We’ve all been there. Giving in to the convenience of plastics as they help to bail us out. Fell victim to a plastic fruit-shoot bottle because you left your child’s beaker at home? Yep! Buying a Boots meal deal because you woke up too late to make lunch? Yep! Carrying away a coffee cup loaded with your caffeine fix, because you forgot to wash out your lovely new reusable one? Yep! Don’t worry. I’ve been there too! And without fail, plastic is there waiting to have your back. BUT, over the years of running like a headless chicken mother, I’ve learnt some tricks which may help you give the curb to plastics.
1. Use sandwich bags
In an attempt to eat healthier and stop wasting money on meal deals, I made a vow to work harder in making my own lunches. Because let’s face it, those meal deal counters are like graveyards of plastic! Lots of fruit and salads packed in plastic containers, and unless you wanted an intense energy drink, everything else was bottled in plastics. It drives me mad. When making your sandwiches, wraps or cobs, you don’t need to wrap them in clingfilm or tinfoil. A wave of zero-waste pack-lunch items is now on the market - ranging from wraps to metal tins and bags. I love these sandwich bags from Marley Monsters. They’re colourful, characterful and always keep my lunch fresh. Once I’m done, I turn them inside out and pop in the washing machine. I can use these again and again and no longer have meltdowns when I realise the last of the tin foil was used up and never replaced.
2. Carry a zero-waste cutlery set
Single-use plastics try to creep themselves into my life via my family constantly. My children are hounds for drinks. Bored of their lukewarm pre-packed squash, they know they can get a better deal of a drink on the way past Mcdonalds. But those come with plastic straws (although, yay to some stores now using paper ones). They are gannets for snacks too. Nothing ever fills them up, so I’m often caught short in cafes which only offer plastic take-away cutlery. Knowing that plastics were winning the war, I put my foot down and decided to invest in a Bamboo set.
Now, I ALWAYS carry one of these little jute bags with me armed with a stainless steel straw, and bamboo knife, fork and spoon set so that I have the power to grin and say “no, thank you” to plastics. The bamboo’s smoothness is far better to eat with than plastics, and rather than it ending in landfill it just goes in my dishwasher. You can pick these up in so many different fabrics, which all roll up into a little bag that takes up barely any space in your handbag or child’s rucksack.
3. Be mindful in supermarkets
Does anyone feel a little suffocated by supermarket plastics? It’s everywhere. You reach for salad, it’s covered in plastic, you reach your bread, covered in plastic, nappies, plastic, toilet rolls, plastic, it just feels never-ending. Ten major retailers alone are using over 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic every year! That’s a crazy amount - especially as we don’t actually need a lot of it.
Swapping to plastic-free items during your supermarket shops is actually easier than you might think though. We’re all familiar with buying loose fruit and veg, but there are lots more easy-peasy swaps you can make including:
- Wherever possible swap plastics for glass jars. Typical culprits of this include tomato ketchup, mayo, salad sauces and pasta sauces. These will have a glass alternative if you look well enough.
- When in need of a quick refreshment don’t buy bottled drinks. Swap these for cans or drinks in glass jars – much more refreshing and better for the planet.
- If you’re after a certain type of fruit that isn’t available loose, don’t forget to look at the tinned fruit in the desert and baking aisle.
- Avoid going down the snack pile. For example, olives and sun-dried tomatoes are often sold in plastic containers. Head over to the condiments aisle instead and get them in glass jars.
- Some companies now offer pasta in cardboard boxes. Have a little browse.
- Swap your plastic bottles of squash for glass bottles of cordial. Same goes for bottled tonic water.
- Say no to bottled shower gel, buy a loose bar of soap instead.
- Buy washing detergent that is in a cardboard box as opposed to liquid in a plastic bottle.
- For anyone that eats fish, or has pets, there are plenty of tinned options available as opposed to pouches.
- Fruit juices and milk can also be found in cartons, often out of the fridge aisle.
I hope these three simple tips can help you give plastics the boot more. Think about what difference, collectively these three actions can make. You can totally do it. It feels great feeling more in control of what you use and why.
This piece was written for Goupie by Emma Oldham.