How Can I Reduce Plastic Waste and Help Save The Environment?… Is a question we keep asking ourselves.
On the back of my last post about the Mekong Delta and my horror at the amount of plastic waste floating in and around this beautiful river, we have been trying hard to reduce our plastic use in South East Asia and thinking of ways we can live a plastic-free life back home in the U.K.
It has really bothered us: we’ve spent nights over dinner talking about what we can do back home and small lifestyle changes we can make for a more sustainable environmentally friendly life.
I’m sure there will be some eye-rolling when we are home and start implementing our ideas; people joking that travel has ‘changed us’ and that we’ve come back ‘hippies’ or similar, by cynical people!
BUT sometimes, you really do have to see the devastation humans have on the world, first hand, to boot your ass into gear and decide that WE are actually going to change some aspects of our lifestyle.
When you see it, it just cannot leave you.
When you travel, you experience outstanding beauty, immense fun and joy, but also an indescribable feeling sometimes of sadness, empathy, fear maybe… of or by things you have seen and experienced. In our case so many species on the brink of extinction, poverty, huge amounts of deforestation and VAST amounts of rubbish and unrecyclable waste, which our beautiful world is slowly drowning in.
We aim to implement a few key lifestyle changes when we return, which we can tell anyone who is interested about privately, but this post is about PLASTIC
Firstly, let me tell you; it is SO hard to reduce plastic use in South East Asia. It is EVERYWHERE:
Take out coffee in a plastic cup, in a plastic bag- sometimes two, with a plastic straw.
A banana or orange wrapped in plastic; wouldn’t it be great if a banana or orange had like an organic wrapper !?! oh, wait..
Plastic bottles – multiple ones daily, because you need to drink water and you can’t get it from a tap and very few places over here are offering refills (paid or unpaid – I wouldn’t care, but the option isn’t there in many places).
It is so hard, as well, particularly with a language barrier to say no to a straw. But I’ve been trying.
Back home, the U.K is well above the USA and China with regards to the amount we recycle rather than landfill, and with our plastic bag use reduced by over 80% since the 5p charge this is set to increase further.
I have friends who work for various environmental and waste management services in the U.K and they inform me that almost 80% of plastic that is sent for recycling in the U.K. is not actually recyclable. So, you may think you’re doing good by putting it in a different bin etc, but due to dyes, inks, metals, other artificial products and paper used in conjunction with the plastic, much of it cannot be recycled. Lots is sent to China with good will, to be recycled there, but again, much is getting landfilled.
I live in Hertfordshire in the U.K and my county councils’ website has a great page with multiple links about reducing the use of plastic – it would be great if you looked – not matter where you are from, as these principles can be used worldwide.
Top tips to help reduce plastic waste:
Never use plastic straws (I’ll be using metal or bamboo reusable straws when back home if I feel the need for a straw).
Buy a reusable coffee cup or take a thermos into the coffee shop you frequent. All the big chains and most local companies are supporting this motion. If everyone did this we could be saving 500 billion plastic cups a year from landfills, worldwide.
Use a refillable water bottle and buy canned soft drinks instead of ones in plastic bottles.
Try out a cloth shopping bag (I’m a bad one for this as I am constantly in a rush and never ever remember them – even if they are in my boot, I still only remember them at the checkout). But I endeavour to try harder.
One for the ladies: go back to the old (and better for your skin!) method of washing your face! Use a washcloth! For travelling we have washcloths and its so lovely to give your face a good scrub every day. I did bring a pack of baby wipes for when we are trekking in rainforests and homestays with no showers etc, but as of yet have not needed them, as most places have had rivers we could wash in.
Hertfordshire county council are giving cash incentives to any family using cloth nappies in preference to disposable nappies, which I think is a great idea! Although, I’ll let the Mums’ and Dads’ decide if sterilising cloth nappies the old school way is for them, as I am not one to judge on that so far.
There’s so many other great tips- here’s some links to websites I’ve been reading and referring to:
Bullet point list and general information on how to reduce plastic waste and clickable links to other great informative sites from Hertfordshire County Council
My councils’ cash incentive for the use of real nappies or a free starter kit for those interested
A great blog from a conservation- loving writer about how she tries to reduce plastic waste
An informative article as usual from National Geographic about plastic waste
And finally, a possible solution for environmentally friendly plastic disposal that Wax worms have an enzyme which can breakdown plastic – they have been found to eat plastic and the enzyme has been proven to dissolve plastic; fascinating, although over-all reduced production is better than increased disposal
I am really proud of my county council for having such great plastic information, I just wish it was ‘out there’ more for the general public to access and read.
I am going to try Plastic Free July 2018 this year and I hope after reading this, some of you may do too! If anyone wants to join me, lets do it! I will be publishing more blogs about it nearer the time and using the hashtag #plasticfreejuly and #choosetoreuse
Does any one have any plastic- sparing tips not mentioned that they use at home? Would be great to hear from you.