How to Reduce Your Plastic Waste: A Guide - The Solihull Observer

How to Reduce Your Plastic Waste: A Guide

Solihull Editorial 11th Jun, 2024   0

Every year, humans generate around 400 tonnes of plastic waste a year, with 60% of it ending up either in landfills or in nature. In fact, 100,000 marine animals are killed by becoming entangled in plastic every year, and scientists believe that there may be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2030. By entering the food chain, plastic can harm human health too — causing hormone imbalances, reproductive issues, and even cancer.

As a society we are slowly realising the extent of the harm caused by plastic, but we still need to act quickly to fix the problem. In this guide, we will explore how you can do your bit to reduce your plastic consumption and waste.

Reusing, Repairing, and Repurposing Plastic

Plastic was only invented at the start of the 20th Century, and has only been widely used since the 1950s, but already we have produced over 8 billion tonnes of the material. With a piece of plastic taking anywhere from 10 to 500 years to decompose, it isn’t disappearing any time soon.

While we couldn’t make all of our plastic disappear even if we wanted to, we can avoid the need for buying new plastic products (and therefore contributing to manufacturing demand) where possible.

Repairing damaged plastic items is one way of reducing plastic waste. Many broken plastic items can be mended with epoxy glue in just a few minutes. Epoxy glue is inexpensive, widely available, and can be used to fix most hard plastics.

You can also repurpose old plastic items that have fulfilled their original purpose. Instead of sending your old containers to landfill, why not use them as storage for items such as buttons, screws, or craft supplies? You can even turn plastic bottles or yoghurt pots into plant pots or seed starters by simply cutting small drainage holes. Larger containers such as bins can be used to organise shoes, toys, or cleaning supplies.

Sustainable Purchasing

Unfortunately, most of us will still need to buy plastic products from time to time. After all, there are reasons why so much plastic has been produced and used in the last 70 years — it’s lightweight, airtight, waterproof, convenient, and inexpensive compared to most other materials.

However, we can still take steps to minimise how much plastic we buy. For example, instead of buying a new plastic bottle of drink each day, you can buy a reusable bottle and fill it each day with the beverage of your choice.

Thankfully, more and more companies are choosing to replace single-use plastic packaging with more biodegradable, sustainable options. Most supermarkets now offer paper carrier bags, or encourage the purchase of a reusable bag made from canvas or recycled plastics.

Ultimately, most companies will produce the products that they think consumers want. By refusing to buy single-use plastics where possible, you reduce the demand for them, and reduce their production. There are various apps that will tell you how environmentally sustainable a company or product is, and the B Corp certification was designed to be a mark of sustainability. If you want to take the extra step, you could even write to companies or contact them via social media to request more sustainable products and packaging.

How to Recycle Plastic

Unfortunately, sometimes you do need to dispose of plastic. If you can’t repair or repurpose it, you should recycle it. Recycling plastic avoids it being sent to landfill, and instead means it will be melted or shredded down before being used to create new products.

In the UK, recycling plastic is a structured process governed by your local council. To enable this, you need to segregate your plastic waste from your other waste, into a designated recycling bin (typically coloured green).

To be recycled effectively, plastic items need to be rinsed and clean of any food residue. Plastic items must be rinsed and free from food residue to ensure effective recycling.

Sustainable Consumption For the Future

With a plastic waste crisis, and the production of plastic contributing significantly to carbon emissions, it is crucial that we reduce our plastic consumption as a society. You can make a difference through your individual habits — by reducing consumption, reusing items where possible, and recycling any plastic waste. You can also spread the word, and educate your friends, family members, and others in your community on how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.


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