In 2018 the world woke up to the dangers of plastic waste when Sir David Attenborough’s series Blue Planet 2 showed the shocking scenes of birds and sea mammals dying because of plastic pollution. We have come to realise the harm done by both plastic items and by microplastics. These are the tiny pieces of plastic that find their way even into our drinking water and the air that we breathe. Once plastic gets into the ocean it is difficult if not impossible to recover.
Sometimes the battle against pollution can be hard going, and it’s always good to find that we have allies, especially local ones. Plastic Free Prestwich are campaigning hard to reduce plastic waste and have asked our churches for their support. You can find them on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/plasticfreeprestwich/
Plastic has many uses, and a world without any plastic at all is difficult to imagine. What is meant by going plastic free is finding replacements for single use plastics. The plastic washing up bowl you have had for years is far less a problem than the plastic packaging that comes with every supermarket shop.
Here are some ways you could reduce plastic use. Everyone’s situation is different – some won’t apply, and some may present particular issues. Could you pick 3 things you don’t already do? Perhaps you could make it a challenge for Lent. If you are not sure where to go for refills or to buy plastic free products Village Greens in the Longfield Centre is a good place to start. The staff are enthusiastic about environmental issues and will happily give you advice.
- Give up disposable cups & drinks in plastic bottles. Carry a travel mug or water bottle. Get a reusable bottle, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.
- Bring your own reusable bags Plastic bags and produce bags in particular are often used for minutes before being discarded. Most plastic bags are not recycled, ending up in landfills.
- Buy in bulk to minimize or eliminate packaging This goes for food and drink as well as cleaning supplies, toiletries, hardware items – anything that may come in plastic packaging.
- Avoid overpackaged, processed, canned and frozen convenience foods Stay clear of the three tomatoes sitting on a Styrofoam tray and covered in plastic cellophane.
- Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags This eliminates plastic wrapping waste from shop bought bread and you help support local businesses.
- Choose milk in returnable glass bottles Many areas have local dairies that provides milk in returnable glass bottles rather than plastic- or plastic-coated cardboard.
- Use non-plastic containers for food– lunches, leftovers, freezing, storage, take-out, travelling… Request takeaways use your container instead of their disposable one. Take a container when you buy meat, fish or cheese.
- Shop at markets. Fresh food markets are not only often cheaper and fresher than supermarkets, but they sell fruit and vegetables loose. Don’t forget to take your reusable bags.
- Look around your bathroom and see what plastics you can replace Do you have plastic bottles sitting in the shower? Find a brand you like and try and get it in bulk. If it’s not available in bulk – ask the manufacturer to offer it.
- Use a razor with removable blades Disposable razors and razor blades are two of the biggest contributors to plastic waste.
- Check labels of toiletries Did you know some facial scrubs & toiletries products contain tiny plastic beads? Avoid anything with “polyethylene” listed as an ingredient.
- Use a bamboo toothbrush or a toothbrush with recyclable heads and try to find dental floss that doesn’t come in plastic packaging.
- Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap This is an easy change to make if you are feeling keen you can even make your own soap bars.
- Choose lotions and lip balms in plastic-free containers Some shops will now refill glass toiletry containers or give you a discount if you return old packaging.
- Consider organising a community litter pick.
- Look around your kitchen and see what plastics you can replace Use a dish brush with a wooden handle and compostable bristles.
- Buy glass and/or stainless-steel containers for food storage Glass works well for freezer storage as well, just ensure you leave room at the top of the jar.
- Avoid foil wrapped crisps and chocolates Some sweet wrappers are now recyclable but don’t forget to check.
- Share your leftovers or unwanted food.
- If you are organising a function using disposable cups, can you encourage people to bring their own mug?
- Choose natural fibres Synthetic fabrics create microfibre pollution when washed. When buying new clothes look for organic cotton, wool, and other natural fibres.
- Buy clothing second-hand Buying clothes second hand not only saves you money but ensures that the second-hand clothes you purchase have an extra-long lease of life. Do a clothes swap.
- Invest in quality. By doing this you are minimising the demand for cheap items that end up in landfill. In the long run it will save you money.
- Request zero plastic packaging. If you’re buying clothes online ask the retailer if they can reduce or remove plastic packaging.
- Put a “No Junk Mail” sticker on your letterbox This will reduce the number of letters with plastic windows. It will also reduce your paper waste.
- Make it from scratch. Try and cook as much as possible from scratch and take your own sandwiches and snacks when you go out.
- Avoid wet wipes These contain plastic fibres so don’t break down like toilet roll, despite often being described as flushable.
- Acquire necessary plastic items used instead of new. Check second-hand shops, Freecycle or Freegle. Look for sharing groups locally.
- Buy second-hand plastic-free furniture There’s lots of advice about repairing, upcycling and finding good wooden or metal furniture online.
- Don’t buy new CDs and DVDs Stream or download music, shows, and films online, buy second hand or borrow them from the library or friends.
- Avoid plastic pens and giveaways. Try using a refillable fountain pen or pencils.
- When you go on holiday bring your own toiletries. Skip the free travel size shampoos, soaps, and lotions offered by hotels. Instead, fill up your own reusable travel- size containers at home.
- Avoid the Mini bar snacks and drinks Not only incredibly expensive but they all come in plastic packages or bottles. Even if you can’t avoid plastic entirely, you can resist single serving sizes.
- Make your voice heard: Share what you are doing with friends, family and community. Ask your MP what they are doing to tackle single use plastics. Sign the Friends of the Earth petition for a new law to end plastic pollution. Join the UN’s Clean Seas campaign and Greenpeace’s Plastic Pledge. Find out your own plastic footprint.
From the 2019 Church of England Lent Plastic Challenge (adapted)