A pile of rubbish on a beach.

Top tips for reducing single use plastic

By Ben Walker on 02 July 2020

In the UK we use an estimated five million tonnes of plastic each year.

An incredible worldwide movement actively tackling this problem is Plastic Free July. This challenges millions of people to reduce their use of disposable plastic by making small, gradual changes, or even going 100% plastic free.

Although we have seen reports of positive environmental change during the COVID-19 pandemic, an increase in disposable plastic waste has heightened the issue of plastic pollution. At Firefly, we advocate taking simple, sustainable steps to collectively reduce our environmental impact.

We understand that making these changes can feel overwhelming to begin with, but with practice, they can quickly become second nature. That’s why in this journal article, we delve into a few of our top tips for reducing our consumption of single use plastic.

Being prepared

In the UK 2.5 billion coffee cups are used and thrown away every year. Instead of foregoing your favourite takeaway latte to combat this issue, why not invest in a reusable coffee cup? Brands such as KeepCup offer a range of beautifully designed options.

To help ensure you don’t get caught out, we would recommend preparing a sustainable kit, complete with all of the reusable necessities. This could include a reusable water bottle, coffee cup, cutlery, tupperware and tote bag to take with you when you are out and about. This can even save you money, with many cafes offering a discount on hot drinks when you supply your own coffee cup.

Preparing you own lunch to bring to work or take with you on trips can help you to avoid the need to buy food wrapped in excessive packaging – and it’s cheaper.

Saying no to plastic straws

Although many restaurants, bars and cafes now only offer plastic straws upon request, they still pose a huge threat, with a study estimating that 8.3 billion pollute our beaches. If you don’t need a plastic straw or stirrer, simply avoid using one.

If you do need to use a straw, opting for the paper variety is a more environmentally friendly option, or better yet, invest in a set of reusable straws.

Shopping consciously

We’ve all seen the excess of plastic packaging that dominates our supermarkets. One way to help combat this is by refilling your own containers when food shopping. Although this option is not always readily available, many environmentally conscious supermarkets allow you to refill your own containers with everything from pasta and grains, to washing up liquid and shampoo. In Edinburgh we are lucky enough to have a range of incredible eco-friendly options to choose from, including Weigh to GoThe New Leaf Co-op and The Refillery.

If shopping at a zero-waste store is not accessible to you, try to opt for loose fruit and vegetables, as opposed to those wrapped in plastic packaging. In addition to reducing disposable plastic, only buying what you need can help to save money and reduce food waste. Last but not least, don’t forget your reusable shopping bag for the journey home (we’ve all been there!).

A close-up of vegetables at a market.

We realise that depending on where you are in the world, implementing some of these tips may not currently be possible due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we hope that this article has provided you with some new ideas, for now or the future, when it comes to reducing your plastic footprint.

If you are looking for more environmental inspiration, our journal article, Eco Warriors Making an Impact, highlights some of our favourite sustainable resources, from books and documentaries to Instagram accounts and websites. If you have any tips you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d love to hear from you and add them to our list.

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