6 ways you can reduce your plastic waste

1. Try zero-waste shopping

Rather than picking a pre-filled plastic bag from a shelf, try bringing your own bags and opting for loose fruit, vegetables and bread. Some ‘zero-waste’ supermarkets also allow you to buy loose dried foods like oats, nuts, tea, spices and crisps. Even if you don’t live near one, you can still save on plastic by saying no to products with excessive wrappers. Opt instead for store cupboard staples with metal, glass or cardboard packaging.

2. Swap liquids for bars and powders

Laundry detergent, hand soap, shampoo and other cleaning products contain a lot of water, and because they’re wet we need to store them in plastic. Adding the water yourself at home can save a mountain of packaging. Where possible, switch to dry versions packed in paper or card, like solid soap and laundry powder. When you do need to buy liquids look for concentrated versions and dilute them down at home.

3. Say no to single-use cutlery

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We only use plastic cutlery for a few minutes before we throw it away, so minimise your plastic footprint by refusing disposable knives, forks and straws. Pop a normal fork in your bag for lunch on the go and invest in a washable metal straw if you can’t go without. If you find yourself caught out, look for outlets offering biodegradable or edible cutlery.

4. Invest in reusable bags and boxes

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Ditch cling-film, freezer bags and foam takeaway packets and invest in a set of reusable bags and boxes for your lunch and leftovers. Hard, recyclable plastic boxes last much longer than their disposable counterparts and can be stored in the fridge or freezer and put in a microwave. Or, if you’d prefer to be completely plastic free, you could opt for glass, metal or dishwasher-safe silicone.


5. Switch to reusable nappies

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Reusable nappies have come a long way since bulky terry towelling. No longer pinned together, they now offer poppers and velcro and there are no fancy folds to learn; they go on just like disposables. They have three parts: a waterproof wrap on the outside, an absorbent nappy in the middle, and a biodegradable or washable liner next to the skin. Pre-rinse cold in the washing machine and then run a long, warm wash to get them clean. Not only do they prevent nappies going to landfill, but they work out cheaper, even with all the washing.

6. Carry a reusable cup and water bottle with you

According to the World Wildlife Fund, people in the UK throw away more than 7 million coffee cups every day. Invest in a reusable cup and bottle and ditch the disposables. Many coffee outlets offer a discount if you bring your own cup, and you can find free places to refill your water bottle using the app Refill.

This article was originally published in How It Works issue 120, written by Laura Mears

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