Tips for avoiding single-use plastic at home and when you are out

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As the Government moves closer to banning single-use plastic items such as plates, cutlery and polystyrene cups, Jessica Hickie, from the Environment Agency’s plastics and sustainability team, shares her tips for swapping to non-plastic containing items.

At home

1. Baking your own bread can cut down on your use of soft plastics. Bread bags and other soft wrappers such as crisp packets don’t often get collected by local authorities – but some supermarkets are now starting to offer this service. Find out if you can drop these items off at a store near you at recylenow.com/local-recycling.

2. Wet wipes contribute to 93% of sewer blockages in the UK and end up polluting our beaches and riverbeds – switch to using a cotton flannel which can be hygienically washed and reused. Even if a wipe says it is flushable, it is better for our marine environment if you place it in a bin instead.

3. Swap the endless plastic bottles in your bathroom for shampoo and conditioner soap bars that are eco-friendly and plastic-free – or look at refill options at your local zero-waste shop.

4. If you have a floor mop with single-use wipes, switch to one with reusable cotton pads.

5. When it is time to replace your toothbrush, try one made from bamboo (electric versions are available now in bamboo too).

6. Ditch single-use plastic razors for a reusable one. Some brands are offering a subscription (and recycling) service which can be delivered to your door.

7. Switch to plastic-free menstrual products or a reusable cup.

Plastic pollution
(Jacob King/PA)

Outside the home

8. Keep a set of reusable cutlery in your bag (another use for those takeaway cartons!) or at your work desk so you do not have to use disposable ones.

9. Chewing gum is made from plastic and Britain is the second-biggest consumer of the product in the world – switch to plastic-free chewing gum and always dispose in a waste bin rather than on the street.

10. Avoid using plastic condiment sachets – if you have room in your bag, consider bringing your own condiments in small, reusable, glass jars or plastic containers.

11. If you are eating in a work canteen, either opt for a plate or bring your own reusable food containers for canteen staff to place your meal in. This can help eliminate polystyrene takeaway boxes, which are not commonly recycled and are harmful to the environment.

Chewing Gum Protset – Westminster City Council Offices
Chewing gum being cleaned from the street (Johnny Green/PA)

At Christmas

12. Give experience gifts rather than physical gifts.

13. If you want to bring some sparkle to your festivities, use energy-efficient fairy lights or reusable tealights in pretty jam jars, rather than glitter, which can be a harmful microplastic that ends up polluting our oceans.

14. Avoid using plastic balloons and balloon sticks – instead make your own decorations such as bunting and paper chains from recyclable materials, or buy durable ones you will be able to reuse and store them away carefully for the next celebration.

And finally…

15. Start a conversation with a friend or family member about plastic pollution. Lend and borrow items among friends, neighbours, family and local community groups. Find out if your local area has a ‘repairs cafe’ so you can make do and mend broken items.

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