We live in a plastic age. Plastic products are embedded in almost every aspect of our daily lives. In the UK alone, more than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed each year. But the dangers of this ubiquitous substance for both human health and the environment are often ignored. Plastic is extremely slow to degrade - it remains in its solid form for many centuries. When it does decompose, smaller micro plastics may be consumed by animals, entering the food chain and toxic chemicals often leak into groundwater. A 2017 study found that 83% of tap water samples taken around the world contained plastic pollutants. We can help to tackle the problem of mass plastic pollution by following these 10 small steps.
10 hacks for a plastic-free, healthy life:
- Stay away from plastic bottles! Most European countries enjoy an advantage that many other countries dream of - tap water is drinkable. Why not invest in a drinking bottle made of stainless steel or glass and simply fill it up on the go?
- Use a plastic-free toothbrush. There are plenty of options for toothbrushes made of bamboo wood. Wooden toothbrushes with bristles made of plant-based material make toothbrushing more environmentally friendly and healthier. And you can also make your own toothpaste. Most toothpastes are packed in plastic and may contain microplastic particles, so try your hand at whipping up this homemade version to do your part for the environment and keep your pearly whites shining.
- Bring a cloth bag with you when shopping. You will never need a plastic bag again if you have your own reusable fabric bag with you. And while you’re grocery shopping, try to opt for those products which don’t have multiple layers of plastic packaging.
- Use a lunch box made of stainless steel or glass. Say goodbye to plastic lunch boxes, it's time to embrace the plastic-free lunch box for you or any kids heading to school.
- Drink your coffee on the spot or use a thermo mug. Britons drink more than 8 million take-away coffees every day - and most cups are made from paper laminated with plastic. So next time you're getting your caffeine fix, why not simply bring along your reusable thermo mug or drink it from the cup in the café? Some cafes now even offer cheaper coffees for those who bring their own mug along!
- Use kitchen gadgets made of bamboo. Bamboo is a highly renewable, eco-friendly resource as it grows faster than any wood. It makes for kitchen utensils which are light and 100% biodegradable.
- Buy milk & yoghurt in glass jars. In most supermarkets you can now find yoghurt and milk in glass bottles or glasses, so take a pass on the plastic and make the smart choice.
- Head down to your local weekly market. Food markets provide the best chance of finding fresh fruit and vegetables free from unnecessary plastic packaging. (and remember to bring your own bag with you!)
- Use plastic-free toys for children. As well as being difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly way, plastic toys often contain PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) or phthalates which can have serious health consequences for children. So next time you’re picking up a gift for a little one, go for a wooden, chemical-free option.
- Use screw jars for storage. For pasta, herbs and any other dried foods you can easily reuse those screw cap glass jars and avoid plastic containers.
In the long run, we all need to do our bit if we want to truly tackle harmful plastic pollution - and there are a few things to keep in mind. Question every purchase and be innovative in your use of products. Tell your friends about the steps we can all take to cut down on plastic and lend a hand to plastic clean-up efforts in your area. These small steps can reduce the demand for plastic products but only together can we increase pressure on policy-makers and companies to bring about a shift of mindset. Because at the end of the day, those who produce plastic waste must be held responsibible for its safe and clean disposal.
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About the author:
After studying online marketing, Christoph built up an automated online business with plastic-free products. This freed up more of his time and energy so that he could dedicate it to his passion for protecting the environment. As a digital nomad, he travels all over the world and organises plastic waste clean-ups. On his blog CareElite.de he documents his commitment to fighting plastic pollution and how a plastic-free life can work.This article was orginally published in German on May 25, 2017.