In the past year, we have become more aware than ever of the plastic waste we produce, and how it affects the environment. This concern has undoubtedly been awoken by last year’s Blue Planet II, which set out to raise awareness of the amount of plastic in our oceans, and how this waste is coming back to haunt us in the form of spoiled beaches and plastic-filled fish. About 300 million tonnes of plastic is produced globally each year, and only about 10% of that is recycled.
To minimise your own contribution to this unsavoury pollution, here are 6 cheap ways for you to reduce your plastic waste:
1. Refuse the straw
With the harrowing images of plastic straws found in the bodies of fish, many food outlets have opted for the paper straw. Unlike plastic straws, which take up to 200 years to decompose, this alternative is 100% biodegradable. Wetherspoon’s is one of the many big food retailers who has scrapped the plastic straw; hopefully, Drapers can follow suit. Until then, refuse the straw and do your bit to save the 100,000 animals that die every year due to the pollution of plastic straws in our oceans.
2. Swap your plastic bag for a reusable one
According to Gov UK, since the 5p plastic bag charge was introduced in 2015 the use of plastic bags has gone down by 80%, successfully reducing the estimated 61,000 tonnes of plastic-bag waste that was produced in England alone. So, if you haven’t already, get some reusable bags and put them near your front door or somewhere else you’ll remember to take with you on your way out.
3. Swap your coffee cup for a reusable one
With the UK producing 30,000 tonnes of coffee cup waste a year, and only 0.25% of that being recyclable (and even less actually being recycled), it is no wonder the government is considering introducing a 25p charge on disposable paper cups. So, get ahead of the game and buy yourself a reusable one. As with most coffee shops, our own SU cafés sell their own cups for £6: you get your first drink for free and receive 10% off any future drinks. However, if you fancy something a bit swankier; collapsible silicone cups fit into your bag nicely and are available on Amazon for less than £10.
4. Avoid Microplastics
These are probably the most ominous of the plastics we use, as in most products they are almost invisible, and you wouldn’t have thought they could have such a huge impact on our environment. They are mainly in products such as face wash and body scrubs, but don’t panic; there are plenty of alternative products that don’t use microbeads, but still do a great job at exfoliating: Simple Sugars, Neutrogena, and Tree Hut to name a few. For a comprehensive list and more information on microbeads and microplastics, and how to avoid them, head over to the Beat the Microbead webpage.
5. Swap your plastic water bottle for a reusable one!
Noticing a theme here? Earlier on this year, the government introduced a water point scheme, to include free water refill points in every town and city in the UK, encouraging people to stop buying bottled water and invest in reusable ones instead. With over 50 water points on campus, ditching the plastic bottle at QM couldn’t be easier.
6. Trade in your tampons for a Mooncup
Products like the Mooncup have revolutionised the female sanitary-product market. According to the Women’s Environment Network, ‘tampons, pads and panty-liners generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year, and they all contain plastic’. The silicone cup however is a reusable, safer, and cheaper alternative to tampons and pads; they last up to 10 years and can be recycled after use. Whilst £19.99 may seem a bit steep, the Huffington Post explains that the average woman spends around £156 a year on sanitary products, switching to a menstrual cup could save you over £1500.
Follow @QMULSustainability and @QMGreens on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more tips and advice on how to reduce your carbon footprint.