got our eye on more than zero emissions delivery. Read on to discover some of our team’s favourite, most accessible tips and tricks for reducing plastic waste!
1. Choose your shop wisely
Choose to refuse produce in plastic wherever possible. Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it might even feel impossible. Sometimes it comes at a cost. But with a little research, you might be surprised at the number of options you have.
In St Andrews, Birchwood and The Tree are both good places to find produce without the packaging. Birchwood is conveniently located in the centre of town, while The Tree focuses on affordability — their veg bags are particularly popular and arrive in reusable bags!
2. Buy in bulk
You might not have access to a shop where you can cut out packaging entirely by bringing your own containers and weighing your goods. That’s okay. Look for dried goods you can buy in large quantities, even from your mainstream supermarket, and reduce your plastic waste by buying goods in plastic less frequently. You’ll save yourself some money, too!
3. Always carry a tote
Choose to refuse plastic bags. Make this easier on yourself by always keeping a reusable cloth bag close to hand.
4. Select non-plastic packaging
We’re spoilt for choice in supermarkets these days and that means you’ll often find similar products in different packaging. Go for the product in cardboard or tin over plastic.
5. Buy from markets
Find out if there’s a local market where you can stock up on organic, locally-grown produce unburdened by plastic. Feel proud that you’re simultaneously supporting small, local businesses!
6. Soap bars
This is a top-rated swap as it’s so simple. Ditch those disposable plastic soap dispensers in favour of a good old slab of soap. It does the job just as well.
7. Glass jars
Particularly useful if you do have a bulk buy store where you can refill when required. They’re convenient, great for storing dried goods in particular, and oh-so-aesthetically pleasing in the kitchen cupboard! Charity shops are often full of them.
8. Glass Tupperware
They tend to last longer than their plastic counterparts and are great for both freezing and reheating food.
9. Cling film alternatives
Say farewell to plastic wrap and hop on the beeswax wrap bandwagon! Buying wraps can be pricey, so why not make your own? All you need is some cotton, beeswax beads or bars, and an oven to melt the beeswax onto the cloth.
Tea towels also work brilliantly for covering things like bread and cake. And if you find yourself in a bind with no containers, tea towels or reusable wraps, store those leftovers in a bowl and cover with a plate. (Short on bowls and plates? Hit up the charity shop again.)
10. Glass or metal straws
Plastic straws? Never again.
11. Compostable bin bags
…or a naked bin that you wash out once in a while. But for the bins that do need liners, go for certified compostable ones.
12. Reusable coffee cups
The coffee cup debacle has become somewhat confusing. Which are plastic-lined? Which are recyclable? Compostable? Biodegradable? Save yourself the confusion and the risk by investing in a reusable one. Typically you’ll save yourself some money on your takeaway coffee, too.
13. Reusable kitchen cloths
Source some more durable kitchen cloths that you can put in the washing machine.
14. Choose refill over landfill
You may live near a shop where you can refill your cleaning product bottles. If not, brands like ecover have large containers you can buy online to keep your washing-up liquid topped up.
15. Compostable coffee pods
If you’re a coffee pod enthusiast, you can find these at Holland & Barrett’s. They’re made of plant-based bio-plastic which breaks down in 90 days. (Bear in mind that bioplastic requires the heat of industrial composting to allow microbes to break it down. Otherwise, particularly in marine environments, they function similarly to petroleum-based plastic and the benefit is lost.)
16. Make your own yoghurt or kefir
Yoghurt is difficult to find in plastic-free packaging. Making it yourself seems inaccessibly hipster, but we’ve discovered it’s surprisingly easy! Simply whisk a little yoghurt you already have into milk and leave in a warm place overnight for it to thicken. When you want to make some more, just save a little of the yoghurt from the last batch to make the next batch with.
And if you’re down for that, why not try making your own kefir? Order kefir grains online and keep them alive in milk – they multiply really quickly. You don’t even need heat for this recipe!
17. Grow your own herbs
Choose to refuse those plastic packets of fresh herbs in the supermarket. Keep your pots alive on your windowsill and give yourself a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds.
18. Grow your own veggies
…or get someone else to do it for you and volunteer your time instead. Check out Edible Campus in St Andrews for FREE veggies! Even better if you can spend a little time gardening (a.k.a. studying detox time).
19. Invest in a lunchbox
Say farewell to the cling-filmed sandwich and the plastic-clad Tesco meal deal. Get yourself a funky-looking lunchbox and express your artistic side at the same time! A quick search will provide you with a multitude of tin or bamboo options.
We know that staying away from plastic can be a real struggle and we all have our pitfalls. Some of us at ecoeats bemoan the fact that meat alternatives, like Quorn, often come in plastic packaging, and that the price hike of plastic-free products can be eye-watering.
It’s not about making drastic life changes or torturing yourself by biting off more than you can chew. Remember, it’s far more impactful when many people reduce their plastic consumption imperfectly than when one person cuts it out entirely!