Twelve Top Tips
The extent of the problem of pollution caused by single-use plastic is now well documented. Both the marine and wider environment are being seriously degraded, and no matter how much we focus on recycling there is a pressing need to avoid single-use disposable plastic altogether.
Here are some top tips to help reduce our individual plastic footprint by choosing not to buy or use products containing plastic in the first place, opting instead for environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Continue to Say “No” to Plastic Shopping Bags
Whenever and wherever you can, try to remember to take a reusable jute/hessian bag (or rucksack) on shopping trips, and/or carry a lightweight foldaway bag in a pocket for extra shopping or in case of an unplanned purchase.
Ditch the Single-Use Water Bottle
If you want to rehydrate “on the go” consider investing in a lightweight stainless steel bottle which can be reused over and over again. Many local shops, cafes and restaurants/pubs will now be happy to refill your bottle on request – look out for the ReFill logo.
There is also evidence that packaging and transporting a bottle of water is far more carbon intensive than simply refilling a reusable with tap water, but if you have to buy a bottle of water don’t forget to recycle the empty container which will also reduce your carbon footprint.
Stainless steel water bottles are now readily available from many local shops. Some have a thermal lining which make them ideal for both hot and cold drinks.
Drinking Fountains are also making a comeback locally, with new facilities available, or planned for, in both Falmouth and Truro
Say “No” to Plastic Drinking Straws and Stirrers
As a result of a Government consultation earlier this year a ban on these polluting items will now come into force as from October 2020 (with exceptions for medical conditions), but, in the meantime, consider avoiding plastic straws and stirrers in favour of disposable paper straws, or reusable straws, and stirrers made of bamboo or stainless steel.
Support the Final Straw Campaign in Cornwall
More information on the Final Straw Campaign here : http://finalstrawcornwall.co.uk/
Single-use plastic cups, plates and cutlery are also a major source of marine pollution. Use reusable dishware whenever possible. Opt for reusable or recyclable cups and bamboo or wooden utensils for coffee mornings, days out, or camping trips.
Avoid excessive packaging
Many supermarkets and other retailers are making commitments to reducing unnecessary plastic packaging, or making their packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable, but it could be some time before these are fully implemented.
Meanwhile, seek out products – particularly fruit and vegetables – that are not wrapped in plastic. Consider buying fresh produce from Farmers’ Markets where packaging is less and try to remember to take your own special container or reusable bag for perishables to cut down on waste.
For more information on buying local: https://www.transitionfalmouth.org.uk/wp/groups/food/tf-food-database
Refuse or Recycle Single-Use Disposable Coffee/Tea Cups
These cups are a major source of litter and pollution and need to be avoided if at all possible.
If you like your refreshments “on the go” remember to take a reusable/refillable coffee cup with you – they often attract a significant takeaway discount in most local cafes and national coffee chains. Just ask.
Cups are also available from the Surfers Against Sewage shop at St.Agnes https://www.sas.org.uk
In a bid to increase recycling rates of single-use coffee cups and drinks cartons and reduce their impact on the environment there is a network of recycling banks at Household Waste & Recycling Centres in Cornwall including Falmouth/Penryn (Longdowns) and United Downs (St Day)
Main Costa Coffee outlets will also take back used plastic-lined cups (both their own and other brands) for recycling – but no lids though; these can be included in your household kerbside plastic recycling.
The latest news is that there is now a fully recyclable cup on the market made from recycled paper with a detachable plastic liner which can be deposited in the paper recycling bin. Visit https://www.frugalpac.com for details
Some single-use cups claim to be “fully compostable”, but it is unlikely they will break down in a home compost bin. They are mostly suitable for composting only in high-temperature conditions (e.g. industrial composters)
Avoid Plastic Cotton Buds
These were also included in the recent Government consultation on plastic straws and stirrers and will be banned as from April 2020. In the meantime, continue to say “no” to these seriously polluting items which often end up in our rivers and on our beaches.
Buy cotton ear buds made with cardboard stalks instead. These are now Increasingly available from many well-known retailers.
Help stop Microfibre Pollution
Synthetic microfibres escaping from the routine washing of textiles like polyester and acrylic fleeces are a serious form of marine pollution.
One answer is to consider buying a Guppy Friend Laundry Bag which traps these fibres which then can be disposed of safely.
Guppy Bags are available locally from Surfers Against Sewage https://www.sas.org.uk/
Say “Goodbye” to Shower Gel and Liquid Soap
Liquid Soap is contained in wasteful and often unnecessary plastic packaging. It has also been found to have a carbon footprint 25% greater than bar soap.
Consider buying good old solid bars of soap for use at home, which, while sometimes costing a few pence more, will last longer and are often handmade with natural ingredients. Shop around.
Wise up to Eco-friendly Toothbrushes and Toothpaste
Approximately 3.6 billion plastic toothbrushes are produced every year, and incredibly many end up on our beaches. Eco-friendly brushes made of bamboo (with biodegradable bristles) are available if you search online or enquire at some local stores. Try the ReFILL Store in Truro (Lemon Street Market) or un_wrap in Falmouth (Webber Street)
Remember that biodegradable materials may break up, but could still take a long time to breakdown fully in the environment. But better than plastic!
Eco-friendly toothpastes supplied in non-plastic containers (glass jar with metal cap) are also available. Billions of plastic tubes go to landfill or are incinerated every year. Try asking for alternatives at your local eco-shop – see outlets above – or explore online
Try to Avoid Products containing Plastic Microbeads
The UK Government announced a widely welcomed ban on plastic microbeads in “rinse-off” personal care products and cosmetics in January 2018. Microbeads, like other forms of micro waste, are hugely polluting as they escape from waste-water treatment works and end up being ingested by marine life.
The ban, however, does not extend to “leave-on” products, including sunscreen, lipstick and some facial scrubs. Cosmetics companies have resisted calls for these products to be included in the ban arguing it would be difficult and expensive to dispense with plastic microbeads altogether. Plastic pollution campaigners continue to call for these beads to be replaced with natural alternatives, and are also calling for cleaning products to be included.
More information on microplastic pollution is available from the Marine Conservation Society:
Give Balloon Releases the “Thumbs Down”
What goes up must come down! Balloons released into the open air can cause serious harm to marine life, and to livestock and other animals in the countryside. Help prevent this form of plastic pollution by contacting the Cornish Plastic Pollution Coalition with details of any organisation(s) involved in balloon releases. The CPPC will then write a formal letter highlighting the problem of balloon litter and suggesting eco-friendly alternatives.
To register a sighting contact Delia Webb of the Portherras Beach Care Group at firstname.lastname@example.org
Educational packs for schools and students on balloon litter can be found at Hold Tight! take action against balloon litter.
Is there Plastic in your Tea?
With concern mounting over tea bags which are sealed with plastic, or made wholly of plastic which cannot be composted, it’s worth checking with the companies who make your tea to see if there is plastic in their tea bags.
Useful guidance on steps being taken by some major tea bag manufacturers to phase out plastic seals can be found at http://moralfibres.co.uk/is-there-plastic-in-your-tea/ and also which tea bags can be safely disposed of in a home compost bin. Keep up-to-date with the latest developments by searching “Plastic in Tea Bags” in your web browser.
Of course, there are no such issues with doing the traditional thing and enjoying a brew made in a teapot with loose leaf tea!
Transition Falmouth, revised May 2020
(Acknowledgement : elements of the above are based on an article that first appeared in the St.Feock Parish Magazine and reproduced with their permission and our thanks)