If you’re reading this blog then like me, and millions of others, you’re aware of the problem of plastic pollution by now. But plastic is really hard to avoid (believe me I’ve been trying for a long time now), it’s everywhere in loads of different disguises and in so many everyday products. Ultimately, plastic can be a useful material (for example in hospitals), but it’s the huge amount of wasteful, single-use and excessive plastic that has become such a huge problem. Because of its durability plastic just doesn’t disappear, it’s a material that left to its own devices in nature will still exist in the same format as it does now in hundreds of years (albeit a bit grubbier and squashed). Yes, some plastic is recyclable but can usually only be recycled a few times and according to a BBC article ONLY 9% of plastic produced is ever recycled.

Put simply, we have big bits of plastic litter polluting our land, beaches and oceans and we have much smaller pieces, microscopic even, polluting them too. Over time it might be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces until only plastic particles are left. These are ingested by animals and fish and in turn humans but even more scary is that they’re in our water system. In 2016, 1/3 of UK caught fish contained microplastics. Now I don’t have a medical background but I’ve read enough to know that ingesting plastic toxins isn’t something I’d choose to do.

So however we choose to change our habits to reduce plastic, drastically or not, we’re making a difference. It might be manufacturers that have got us into this mess, but its largely up to us to start digging ourselves out. If you’re doing all or some of this already give yourself a big pat on the back, but if not it’s never too late to make a start, here are some easy swaps for some of the biggest plastic offenders:

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Plastic bottles are one of the biggest plastic litters. 1,000,000 are bought globally every minute. Less than half are recycled and only 7% are turned into new bottles. So if you’re out and about, one of the best changes you can make is to take your own drink with you rather than buying one in a plastic bottle.

A few years ago when I started to become more aware of plastic pollution, if I ended up with a plastic drinks bottle I’d deliberately keep it to refill and resuse to lessen the eco-guilt (Yes that’s a thing, I’ll talk about that another time). We all have regrets! Having read so much about the chemicals my drinks absorb from the plastic I’d never advise that now. Instead, invest if you can in a good reusable food grade stainless steel drinks bottle like these, there are so many benefits. You’ll notice how much better your drink tastes for starters. Plus the kid’s don’t whine that their drink is warm because it’ll stay exactly the temperature that you put it in for 12 hours – perfect for summer. Even my husband wouldn’t be without his now, he takes his for runs and to the gym and it apparently looks good enough to have on his desk at work too. I actually use mine for a cuppa on a cold, rushed morning school run – you can’t do that with a plastic disposable!

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Its pretty easy now to avoid one of the 7 million takeaway coffee cups that the UK get through every single day. It’s in our nature now to grab a coffee on the way to a meeting or on a journey. But did you know most coffee shops will actually give a discount if you bring your own refillable cup?

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“Its only one straw” said 8 billion people! Next time you’re in a bar or your kids are in a restaurant, just say no to plastic straws. The problem is they’re too small and don’t weigh enough for most recycling machines. Plastic straws are known as one of the biggest ocean polluters and hazards for wildlife. Even McDonalds have recently swapped plastic for paper straws – a huge step. (Although ironic that they still put them in the plastic lids but small wins…!). For your home there’s loads of options – swanky stainless steel straws that are easy to take out and look great with your cocktail, functional bamboo straws that the kids love or colourful paper ones.

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A good news story – sort of – about plastic bags. We all know that we need to remember our bags and have made massive progress with this since the 5p charge was brought in in 2015. Did you know that since then the average plastic bag use per adult in the UK has gone from 140 each to 25. An amazing 85% less 👏 But plastic bags are really easy to get shredded and be ingested by animals, so I still don’t want my 25 thanks, I’ll just remember to bring mine. My tip here is to use produce bags too. A bit like our parents/grandparents would have done. So even though we’re getting really good at remembering reusable bags for our shopping at the checkout, only a handful of supermarkets are giving paper bags for fruit and veggies for example. Taking your own produce bags instead of using those thin plastic fruit bags can make a huge impact on plastic waste.

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We all want lovely smiles but it doesn’t have to cost the earth. Don’t add yours to the 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes that are thrown away each year. There are loads of alternatives now and bamboo based products such as the stylish truthbrush are my firm favourite as well as these brilliantly colourful kids brushes from bluerock, both also available here.

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Up there with the biggest plastic offenders is wipes. Wet wipes. Dry wipes. Baby wipes. Cleaning wipes. For every 100m stretch of UK beach there are on average 27 wipes littered around. Yuk. That’s not a jellyfish touching your foot when you go for a paddle! There are loads of ways to reduce these by using reusable wipes, cloths, dusters and reusable face wipes that look better, are more effective, can be washed and reused and keep wipes off the beaches.

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Food packaging – aarrrrgghhh (writing with my head in my hands now). Out of the 170million tonnes of waste the UK produces each year, much of it is food packaging. A throwaway culture of convenience has led to our food being wrapped packaged to a level beyond understandable for me. This is an area that I feel really strongly about, but it’s not always the fault of the consumer (if we’re given the choice of beautifully wrapped bananas or loose bananas you may be fooled into thinking the wrapped ones are better quality for example?).

There are some brilliant re-fill stores popping up all over the UK now where we can take our own containers and get our dry ingredients packaging free. But this isn’t practical for everyone so as a starting point just think about what you’re picking up and use your common sense. For example pick the bananas that aren’t in a bag, they’re in a skin anyway, and besides you get to choose exactly the ones you want. Grab the rice in a card box not a plastic bag. Home baking and cooking from scratch is waste saving but if you can’t do that then choose the biscuits that aren’t in mini multipacks and split them up at home if you want to. Use good old retro sauces in glass bottles.

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** We are starting to see a revolution in how we consume and the realisation is gradually dawning on some big companies, shown by them starting to make big changes. By being conscious consumers, we can show them we support change because there is no planet B. #bethechange #fantasticlessplastic #weareallinthistogether

Surfer image from Surfers against sewage an awesome environmental charity who FANTASTIC Less Plastic will be donating part of our profits to.

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