Let’s play a game. We dare you to go to your kitchen and search every draw for products that you’ll only use once. Not food but, for example, clingfilm or straws. Really interrogate how many of these items you have in your home – chances are there’s a lot. The problem with throwaway culture is that it’s so deeply embedded in our psyche that we don’t even think about it. Well now it’s time to reassess.
The Environmental Impact of a Throwaway Culture
As you may be aware thanks to Sir David Attenborough, plastic waste is a huge problem in our oceans. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), 300 million tons of plastic is manufactured every year. 14 million tons of this, plus the plastic already in circulation, makes it into our oceans. Plastic makes up 80% of marine debris, and once in the water it enters the food chain, killing smaller fish and building up into toxic levels in larger ones. The breakdown of plastics into microplastics and the effects this has on human health are only just starting to be understood.
At this stage you may be thinking, well I don’t litter so what’s the problem? It’s the devil you don’t see that is the issue. By 2050, 12 billion metric tons of plastic are predicted to be in landfill. Landfills may be a nice way of keeping plastic waste out of site and consequently out of mind, but they don’t exist in an ecological vacuum. The rubbish in these ugly eye sores breaks down far slower than the pace at which we fill the sites, making landfills a big issue for generations to come.
As it breaks down in a compacted and covered environment, the trash produces huge quantities of greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. Toxic substances from electronic waste, for example, pollute the environment, and highly toxic leachate – liquid formed when waste breaks down – can enter ground water and soils. And that’s all before we even start to talk about the damage to the flora and fauna of surrounding ecosystems..
The best option for cleaning up our planet is cutting off our waste at the source, so let’s take a look at some of the reusable options available.
The Wide Variety of Reusables Available
The good news is that there’s a wide range of reusable products available to replace the worst culprits of our disposable culture.
Take reusable water bottles for instance. Every year in the UK 7.7 billion plastic bottles are used, most of which are not recycled. It is estimated that if just one tenth of Brits switched to a refill, 340 million bottles would be saved. Meanwhile 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups a year are used in the UK, only 0.25% of which are recycled. Think how much a reusable option could improve this number.
Elsewhere you can replace the 1.2 billion metres of cling film used in the UK a year with wax wraps, or ditch the throw away byros for a refillable pen. It also helps to think through high-packaging items which can be replaced with low-plastic alternatives, for example ditching soap dispensers for solid soaps.
How To Go About A Reusable Refresh
1 – Don’t Throw Away What You Already Have
There may be a seeming logic to gathering up every single plastic or disposable item in your house and throwing them in the bin, but if you stop and think about it this is counterintuitive.
Reducing consumption is the best way to reduce waste, so use the items you already have before replacing them!
2 – Invest in The Essentials
Think of disposable items that you use every day and invest in some essential, reusable alternatives. A water bottle and reusable coffee cup are a good place to start, then you can move onto the more intricate homeware items.
If you are already a bit of a re-usable boss, there are many more ingenious waste-reducing solutions out there too. Toothpaste tablets, mesh produce bags, metal straws, or even simple things like re-chargable batteries all make a big difference too. If you’re feeling particularly brave, re-usable toilet paper is now a thing believe it or not…
3 – Take it Room by Room
Once you’ve taken care of your everyday items, do a room by room audit in your house. The kitchen is a good place to start but we bet your bathroom is a nightmare too. When you’ve done your audit make an action plan of where and how to reduce your waste. Take it bit by bit, making the simplest replacements first and working up to the bigger ones.