By 2050, it is estimated that there will be over 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste in our natural environment. We are addicted to the convenience of single-use plastic. We cannot escape the consequences of throwing away vast quantities of a material that takes hundreds of years to break down. Walk along any beach on the planet, no matter how remote, and you will be reminded of our throw-away culture as each tide delivers a fresh batch of plastic to litter our beautiful shorelines. We need to choose more sustainable alternatives to this ‘disposable’ plastic culture. Plastic pollution is jeopardising human health and harming marine animals at alarming rates.
It’s widely accepted that banning single-use plastic will not only fight the plastic pollution crisis but reduce our demand for plastic production that's contributing to global climate change. Growing customer awareness has forced companies to innovate, rethink their designs and source sustainable materials instead. Simply recycling our way out of this crisis is not enough! We have to start looking inwards. Here are three easy ways YOU can stop buying single-use plastic when out and about…
ONE: Pack a tote bag
Plastic bags are our number one enemy. According to Earth Day, one trillion of single-use plastic bags are used annually around the globe. That’s nearly 2 million every minute! Not only are they seriously dangerous to ocean life through animal entrapment and consumption, they embed themselves into river beds and banks. What is readily available at your local supermarket next to the self-check-out, is the ultimate killer that can last hundreds of years floating around in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP). Even though most supermarkets now offer recycling depots to deposit your plastic film bags, where do they actually go? A whopping 91% of waste isn’t recyclable! That’s why investing in and carrying a tote bag is the best option. They can come in all different shapes & sizes and can easily be folded up and packed in a bag. So, if you ever get cravings passing a doughnut shop, your tote bag is at the ready!
TWO: Use a reusable coffee cup
Did you know that we use and dispose of 7 billion coffee cups every single day? And that’s just in the UK alone. Some argue that our ability to cut down on single-use plastic is to a large extent dependent on the availability of alternatives on the market, such as paper-only cups. But the vast majority of paper cups have a sealed-on plastic coating inside to reinforce and waterproof the structure. This makes it incredibly hard for the cup to be recycled properly. because the two materials are bonded. What you think you’re chucking into the recycling bin is actually ending up in landfill.
One coffee house in London has even gone so far to only serve customers who bring a reusable coffee cup. If you don’t have one, you can’t buy. This is a strong stance and I’m all for it. We need to curb our single-use consumption habits and if this can only be done quickly through business positioning, then it’s a ‘win-win-WIN’. Less expenses for the coffee house, people are forced to adopt eco-conscious habits and far less plastic waste.
A brand we love is STOJO (because the cup can collapse and be packed into smaller bags!) but all insulated keepcups are cool!
THREE: Drink from an insulated bottle
It might sound really basic but investing in an insulated water bottle can save hundreds and millions of plastic bottles ending up in landfills, recycling centres and our oceans. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go. The worldwide consumption of plastic is still rising. In 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were sold while in 2004, this was 300 billion. Now, one million plastic bottles are sold EVERY minute and the number of bottles sold yearly will increase to 583.3 billion in 2021. A recent study found that fish located in the River Thames have ingested plastic fibres, affecting as much as 75% in just one species. For us Londoners, we do really need to adopt safer and cleaner ways of consuming drinks when on the go. The city of Paris, for example, introduced drinking fountains to provide free water. Never will commuters, tourists or even the homeless go thirsty again! All you have to do is bring your reusable bottle.
Video Credit: National Geographic.
Through reducing our single-use plastic consumption, we can drastically remove unnecessary amounts of plastic from entering our oceans and fight this crisis. But it needs everyone’s awareness and commitment to change. Even these three small, incremental changes can have a huge impact when multiplied by 8 billion people. It’s time we realise the future of our ocean has ALWAYS been in our hands!
 Greenpeace https://www.greenpeace.org/southeastasia/act/stop-single-use-plastic/ [Online resource].
https://www.nrdc.org/stories/single-use-plastics-101 [Online resource].
 Earth Day https://www.earthday.org/fact-sheet-how-much-disposable-plastic-we-use/ [Online resource].
 London Government Website, https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/assembly/assembly-wants-a-ban-on-non-recyclable-coffee-cups [Online Resource].
 Friends of the Earth https://friendsoftheearth.uk/sustainable-living/throwaway-coffee-cups-what-should-we-do [Online Resource].
 Plastic Soup Foundation, (2017), https://www.plasticsoupfoundation.org/en/2017/07/the-worlds-population-consumes-1-million-plastic-bottles-every-minute/ [Online resource].
 McGoran, A.R., Clark P.F., and Morritt, (2016) Presence of microplastic in the digestive tracts of European flounder, Platichthys flesus and European smelt, Osmerus eperlanus from the River Thames, Environmental Pollution.