Updated: Apr 7
With the pandemic and Government restrictions continuing to affect how we live our lives for at least the next few months, we can turn our focus to what is within our sphere of control.
One thing firmly within our control is how much single plastic we use. Whilst it is unrealistic to expect to eliminate all plastic waste from your household, a few swaps can dramatically reduce your contribution to the mass of plastic clogging our rivers and oceans. Karl Deakin from Plastic Free Chesterfield shared some tips for reducing plastic waste in five aspects of everyday life.
A huge way of reducing single-use plastic consumption is to cook meals from scratch rather than buy ready meals, which invariably come served in plastic. Also consider getting your fruit and veg from a market stall or local shop, such as Ibbotsons on Chesterfield Market or Mansfield Road, Hasland, rather than a supermarket. Although the supermarket chains are reducing unnecessary packaging, far too much fruit and veg is still sold in plastic. Avoid one-pot yoghurts and desserts and either buy bigger items or make your own dessert and store it in containers. When it comes to leftovers, use wax wraps rather than cling film.
Astonishingly, most teabags contain plastic. Although the major producers are taking steps to move away from this, check online to see if your favourite brand is plastic-free (PG Tips is; Yorkshire Tea and Tetley aren’t (yet)). Or maybe even try loose tea - Northern Tea Merchants and Cup & Saucer are two great local businesses where you can purchase loose leaves.
On our Plastic Free Chesterfield litter picks, we find the biggest single-use plastic waste offenders are drinks bottles. Carry a reusable drinks bottle and use free refill stations when you’re out and about (refill.org.uk).
The obvious tip here is to take your own bags to the shops and reuse them. The other big swap is to REFILL. Move to buying refills of toiletries, household products, condiments, herbs and dry foods.
This will save you pounds as well as plastic. Check out Waste Not Want Not (subject to lockdown restrictions) or Steph’s Sustainable Stuff on the market. Steph also operates a local delivery service. Also in town, the Cheese Factor are happy to pop your cheese in your own reusable container, cutting down on cling film and single-use plastic packaging.
Washing & bathing
The truly dedicated can go completely plastic-free in the bathroom. But even one or two swaps will make a big difference to your plastic waste. Try shampoo or conditioner bars instead of buying plastic bottles (or refill them). Another local business - Elsie Moss Botanical - has a great range of handcrafted soaps for face, body and hair. Use bamboo or silk dental floss. You can also order your loo roll from one of many plastic free toilet roll companies online (e.g. whogivesacrap.org and oranethicallife.co.uk).
Use washing-up cloths made of materials like loofah instead of plastic-lined washing-up pads. Also, use alternative (e.g. wooden) scourer brushes instead of plastic-lined scourer pads. Another good swap is dishwasher powder, again, these are available from Steph’s Sustainable Stuff so you can support local to boot.
This is a mere taster of the kinds of things you can do to live a more plastic-free life. For many more tips and swaps, take a look at Plastic Free Chesterfield’s website.
Some of these tips take more time than the convenience of grabbing a ready-made solution off the shelf. But remind yourself why you are doing this. If we continue to consume single-use plastic at current rates, pictures such as the river shown will become all too common. A conscious effort and a few small changes can make a huge difference.
Words: Karl Deakin