How you can cut back on plastic, the effects on our environment and what the Supermarkets think.
Updated: Nov 25, 2018
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Plastic is everywhere, there is no avoiding it. Everyone uses plastic in some kind of way. It's in everything that we use from shampoo to clothing and, unfortunately, in our food.
Plastic pollution occurs when it gathers and has a negative impact on natural natural environment, causing problems for plants, animals and even humans.
For me, the main issue surrounding plastic is the effect it is having on our environment. It is having a major negative impact on our oceans and the lives within them.
Our land is polluted with carrier bags and our air is polluted with the toxins that come from burning the plastics, which releases toxic fumes.
When the world's population grows so much, like it has in the last 20 years, so does the amount of waste that is produced and with the on the go lifestyle on the rise, it's only going to get worse.
100 million tons (say that out loud, it's a lot isn't it?) of plastic is produced in the world, 25 million is non - degradable. 70,000 tons, yes 70,000 tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year, from fishing nets to flip-flops.
The oceans are suffering immensely from our actions!
Around 100,000 animals die from plastic bags every year, from dolphins, penguins, turtles, whales and fish mistaking them for food. Even after death the plastic bag stays intact ready for its next victim to ingest it with stray animals eating the remains. Even plankton, the world's smallest organism is affected by ingesting small beads of plastic which then affects larger animals and then it affects us from the fish that we eat.
One of the biggest issues is with plastic bags and packaging.
Everyone uses plastic bags, from greengrocers to designer stores, 100 billion plastic bags are produced in the U.S in one year alone Add in other large economies and populations and the issue becomes even bigger. Most of it goes to landfill after one use.
You can find another great article about ocean plastic on the Greenpeace website.
Things need to change. We as a species need to come together and change the way we are living for the good of the planet and the future of our great great grandchildren.
You can cut back on the plastic you are using with some simple steps, here are a few ideas to help you make that much needed start.
1) Bottled water. Just don't buy it. You can get so many lovely reusable bottles that you don't need to buy plastic bottles. You can even use an app to find out where you can fill your bottle up for free and most restaurants offer tap water for free.
2) Straws - come on now, do you really need a straw? Yes some people do need to use them for medical reasons, but for everyone else, just don't use them. If you feel you need to use a straw you can get paper or metal (they come with a tiny brush to clean them). Straws are in the top 10 most found items in a beach clean. They get stuck up the nose of turtles and cause endless problems for other marine life. Try asking your local restaurant or bar if they will switch to paper.
3) Plastic Bags - I have already discussed the main issues with using plastic bags. You can use tote bags which are reusable for many years. No need for plastic ones!
4) Food packaging - I try to do my food shopping as carefully as I can. I always look for as much produce (that I need) with as much recyclable material as possible. I don't get those little plastic bags you put your fruit and veg in and I don't buy pre packed veg (this is silly and lazy and more expensive!)
5) Switch to shampoo bars. Now I know its not for everyone but I swear it works! I have always been picky with shampoo and always used a well known bottled brand. Then I tried a bar shampoo and it is wonderful! No plastic, and lasts for quite a while.
6) Buying loose fruit and veg means less packaging I would love for supermarkets to switch to biodegradable paper bags.
7) Don't use cling film on everything!
8) Switch to reusable containers.
9) Make your own kitchen sprays and window cleaners
( you can use the glass vinegar bottles as spray bottles ) (obviously when you have used all the vinegar!)
10) Clothing. Not many people know that clothing contains small microfibres of plastic which when you pop your clothes into the washing machine get washed into the ocean. You can buy a product that you use in your machine that catches those microfibres.
My pet hate right now is food packaging and pre packed, cut and washed veg.
You don't need it, it's more expensive and it's just silly! Supermarkets say they are looking into how they use plastic in packaging and they are trying to change how they impact the environment, but if i'm completely honest I have only seen a small change in some of these stores.
I recently wrote to all the big UK supermarket chains and expressed my concern regarding the use of plastic. I asked them what they have in place or are planning to change in order to combat the over use of plastic in our world.
Here are the responses:
" At Lidl UK we fully support the need to tackle the important issue of plastic waste and the detrimental impact that this is having on the environment. Lidl has long been committed to the reduction of unnecessary plastic waste, and was one of the first retailers in the UK to encourage customers to re-use their shopping bags. We have charged for our plastic carrier bags for the last 23 years for this reason. This commitment was further reinforced in 2017 through the removal of all single-use bags from our stores.
In the same year we made some strong positive steps ahead of legislation by eradicating mircrobeads from all cosmetic and household products, and committed to the removal of plastic-stemmed cotton buds, which we are in the process of replacing with biodegradable stems.
We are proud to have one of the highest proportions of loose fruit and vegetables of all British supermarkets, and continue to test and trial the removal of packaging throughout the range. We remain mindful that packaging can be beneficial in optimising shelf life and helping to reduce food waste, both in store and at home, so we are also working closely with our suppliers to increase the proportion of recyclable material used.
In tackling plastic waste we believe that, rather than focusing efforts on one system and one waste stream, the most effective way to achieve this is through a fully developed and comprehensive approach to combatting littering, minimising waste and strengthening resource efficiency.
We will work closely with the industry and government in developing a progressive and fully developed approach to resource efficiency and the circular economy, in order to deliver an effective long-term solution to the issue of plastic waste.
Thank you again for contacting us."
" I'm sorry you're unhappy with the plastic we use. (I didn't mention anything in my email about being unhappy with morrisons!) Morrisons is passionate about food and we want our customers to enjoy it in the best possible condition. Packaging is important to ensure this. However we will only use what is necessary - excessive packaging is not only a waste of resources, but a waste of money. We have worked on a number of measures to reduce to reduce our usage of plastic. For example, we have phased out plastic drinking straws that are sold separate to drinks and replacing with paper straws this year. We have started to phase out plastic stem cotton buds and we are introducing paper stem cotton buds.* There's more to come and we'll tell you when we can."
" Thank you for emailing us about this, and I hope that I can help. I am glad to hear that you are showing such concern for our planet, which we try to do as well. We have many things that we are doing in order to reduce plastic in our stores. We aim to make all packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025 and the same goes for all our paper and board use.
For more information, please have a look at the following site;
" Thanks for getting in touch Reducing our impact on the environment is really important to us and we know it is to our customers too. We'll no longer offer takeaway disposable cups from autumn 2018 and this will save 52 million cups a year. We've committed to making all our own-label packaging widely recyclable (using the widely recycled logo), reusable, or home compostable by 2025. Since April 2018 our cafes moved to only offering paper straws and since September 2018 we no longer sell single-use plastic straws. Black plastic is a top priority for us because it's not easy to recycle and infra-red sensors in recycling plants struggle to pick it up. We've committed to stop using black plastic packaging for all our own label goods by the end of 2019. So far we’ve removed 65% of our black plastic packaging in fresh fruit and vegetables. By the end of 2018, we'll have completely removed it from our fruit and vegetable ranges, and meat, poultry and fish ranges. More Information about what we are doing can be found within our Sustainability section of Waitrose.com "
" Thank you for contacting Aldi Customer Services regarding recyclable packaging.
Aldi is committed to driving improvements in packaging and follows the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle in our approach.
We are a signatory to Courtauld Commitment 2025, a voluntary agreement aimed at reducing the environmental impact of packaging and food waste. We are also a member of the British Retail Consortium Environment group. Through these forums we look for ways we can increase the recyclability of packaging in the UK. These include working with the industry to increase local authority plastic recycling collection and investigating the use of alternative materials.
We also work closely with our packaging partners to identify opportunities for improving our packaging in a way that minimises our impact on the environment, including through increasing recycled content and recyclability of materials.
We also require all our own label products to carry the relevant recycling logo on pack, to give customers the information they need to guide their recycling in the home. This ensures that as little waste as possible ends up in landfill after products have been used by customers.
In addition, 100% of cardboard, paper, plastic film and foil from our own stores and warehouses is recycled.
Once again, thank you for contacting Aldi Customer Service and we hope this reassures you that Aldi takes the reduction of packaging waste seriously."
" Thanks for your email about the article you are writing and looking for comments on plastics use by our stores.
We share your concerns about the effects of plastic on the environment and, for a number of years, have been focused on reducing our packaging. One of our aims, as part of our Sustainability Plan, is to reduce it by half compared to 2005.
Each time we review a product, we also review the packaging. The challenge we face is to reduce packaging without sacrificing its importance and effectiveness on the freshness and safety of our products. Most importantly, it must protect the product for our customers and then, where possible, use recyclable material.
At the same time, we want to help our customers to recycle. To do this we use the on-pack recycling label scheme supported by WRAP. This aims to deliver a simple, UK-wide recycling message on both own brand and branded products. Further information on packaging symbols and recycling in your area can be found at www.recyclenow.com.
You can find out more about this by visiting www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/responsibility, including our sustainability plan, our comments and stories on food donation, healthier baskets and waste less, save more.
I'm grateful to you for writing to us about this important issue and I hope I've been able to reassure you of our commitment to the environment. "
Asda Failed to reply.
Thank you to every one that replied to my email, I appreciate you all taking the time to respond.
Fingers crossed we can make a difference and help our wildlife and oceanic life bloom again.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle