Reducing single-use plastic

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Rubbish containing a lot of single-use plastic cups
Photo by Jas Min on Unsplash

Let’s all make 2024 the year we make a difference to the beautiful world we live in. Making small changes to the way we live and buy household products really does make a big difference.

In January of last year, the Environment Secretary announced a ban on a range of polluting single-use plastics that will take effect from October this year. The ban includes single-use plastic plates, trays, bowls, cutlery, balloon sticks, and certain types of polystyrene cups and food containers.

Speaking about the need for the ban, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow commented:

“Plastic is a scourge which blights our streets and beautiful countryside and I am determined that we shift away from a single-use culture.

“By introducing a ban later this year we are doubling down on our commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. We will also be pressing ahead with our ambitious plans for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and consistent recycling collections in England.”

The stats

It is estimated that England uses 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery and 721 million single-use plates per year. Only 10% of those are recycled which means a huge amount end up in landfill or our oceans.

Reducing single-use plastic
Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage to our oceans, rivers, and land. It is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, from the production and manufacture of the plastic itself to the way it is disposed of.

In 2020, plastic cutlery was in the top 15 littered items in England. Previous bans of single-use plastic items such as cotton buds, stirrers, and straws, have had a big impact on the amount of waste that found its way into our oceans. Before the ban, these products contributed to approximately 5.7% of marine litter.

With the introduction of the ban, businesses and individuals will need to come up with eco-friendly solutions to traditional fast food containers and things like party plates and cups. Supermarket chain Co-op is already taking steps to remove unnecessary plastic from its shelves.

Matt Hood, Co-op Food MD said:

“We have been at the forefront of eradicating unnecessary plastic, so it is encouraging to see this ban being introduced and we have already removed plastic cutlery from our food to go, offering wooden forks instead. We were the first retailer to ensure all of our own brand food and drink packaging is 100% recyclable through our in-store soft plastic recycling scheme, with all the soft plastics returned being processed in the UK.

“I welcome today’s announcement, and believe we must all continue to work together if we are to combat the climate emergency and have an environment we are proud to pass on to future generations.”

Reducing single-use plastic

A lot of the single-use plastics we use come from the culture of doing things on the go. Fast food, eating at your desk, and hot drinks as you travel to work have driven the demand for disposable items. But now is the time to change. To take a step back and make more mindful choices that have a smaller impact on our environment.

Just as we do meal planning, planning what cutlery, etc you need to take, or making sure you’ve got a reusable coffee cup with you every day will be key. There are so many lovely designs around for these kinds of things and no doubt as the implementation date for the ban draws closer, there’ll be more reusable products on the market.

Other initiatives that are likely to be implemented soon include a Deposit Return Scheme. The scheme aims to encourage the recycling of billions of plastic bottles and therefore preventing them from heading to landfill sites or being incinerated. To encourage people to think before they throw things in the bin, there needs to be more consistency across the country in terms of recycling collections. This is something that the government is also aiming to tackle.

So, the message is clear: reuse, reuse, reuse, and help to protect our planet. 

Reducing single-use plastic
Photo by Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

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