In the UK we’re consuming more and more food and drink on the go, getting through 13 billion plastic bottles, 9 billion drinks cans and 2.5 billion coffee cups every year. Unfortunately, lots of this packaging isn’t recycled because many of us are unsure about what can and can’t be recycled, and contamination of recycling can mean the whole lot ends up being incinerated or sent to landfill.
Why is plastic a problem?
Plastic was thought of as a ‘wonder’ material when it was first invented in 1869 as a substitute for ivory. Since then 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced, and because it takes up to 400 years to degrade, most of this still exists in some form. From shampoo to sanitary ware, teabags to takeaway coffee cups and crisp packets to cigarette filters, plastic is now almost everywhere you look.
Ideas of ways to reduce plastic as a family
- For storing and preserving food, you can use Tupperware, repurposed jam jars or even beeswax reusable wraps.
- Reusable water bottles can replace the plastic variety (there are plenty of fun colourful options for children) and there are now bamboo straws and toothbrushes.
- When food shopping, take reusable shopping bags to the supermarket. Try to buy from butchers, bakers and vegetable markets instead of buying pre-packaged goods from supermarket shelves.
- Opt for loose leaf tea, or teabag brands that don’t contain plastic.
- Buying larger packs of baby food to portion up at home, rather than individually packaged portions, avoids a lot of single-use and non-recyclable plastic waste.
- Shampoo and soap bars are a great alternative to care products that contain silicone or are packaged in single-use plastic bottles.
- For baby care, try reusable or biodegradable nappies.
- When it comes to children’s toys, choose wooden or fabric toys where possible – and have a look in charity shops where there are often some great bargains.
- Set up a toy swap with other parents.
- Coconut fibre scourers and wooden scrubbing brushes work just as well as dishwashing sponges that contain plastic.
- Local refill shops stock plenty of refillable cleaning products and dry goods such as rice, pasta, spices and legumes.
- When doing the laundry, try to wash at 30 degrees and follow your clothing care label instructions, to avoid plastic microfibres shedding from your clothes and ending up in the waterways.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, but if you follow Hubbub’s four R’s you can’t go too far wrong: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Responsible use. #LeedsByExample
Hubbub’s #LeedsByExample campaign aims to boost on-street collection and recycling of empty plastic, cans and coffee cups throughout the city. As well as a new recycling network with 20 new on-street recycling bins, people in Leeds can also look out for recycle reward machines, the Re-Cycler cargo bike, bubble bins and installations.
For the latest on what’s on see: www.LeedsByExample.co.uk
Hubbub is a charity which explores innovative ways to interest mainstream consumers in important sustainability issues, through different ‘hubs’ of activity: Food; Fashion; Homes; Neighbourhoods. Hubbub’s previous campaigns have included #SquareMileChallenge, the UK’s first large scale solution to coffee cup recycling, #NeatStreets to cut litter in UK cities and For Fish’s Sake (#FFSLDN) to tackle litter in the Thames. https://www.hubbub.org.uk/