Blue Planet II. What a wake up call. Images of sea creatures fighting – sometimes for their lives – against an ocean of plastic made millions of people squirm in their sofas. This seminal Attenborough programme also triggered a renewed energy in the movement for change.
Schools and communities were the first to respond. Across the world, grassroots initiatives to recycle and reuse packaging gained momentum. Which has now led to governments stepping up and actually legislating against the production of items like single-use cutlery, straws and cotton buds. It’s an unprecedented reaction.
Plastic is still everywhere, for now at least. Wrapping and containing so many of our necessities. But there are lots of retailers – big and small – supporting the plastics movement and offering easy substitutes to help you reduce the amount of plastic you throw away.
It wasn’t long ago that we all used soap bars to wash with. The good news is that they’re still around. And are a great alternative to bottled shower gels. People like The Body Shop and Lush, that wondrous smelling high-street staple, have a huge selection. Lots of which are also organic, vegan-friendly and free from artificial anything.
The trend towards bottle-less shampoos, conditioners and deodorants is also growing. Of course, Lush sell a full range (which both smell great and work brilliantly). But head online for the biggest selection. A simple Google search brings up a plethora of shops like theethicalsuperstore.co.uk , wearthlondon.com and noplasticshop.co.uk where you can find tonnes of simple swaps for your bathroom.
It takes one toothbrush over 1000 years to biodegrade. Considering we change them every three months, that’s a lot of plastic. Head down to your local health-food store, or online, for bamboo alternatives. They’re about the same price as plastic brushes and last for just as long. For brushing anyway. When they’re thrown away, bamboo only takes a year or so to compost.
Out of the bathroom and into the kitchen, Bacofoil now produce a biodegradable clingfilm. And it’s available in Sainsbury’s. So you can pick it up during your weekly shop. No extra work required. It wraps sandwiches and leftovers just as well as the traditional stuff. So you can pack a lunch without the fear of grated cheese escaping into your bag.
Actually, plastic can be sustainable. Reprocessing it saves on energy, carbon emissions and landfill space. But – and a massive ‘but’ here – only if it’s recycled. With 90% of the world’s plastic waste still going in the bin, we have a lot of recycling to do.
It should become a little easier in the not-so-distant future. Most of the UK’s major food retailers have signed up to Wrap’s ‘UK Plastics Pact’. Their plan is to create a circular economy for plastics and make 100% of food packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
In the meantime, the most obvious thing to do is read the small print of your favourite food. If the packet can be recycled – PET and HDPE are the most commonly accepted – then do just that. If it can’t, consider an alternative product. A moment on the lips, a lifetime…in the sea