Plastic is the enemy. Well, single-use plastics are and as the planet is getting more and more overrun, we have to realise just how much we depend upon it and make a change.

It seems impossible to get away from plastic once you notice it, from unrecyclable toothpaste tubes to cellophane, we use plastic like it’s going out of fashion. In fact, the concept of just how much waste we will leave behind is overwhelming and it’s hard to know where to start. Things aren’t looking up on the widescale, with recycling rates in the UK falling, and Theresa May’s call to eliminate all single-use plastics with a deadline of 2042. We can’t wait that long, so it’s up to every one of us to step up to this difficult task.

That’s where #PlasticFreeJuly fits in. The concept of zero waste is nothing new, but widespread awareness is growing. The internet, with blogs and YouTube, in particular, is full of advice and tips. From upcycling items that have become redundant, to recipes for homemade toothpaste, the internet seems to be full of advice on how to reduce your waste. But because we rely so heavily on plastic, it can seem an impossible task to suddenly become zero waste – luckily we can take it one step at a time.

The Plastic Free July movement gives you the perfect opportunity to forage into this unknown and scary world. The idea is self-explanatory: try not to use single-use plastics in July. By giving it a go, you can start to appreciate how small changes in everyday behaviour can really make a difference to the impact you leave on the world. So, we’re here to offer up some advice. We’ll be exploring alternatives to everyday products we use, from the bathroom to the kitchen, over a series of articles. But first, let’s kick the month off with a few simple changes that you can start immediately.

1. (You’ve heard it before, but…) ditch those disposable cups!

I know, they’re so practical and easy and sometimes you forget. But they’re also very difficult to recycle and require specialist recycling plants that can do it – that’s why almost 100% of cups are not recycled in the UK. Instead, treat yourself to a reusable one that you can treasure (and you’ll make your money back in no time with the 50p off at Pret…).

Chilly's

2. Plastic bags, straws, and bottles are a no go, and you know it.

If you don’t already, use a bag for life or a canvas bag and avoid that 5p charge too. On top of that, either say no to straws or if you can’t live without then bring your own reusable one (metal, bamboo, silicone – you name it, they’ve got it). Fortunately, some places like Wetherspoon’s have opted for paper straws – a big plus, but still better to bring reusable if you can! Bottles, especially water bottles, are also a big problem with a million being bought around the world every minute. It’s a worthy hassle to bring a reusable bottle out with you where ever you go, and with brands like Chilly’s designing bottles you’ll want to use – there’s really no reason to buy water bottles on the go!

3. Stick to soap, without a dispenser.

I get it, soaps like Molton Brown are lovely and a joy to use – but you can get equally nice block soaps. If you go for a bar of soap instead you avoid all of the plastic waste from the bottle.

4. This can also be applied to shampoos and conditioners.

It might sound strange, but shampoo bars are not only good for the environment, they also save valuable bathroom space (they last as long as their plastic counterparts) and they can be just as good as bottle shampoos. They work in the same way as regular shampoos, with some of them foaming up nicely to form a good lather. They’re pretty much the same thing so you won’t be disappointed if you try them out. Try Lush’s substantial range (with dry shampoo!) or try Amazon’s top choice. Both are on the expensive side, but Lush wins for me because it also provides plastic-free packaging and they have a longstanding commitment to the environment –  and they say they’ve saved almost 6 million plastic bottles from being used just through their shampoo bars. Join the revolution, grab shampoo by the bar.

Zero waste

5. Use reusable food coverings

Try to cut out cellophane by using either sealable containers, beeswax wraps, or silicone covers. Not only are these easy to use, they help save on money and they’re way less hassle than the daily battle with uncooperating cellophane. You can also get pretty silicone covers in the shape of flowers and the like if you’re about the aesthetic.

With just five (deceptively) simple steps you can be well on your way to making a dent in your plastic consumption. The little things add up, and with time you can keep adding to them. Watch out for our next few articles about trying to get zero waste across the house if you’re looking for more tips to reduce your waste, and #choosetorefuse this July!


Image: Flickr, Rey Perezoso

Editor-in-Chief
Clare Clarke is the founder and current Editor-in-Chief of The Panoptic. Passionate about journalism, Clare developed the magazine to help young journalists have a space of their own to write about issues they care about and bring readers tomorrow's voices, today.

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