10 Practical Every Day Ideas to Reduce Plastic
- Reusable water bottles
- Reusable Coffee cups
- Re-fillable Cleaning Products
- Clean Your Coastline
- Sustainable Straws
- Sustainable Food Wraps
- Re-usable Shopping Bags
- Supermarket packaging
- Bamboo toothbrush
- Plastic packaging Straps - Dispose of them Properly - save Basking Sharks!!
- Oh and an additional bonus one!
Following on from the BluePlanet 2 series, there has been a good buzz around people trying to do their best to reduce their impact on our oceans. Especially with reducing the amount of single use plastics that are thrown away and that can end up in the marine environment.
At Basking Shark Scotland, as marine biologists and divers who spend a lot of time on the water, this has been on our agenda for a long time. However we realise not everyone thinks along the same lines as us and perhaps we can offer some help! We hear often that people empathise with the situation but struggle to find ways that they can make a difference on a daily basis. We’ve come up with a blog on some of the ideas we have about reducing our own impact in the hope that it can help you too.
1.Reusable Water Bottles
Seriously, does anyone drink bottled water these days? Really!? We understand there are some places that tap water is not safe to drink. However in the UK there is no excuse for buying bottled water on a routine basis. Re-usable water bottles can be washed and taken everywhere. Don’t be afraid to ask bars or cafes to fill up your water (it’s free). Always remember to fill it up before you head off so you are prepared and not caught short so you have to buy bottled water.
2. Reusable Coffee Cup
Every year it’s reported that over 100 billion single-use coffee cups are thrown away. The way to stop this is to use a re-usable coffee cup!
Many coffee houses are now offering discounts for using a re-usable cup so it’s also saving you money! For example Costa in Oban offer 25p off for using a re-usable cup. We've also heard that manufacturers are looking at reducing the plastic contained within teabags too. Check out this report here.
We’ve started our own campaign to highlight marine plastics and the effect they could be having on the basking sharks. Basking sharks are filter feeders and feed on microscopic zooplankton, the tidal fronts where they feed do have a lot of plastic flotsam, see here for an example. During sampling we have found a number of plastic particles so it's very likely that basking sharks are ingesting micro plastics.
We’ve commissioned our own sustainable bamboo coffee cup with the basking shark on it. They are sustainably made and recyclable, along with reducing your plastic use and saving you money!
#planktonnotplastic is going to be the tag line for our campaign and what’s more, all profits from the cup will be used to fund part of our basking shark research. See more about our research programme here. You can find out about our specific basking shark research you can be involved with here. Then to be part of the campaign you can buy your cup here!
3. Re-fillable Cleaning Products
Splosh is a great range of products we have found that you re-use the plastic bottles by buying refills. Hand soaps, washing up liquids, toilet cleaners, surface cleaners. The hardcore people might say these items are luxury items but many people in modern society use these type of hygiene products. This is a great way for the masses to reduce the continuous disposal of plastic bottles but switching to a refill regime! Check out their website here.
4. Clean Your Coastline
You don’t have to be part of a full on beach clean to do your part. Plastics breaking down in the marine environment are causing everything from fouling our marine life (see no10 below), to entering the food chain by breaking down into tiny parts. Check out the work by Winnie Courtene-Jones at our local marine institute (SAMS), she has been studying the presence of plastic in marine life & sediments. Anytime you’re at the coast you can do your part by picking up plastic litter while you’re enjoying a walk. Just remember to recycle or dispose of the material properly. Don’t forget a pair of gloves to keep the paws safe and a bag to carry things back and forward. If you’re not sure where to start there are lots of events organised too, check the local press or national campaigns such as #2minbeachclean, or initiatives from the Marine Conservation Society's Great British Beach Clean or Beachwatch projects. The great thing about these national campaigns is that individual items can be logged and then fed back to government to force change. e.g plastic cotton buds.
5. Sustainable Straws
There has been some really great work by the likes of Ullapool primary school and large chains now banning plastic straws. Once you were given plastic straws without any choice. Now there are straws which are compostable, and even re-usable metal ones!
6. Sustainable Food Wraps
Many people use cling film, foil and such like to wrap up their lunch which gets thrown away every day. Here's a great idea to avoid it! A number of companies are making beeswax based wraps which can used in a variety of ways. Wrap up your sandwich, leftover food, cheese, fruit, whatever. Ok you'll have to wash it, but this is all about putting in a effort and not just chucking stuff away! See some retailers here and here. Another idea is just to use a basic container to carry your lunch back and forward (like a packed lunch box!).
7. Re-usable Shopping Bags
In Scotland the 5p charge for plastic bag use resulted in a 80% reduction in them being handed out at supermarkets (this equates to around 650 million bags per year). England & Wales followed suit a little later but do have an expmption for business with less than 250 employees, and many other countries have banned them e.g Kenya - awesome!. Just remember to re-use your previous bags, or get yourself sustainable tote bag. You can even get a really cool basking shark one like us!
8. Supermarket Packaging
This is going to be the next big national campaign we think! Every supermarket has too much packaging on their products and as consumers we have the chance to force them to change. Choose fruit and veg which doesn’t have excessive packaging, and don’t use the pointless plastic bags for individual items - they just go straight in the bin. Some people are advocating of removing the packaging and leaving it in the supermarket, forcing them to deal with their own pointless packaging. There is a lot of momentum with this, so lets hope the big supermarket brands make a difference. If you're lucky enough to have a local greengrocer, try to shop local and support these small businesses as they will have much less packaging!
9. Alternative Toothbrush
Dental hygiene is very important, toothbrushes do last a long time (you're meant to change them every 3 months), but are made of plastic and just go to land fill. A scary statistic is that over 1 billion go landfill in the US every year -eek! There are a number of companies now making sustainable toothbrushes including a bamboo version. Of course check with your dentist about your own health requirements first! However with the amount of these products being used around the world, there is a huge scope to make a big difference.
10. Plastic packaging Straps - Dispose of them Properly!
We have a terrible but powerful example of this, going back to when we found a basking shark that had been fouled by a packaging strap. It was cutting into its nose, near the eye which looked really bad. We named the shark sore nose, but the following year he returned with a healed nose. This gave us useful information of the sharks use of our coastline as he was sighted within 10 days and 5 miles of the last sighting. However the take home message is to get a pair of scissors and cut these up before they go in the bin. Make sure they can never enter the marine environment as they can harm even the biggest of our gentle giants.
11. Synthetic Fibres - Clothes!
This is one which is not well understood by the public but could be a huge problem under our noses. The vast majority of clothes have some kind of synthetic material. Many are made with a mix of cotton and polyester with the latter being made of plastic. When you wash your clothes small fragments and fibres make their way out of the drain from your washing machine and eventually into the sea. During waste water treatment there will be some removal but note the following stats. One study at a waste water treatment works in Glasgow found that 98% were removed (ok great so far), but the remaining 2% meant that an estimated 65million pieces of micro plastic were released each day. SCARY! Two things have been suggested to us. One a bag that you put you washing in which catches the fibres, and two a ball type product that also catches the fibres. Think about all the clothes being washed and how much is released into the ocean. Every little counts here as solving the plastic is clothing is not a quick or easy fix.