Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably realised that plastic pollution has become an increasingly frequent news item in recent months. Do you know why? It's doing immense damage to the environment.
Blue Planet II recently highlighted the terrible effect this having on our oceans and the marine life which inhabits them. New statistics are also emerging all the time that underline the severity of the problem that plastic poses to the earth. However, how many of you are aware just how much plastic you use on a daily basis?
Plastic gets everywhere. Despite the damage current levels are doing to the environment, oceans and even food chains, global investment in plastic production is set to increase by $180bn in the next 10 years. This is why it's so important that we, as consumers, all do our best to reduce our own plastic use to decrease the demand for production.
Here's a list of 10 items you can replace with plastic-free alternatives so that you can win your own fight against plastic:
How many times do you reach for a straw? Only when you're out at a bar? When you have a smoothie? Plastic straws are made from polypropylene and polystyrene which means that, unless they are recycled, they take hundreds of years to decompose. That plastic straw you take with your drink, will be on the planet for longer than you! 😐
Alternatives: A metal straw, or a glass straw. Or, you know - no straw.
2. Cotton Buds
You might use them everyday when come out of the shower to clean your ears, but do you just throw them straight in the bin? Or even worse flush them down the toilet?! The seemingly innocuous cotton bud, is causing long term and sometimes fatal damage to marine life after it's been flushed away. Plastic cotton buds are the number one item of plastic, sewage-related debris found on our beaches and rivers, according to the 2016 Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean.
Such is the extent of the problem that Scotland has recently announced plans to become the first country in the UK to ban plastic cotton bud production. Some brands like Johnson & Johnson have already stopped producing buds with plastic handles.
Alternatives: Next time you buy them choose ones with paper or bamboo sticks.
3. Paper Cups
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Paper cups? Yes, those takeaway cups you ask for in your favourite coffee shop are only paper on the outer layer. They're plastic on the inside. You might be familiar with this given it's recent exposure on the news due to Government discussions about introducing a 25p levy on their use.
In the UK, we throw away 2.5bn coffee cups every year - enough to circle the world 5 times! Almost none are recycled and 500,000 end up as litter on our streets every day.
Alternatives: Buy a refillable coffee cup and ask your barista to use it instead.
4. Microbeads in Cosmetics
You know those little gritty particles in your toothpaste and face creams they are microbeads. Intended to provide a deeper clean or exfoliation benefits they're very small, so you might think what's the problem? The problem is that microplastic contamination is becoming an increasingly big issue in water supplies and food chains.
An investigation by Orb Media found tiny plastic fibres in around 83% of the tap water samples they tested worldwide - in the UK, 72% of samples were contaminated. The UK has recently taken the decision to ban microbeads in the production of cosmetics but you may still come across them in some shops until the end of the year.
Alternatives: Toothpastes & Creams without microbeads.
It might be pretty, but in reality it's millions of little pieces of plastic, mainly PET and microplastics. Hugely popular at Christmas and birthdays, where does all that glitter end up?
It adds to the millions of tonnes of micro plastic piling up in the ocean and causing havoc to marine life trying to survive in it.
Alternatives: Replacements like synthetic mica, used by Lush.
I bet when you clicked this article you didn't expect to find out that even your cuppa doesn't escape the plastic epidemic. When we say plastic gets everywhere, we mean everywhere. Hidden in the most unexpected places, like teabags.
Some of the largest tea brands in the UK use polypropylene, a sealing plastic, to fasten their bags together. Which means many of the 60 billion cups of tea enjoyed every year in the UK incur needless plastic use.
Alternatives: Source eco-friendly brands, avoid Tetley, PG Tips & Twinings!
You knew it was coming. Not only could your toothpaste have plastic in it - see no. 4 - your toothbrush is almost certainly made of it too. It is recommended that you change your toothbrush every 3-4 months. While the bristles may fray, the plastic will be perfectly fine and yet it will end up in waste bin anyway. Think about how many toothbrushes are thrown away every year. In the US, it is estimated somewhere between 850 million-1 billion toothbrushes are used per year.
Alternatives: Bamboo or charcoal toothbrushes should do the trick!
8. Water Bottles
You knew it was coming. The scourge of the current plastic crisis, ruining oceans, beaches and landscapes across the globe - single use plastic bottles have got to go!
The stats are well known by now, but if you're still drinking bottled water where have you been? It's grossly inefficient, wasteful and needless.
Alternatives: Buy a refillable bottle and a water filter :)
9. Chewing Gum
This one might come as a little surprise to some of you, but yes, even chewing gum has plastic in it. Almost all brands of chewing gum are made with polyvinyl acetate (a type of plastic). If the label lists “gum base” as an ingredient, it may contain “petroleum, lanolin, glycerin, polyethylene, polyvinyl acetate, petroleum wax, stearic acid, or latex,” according to the Vegetarian Resource Group.
Alternatives: Natural chewing gum brands like Xylichew, Spry Gym and Green Tree Gum.
10. Hand Soap
It seems like dispensable hand soap is the fashionable way to wash your hands these days. For many intents and purposes it is, cool scents and no need for the share the germs that gather on bars of soap right? Well, not really.
While it may be necessary in public toilets, it's not exactly a necessity in our bathrooms at home. This is the perfect example of a product that is causing us to needlessly consume disposable plastic. In 2017, more than 269 million Americans used liquid hand soap. Think about all those plastic bottles.
For the germaphobes among you, a bar of soap can always be rinsed with warm water whereas the push button on a liquid soap bottle, not so easy.
Alternatives: Eco-friendly bar soaps.