I live in a coastal town and the beach is central to my lifestyle. To my great despair I often find heaps of rubbish flushed up on the beach. It is not just dead birds and crabs, but so much more human waste. In particular, there is plastic. According to NCEAS (National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis - USA) around 8 million metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our seas every year, and the number is rising. The UK Marine conservation society states that 8,5% of litter on beaches are related to items made of plastic fibres.
There is plastic everywhere, and it’s difficult for other materials to compete since it is extremely useful and versatile. However plastics are made using crude oil, coal and gas which are non-renewable resources. There are often harmful toxins and chemicals added to plastic to enhance its performance (you have probably heard of the hormone disrupting chemical BPA for example), and the litter which harms and pollute will remain for millions of years.
The added fee on single-use plastic bags in UK grocery shops and the proposal to put a ban on plastic straws, cotton buds and single use cutlery is a step forward to reduce our collective plastic waste. However, putting all the effort in the hands of our politicians is not enough for the immediate change that the world needs. I believe that we can make a difference by making active choices in our day to day lives. My choice is thus to reduce my personal plastic waste to a minimum. What follows is a list of examples of items I use daily which I have switched out for re-usable or biodegradable materials. My list is ever expanding and I am hoping that you can draw inspiration from this and make some easy changes in your life.
A reusable razor and bar soap is a great replacement for the heavily packaged mainstream products out there. Pictured here is my organic body soap, facial cleanser and also shaving cream in a bar form.
Reusable razor made of stainless steel and bamboo.
Textile bags for grocery shopping
Organic and natural soap bars, shampoo bars and a facial cleansing bar that comes packaged in small carton boxes instead of plastic wrappers.
Note: Choosing the right cleansers is particularly important in order to outsource micro plastics. The micro-beads, that are often prevalent in facial cleansers, flushes out into our sea where they are ingested by aquatic animals. These polypropylene pieces travel up the food chain and sooner or later we will, if we aren't already, consume plastic through fish and seafood. Find out more in the links below.
A menstrual cup have replaced tampon.
Instead of buying tiny jars of facial cream I buy almond oil in bulk which is a terrific and natural moisturiser.
Biodegradable toothbrushes made from bamboo.
Organic toothpaste that comes in a glass jar instead of a plastic tube.
I buy loose fruit and veg when available in the grocery stores.
I use Re-usable water bottles and my own take away cups when out and about.
I buy a lot second hand which reduces over all packaging associated with new products
Mobile phone case made of the biodegradable material ‘flaxtic’.
I never use plastic straws or cotton buds with plastic handles.
I try to make conscious decisions when grocery shopping - i.e outsourcing extensive packaging.
Biodegradable toothbrushes is a must and after my switch I would never go back. There is a big range of brands available in online stores such as 'amazon.com' for example. The natural toothpaste takes a while to get used to, but I value the switch from a plastic tube too much to give up on this.
Here are some links where you can find out more about our plastic consumption:
Marine conservation society
Article by P. Wardrop et al. 2016, from ‘ Environmental Science and Technology’
Please also have a look at the UN SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production.
Linnea Sjögren is originally from Sweden, and is now an ambitious Sustainable Development student at University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. Sustainability is her passion and she wants to show that there are many simple steps available for us all to reduce our carbon footprints without complicating or reduce our quality of life.