How to Reduce Your Single-Use Plastic Consumption: Four Tips for Families
There’s no getting around it: plastic is convenient. We use it for everything from shopping bags to disposable drinks receptacles. Unfortunately, though, our penchant for a quick fix has come at a real cost – to the environment. According to a 2016 report, 8 million metric tons of plastic find its way into the ocean each year, where it threatens the lives of hundreds of aquatic species.
In addition, plastic can take over 400 years to degrade: a nightmarish statistic. So what can we do to reduce our personal plastic footprint?
In the UK we use an eye-watering 35 million plastic bottles every day; and 2.5 billion coffee cups are thrown away each year. Switching to reusable water bottles and coffee cups seems like a tiny change, but if every household did it, it would make a big impact. Some cafes offer a small discount if you take your own cup, too – bonus!
Don’t forget to think about reusable receptacles when you’re doing the family’s weekly shop, either. As well as taking sturdy long-life shopping bags with you, you could also bring small washable bags for fresh produce (such as fruit and veg), and even re-usable plastic containers for other loose items.
Avoid excessive food packaging
Where you can, shop locally. Not only is your high-street butcher or grocer much less likely to cocoon their produce in acres of plastic, you’ll also be supporting a small local business. When you do shop at the supermarket, head for the loose items: it’s often cheaper to buy unpacked fruit and veg, and you can take your own re-usable containers to transport your goods in (see above).
Look into zero-waste shops, too. Such purveyors are becoming more popular, and typically offer dry goods without packaging – items like pasta, rice, coffee, flour and cereals – which you measure out yourself and decant into your own (re-usable) containers. Some zero- waste shops also provide eco-friendly toilet rolls and other household items (like refills for cleaning products).
Ditch clingfilm, plastic cutlery and plastic straws
Did you know that clingfilm cannot be recycled? Next time you’re batch-cooking for the family, resist the urge to reach for the plastic wrap. Foil, on the other hand, can be recycled, so it’s a slightly better option – but, better still, you can buy washable food ‘covers’. They look a little bit like hairnets, but can be used to cover plates or bowls containing leftovers. Alternatively you can always stock up on Tupperware!
Another item that’s high on the list of non-recyclables to avoid is the plastic straw (which can take 200 years to decompose). If you really must sip through a straw, try a paper one instead. And what about plastic cutlery? It might seem like a good option for a family picnic, but if you choose reusable cutlery instead, you’ll be cutting down on a lot of unnecessary waste: a typical four-person family could save over 1500 single-use plastic items per year.
Switch to reusable nappies
It’s estimated that babies need up to 6,000 disposable nappies before they’re potty- trained. For a three-child family, that’s 18,000 disposable nappies per household. To make just one disposable nappy, a whole cup of crude oil is needed; and around seven million trees are cut down in the UK each year to make the pulp for disposable nappies. More horrifyingly, disposable nappies take up to 500 years to decompose (releasing methane all the while, a greenhouse gas which has been proven to contribute to global warming).
However, if you switch to reusable nappies, you’ll only need 15 – 20 nappies – and that’s it. And, as an additional bonus, you can pass these nappies on to any subsequent children, meaning that you’re reducing your carbon footprint even more. By choosing reusable nappies, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint by up to 40%, and will halve the amount of waste your family produces on a weekly basis.
Pēpi’s innovative reusable nappies have been cleverly designed to grow with your baby: our one-size-fits all product suits babies between 3.5kg to 15 kgs in weight. They also come in a range of stylish patterns and colours. Helping the environment – and saving money – never looked or felt so good!