Do you know how much plastic you use every day? Every week? Every month?
It's a question that the Marine Conservation Society has asked. They have tasked the public to re-think their relationship with plastic and go plastic-free for the whole of July 2020.
This is the sixth year the MCS has suggested we take steps to change our habits, and stop the plastic tide for the good of the ocean. Last year, during the Great British Beach Clean, an average of a staggering 143 plastic pieces were found for every 100m (328ft) of coastline! By taking on the Plastic Challenge, and encouraging action at home, we can all have a huge impact on reducing the most common form of litter found on (UK) beaches, no matter how near or far from the coast we may live.
Erin O’Neill, Plastic Challenge Coordinator stated “Going plastic-free for July is a huge undertaking because plastic is so prolific in our everyday lives. This year, we hope that asking individuals to make their own Plastic Challenge will encourage more people to rethink their relationship with single-use plastic. The lockdown has made plastic even more difficult to avoid, but by pledging to cut out just one item of plastic from your everyday life, you can have a tangible impact on the health of our seas.”
Getting involved and started couldn’t be easier. You can pledge to set yourself a Plastic Challenge on the Marine Conservation Society website. Just tell the MCS what your #plasticchallenge will be on social media and you'll receive helpful hints, tips, guidance and inspiration from experts with weekly emails to help keep your Challenge going throughout July.
We all know the obvious ones. Carry a 'keep cup' or 'travel mug'. Use a refillable bottle of water. Stash a small bag in your pocket to avoid using a plastic carrier bag. Buy hard soap bars instead of liquid soap. Switch out your plastic straw for a metal one. But what else can you to do help reduce your plastic habit?
Visit a 'Refill Shop'
These zero-waste shops are popping up in various locations. The idea is that you bring your own containers—reusable bottles, jars, bags and plastic containers—with you when you shop, and fill them up with what you need.
You can now find refill shops in various towns and cities across the world. We have listed a couple of examples of dedicated zero-waste shops in New York and the UK. You will also find several more of these shops listed in the resource box at the bottom of this article.
This initiative encourages sustainable shopping by allowing the environmentally engaged shopper to cut down on their plastic waste and reduce one-time-use packaging. Shoppers can purchase a plethora of goods, from oats to olive oil through to walnuts, wholemeal meal flour and wine. Some supermarkets are also now allowing customers to bring in and use their own packaging when purchasing items from the delicatessen aisle or 'loose' aisle.
A lot of our fruit and vegetables comes pre-packed—and one of the reasons is that it helps extends the life of the produce. The MCS is asking you where possible to pledge this July to avoid buying pre-bagged fruit and vegetables. We know that it can be challenging to do this, especially if you are in a hurry or shopping on a tight budget. (In certain stores, prepacked food can be cheaper than the same item that is unpackaged). However, if you are able to avoid disposable clamshell cases, styrofoam trays and individually wrapped cucumbers, you have just consumed less one-time-use plastic.
Repurpose Single-Use Plastic
I was bought up recycling from a very young age, hence I have a happy habit of reusing one-time-use plastic containers in the house, the garden, my car, the garage and to store my dive equipment. You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to repurposing. I find plastic sausage trays are very handy. They make terrific boxes to keep my drawers and shelves neat and tidy. I store staples, erasers, pencil sharpers, pens and pencils, and stash soap bars and lip salves in these plastic trays.
Donate Single-Use Plastic
There are a number of companies that support the repurposing of items, ie the Scrap Store in Birmingham, England. Carefully wash and clean quality one-time-use plastic containers and donate them to organisations like these. They collect and sort waste and surplus materials that would often be diverted to landfill, and redistribute them to school providers, schools, community groups and individuals.
Reuse Single-Use Plastic
There are times when you are part way through your housework and you run out of your cleaning product. Why not use this as an opportunity to make a DIY home cleaning solution instead? These natural products are effective at dealing with the dirt and grime, and they are kind on your pocket too. Plus you get to reuse your spray bottle(s). Just get Googling. This is also a sensible way to cut down on excessive chemical use in your home.