Single-use plastics - what valuable changes can I make?

So we all know about the problems of plastic, particularly single use plastics. Straws, single use bottles, toiletries and food packaging are some of the more commonly known problems with single use plastic. It seems like the best thing to do is just avoid all plastic. But is this even possible? And how do we balance what’s right for the environment with what works within your family budget and lifestyle? #sustainableliving

Let’s start with a simple swap – straws. Those of us with children know how much they love a straw and how much sometimes its so much less mess with a straw! A simple and easy swap is to buy reusable straws which can be found made in a variety of materials. Under £10 can get you a set of stainless steel straws from a variety of places with Aldi just starting to stock a pack of 4 for £2.99. And they are yours for life (or until your children lose them) and just require rinsing and washing out after use.

Drinks bottles are another simple swap. Most of us with young children carry water bottles for them but how many of us forget about ourselves? And its not just about water but the crucial cup of tea or coffee to get you through the day. Many cafe's now offer a discount for using your reusable cup which saves money if you regularly buy takeaway drinks. The cups can also save you from buying a drink in the first place. Cups can be picked up in supermarkets now for under £10 and bottles for less than £5. And yes while the best option would be to avoid plastic all together sometimes this doesn’t work budget wise. Single use plastic is a problem however reusing hard plastic is an alternative. A plastic drinks bottle that you reuse will still save disposing of a bottle every time you go out.

Toiletries are a swap starting to become more common. #plasticfree

Soap, shampoo and conditioner bars are an option starting to become more mainstream and easy to find. This has been our most recent and successful change. It’s also been one that we’ve found to be really budget friendly with solid bars lasting longer than bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

One of the biggest areas we all hear a lot about is our food shop. Excess packaging on our food has been highlighted as a huge problem with single use plastics, not just for the environment but for our waste bins at home. Everything in the supermarket seems to come covered in plastic. To protect our fruit and veg, to stop meat or fish making a mess or just for packaging purposes. Morrisons are now happy for people to bring their own boxes to the fish and meat counters. We’ve seen a post about a Co Op being happy to use beeswax wraps for cheese instead of plastic. Sometimes it just takes asking as opposed to assuming it’s a no. You can get a variety of different types of bags for holding loose fruit and veg in now that don’t have to be made from plastic. Just changing your packaging and bringing a few bags or boxes from home can help you avoid single use plastic. But what about the items that don’t come with a plastic free alternative? Things like pasta, rice and milk? If you can find a local milkman who delivers glass bottles that’s an option. We do have a few dairy farms around the area who sell direct to the public either in glass bottles or are happy for you to reuse bottles. Neither of these options are as cheap as buying supermarket milk sadly. With pasta and rice unless you can find somewhere that sells loose produce its hard to stop the plastic. Buying in bulk however is one way to save plastic. Lidl now do big bags of rice and pasta you could buy instead of one small bag a week if you have room to store. Big bags of crisps that you split down into smaller boxes or bowls instead of multipacks are another change. Buying the biggest size you can afford and store is one way to save plastic.

So pick the changes you can afford to do and that fit with your family as a starting point. Start from there and see where it leads you. Whilst it would be amazing for all single use plastic to be gotten rid of, this won’t happen overnight and it also requires shops and retailers to make changes as well. But with more and more of us asking for change hopefully the change will come.

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