Please note: I receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post: https://honeygusto.com/reusable-coffee-cup
Let’s think about what an individual can do to reduce their plastic consumption and fight the plastic pollution crisis. I read an article about the testing of a sample group of adult Americans, and 95% of them have BPA in their urine. And no wonder. The microplastics are proliferating through our entire food chain, they’re in our seafood, fresh water, they’re in everything. And the thing is that effluent treatment plants, factories, municipal wastewater treatments cannot filter out these minute fibres of microplastics and they also have this toxic affiliation with POPs, that’s persistent organic pollutants. So the likes of DDT, the infamous insecticide, combines to the plastics and effectively it’s a kind of lethal double dose.
And with this biomagnification process, here’s what happens and how it affects the food web:
Reduce single-use plastics
8 out of 10 of the most common ocean wastes are single-use plastics. That’s cotton swabs plastic bags, water bottles etc.
Try and source yourself a keep cup for your coffee. For example, if you purchase a Starbucks tumbler (reusable cup), you get 50 cents off many drinks when you refill at Starbucks in Singapore. I use this example because I’m living in Singapore at the time of writing, and it applies to all outlets
For your bottles, source a stainless steel bottle. I use the Chillie bottles and although they ain’t cheap (GBP 20 when I bought the 750 ml), the bottle is here to stay. I’ll have it for years to come. The awesome thing about these bottles is they act like a flask, so I also put tea or coffee inside it in the morning and it remains hot for HOURS. If anything it remains a little too hot, so what I do is fill it with coffee in the morning, bring the Chillie bottle with me to work and pour it into the ceramic mug that I keep at my desk. At 750 ml, I’m getting 2-3 cups of coffee from that and it saves me money on a Starbucks or whatever!
Get a good straw bag. A straw bag will last you years (many, many, many years) and will be an investment in the long run. Nowadays we are getting charged 5 pence/bag and that could easily go up. Or try an insulated bag. I discovered a brand (NZ home) that makes insulated grocery bags. They have a zip to prevent spillage, are insulated and pretty heavy-duty to prevent wear-and-tear. Check them out here.
Be a smart consumer when it comes to clothing as synthetic textiles are the biggest single source of microplastics. Natural clothing, so the likes of 100% lambswool or cotton would be a great alternative instead of nylon and polyester. When the latter goes through the wash they’ll release tons of these (maybe tens of thousands per wash) fibres that again your washing machine, at this moment in time, cannot filter out the micron and nanosized particles. Also, there are no legal requirements on the washing machine manufacturers to have filters at this moment either. So again, they end up in our oceans.
Try and reduce your plastic consumption with excessive plastic packaging. They can be swapped for the likes of grass paper, cotton, bamboo boxes, corn starch. We can find ways to avoid products with plastic bags unnecessarily wrapped around it. Personally, if I see a product that’s overwrapped with plastic, I’ll do my best to avoid it and find a sustainable alternative. For example, instead of plastic bag packaging, look for cardboard box packaging.
You can also donate packing materials, maybe you’ve moved house and you’ve got styrofoam peanuts or bubble wrap. You can try and find somewhere where you can donate these to shipping companies and charities. For example, give UPS or FedEx a call and arrange your plastic dunnage collection or dropoff. If you have an extra cardboard box lying around from Amazon or another affiliated company of Give Back Box, you can fill it with plastic packing materials, print off a label and ship it. The best part is, you can do it for FREE! Also, this isn’t restricted to dunnage; you can donate any used items (toys etc.) as it’s through Amazon’s partnership with Give Back Box. Get your label here.
UPS are Amazons main and preferred courier as well, so you can keep this in mind any time you decide to buy from Amazon, which I’m sure you’ve done once or twice! Keep the Amazon box set aside when you’re ready to donate your plastic. Or, give them to friends, family or work colleagues who are also moving house, setting up a business and such like.
So, for instance, in the U.K., the microbeads that typically were used for exfoliators have been banned. We no longer have them, so that’s awesome. Countries like Canada, the USA, the UK and I’m sure others have implemented this. But if you live in a country where this isn’t currently implemented, read the ingredients list of exfoliators first before making the purchase.
The same again with bars of soap. One bar of soap could be like having five 100, 200 ml of liquid soap in a plastic bottle.
Try and cook a lot more at home because a big culprit would be takeaway companies and the type of plastic that’s used. A lot of the time, the containers are styrofoam and its not recyclable. Again, you want to check your local authorities but try and cook more at home.
It’s avoiding all of these unnecessary Tupperware containers. I’m not saying don’t have an Indian takeaway ever again, but a more sustainable practice is going to eat at a restaurant or bring the wonderful flavours of Indian spices into your home. I’m just using Indian cuisine as an example, the same applies to all dishes!
When you get the takeaway tubs, wash them out, clean them, and re-use them at work or something. But if you’re doing it every week, you have a lot of tubs that you just don’t need. Any time you’re going to work and you’re preparing your meals in advance, things like a glass, bamboo or steel food containers are a far better option in the long run.
And then recycling as well. Make sure to clean any dirty plastic that has food in it, otherwise, it can contaminate the bale. Furthermore, remember to clean your plastic containers as clean as reasonably practicable. I’m not saying you use litres of water to get a little stain out in plastic, but do your best 🙂
You can be active on Facebook. You can show yourself in action at beach cleanup events. Tell your teachers about it, your friends, post on social media and all of a sudden, you’ve got this positive proliferation of activities.
People can relate to that. You can put pressure on companies and governments to change their ways. Maybe certain plastic wastes can be used to tarmac the rods. The materials durable and it’s being used already. Even in Scotland, we’re using this kind of activity. So yeah, there are tons of things we can do, guys.
Another thing you can do is be a more eco-friendly shopper. So when you do your weekly shop at the weekends or whenever, there are certain types of stores, and an example is called EkoPlaza. It’s a Dutch supermarket chain and they have a large aisle which is completely plastic-free, so not even any plastic packaging. We’re talking about it’s packaged in wood, cardboard, glass, whatever it is, and it has this plastic-free mark label on it as well, so you can identify what that is.
Moreover, as shown in the image directly above, you can bring your containers to stores that offer refills. Find a refill bulk store near you with the following URL: https://app.zerowastehome.com/. You can buy your rice, cereal, pasta etc. like this.
Contribute to science
The other thing is you can do is be a part-time scientist, in the sense that you can collect samples for professionals, those that do the full-time marine science roles or whatever, that kind of biology, zoology, type role. You can be trained up, actually, by the Worldwide Microplastics Initiative, and you can send marine and freshwater samples. There’s kind of similar things that you can do with pellets as well. You can pick up all the little nurdles, the plastic micro-pellets, the raw materials for all of the plastic bottles that get melted down into the castings. Some research laboratories and fundraisers will accept them.
Sustainable Products List
Please note: I receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post: https://honeygusto.com/reusable-coffee-cup. But these are all products I highly recommend. I would never post about a product/service I haven’t verified and/or personally used.
References & resources
Shaw, A. (2018). Reducing Plastic as a Family Is Easy. Here’s How. [online] nationalgeographic.com. Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/06/reduce-plastic-use-families-kids-environment-culture/ [Accessed 6 Feb. 2020].
TEDx Talks (2017). How to Live a Plastic-Free Life | Alexis McGivern | TEDxInstitutLeRosey.Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59omJe880dI [Accessed 6 Feb. 2020].
The Uma Show (2018). How to Reduce Plastic Use in Daily Lives | Tips to Reduce Plastic Pollution.Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MgWW3oSFKl8 [Accessed 6 Feb. 2020].