How to fit the three R’s into your life
With every image of a 50-year-old crisp packet washing up on our shores and every photo of a turtle with its head stuck in a plastic ring, the plastic free movement has grown stronger with such momentum that whole towns are now becoming ‘plastic free’. It’s fantastic to see so many people trying to reduce how much plastic they use and seeing the brilliant ways in which they incorporate the three R’s into their lives. Here are some tips to help you bring the three R’s into your life.
First in the mantra of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, Reduce is the act of cutting down on overall waste and, luckily, it’s really easy to get started.
Begin with making a list of plastic items you use every day. Are they things that can be replaced with a non-plastic alternative like swapping cling film for sandwich bags made of beeswax or, if plastic is the only option, can you switch to a reusable option rather than single-use?
A lot of these swaps can be made second nature with a bit of planning ahead. If you know you’re going to be out and about try taking a reusable and refillable water bottle and coffee cup with you, if you’re going to do your weekly shop then make sure to pack some bags – we find cotton, netted bags to be ideal here as not only are they deceptively stretchy and strong, but they can be rolled up and stored in the bottom of your bag, in a pocket, car etc so you won’t be caught short.
Another great way to reduce your daily plastic is to shop a little more thoughtfully. Rather than buying pre-packed fruit and veg that comes in a plastic bag, buy fresh, loose vegetables from the supermarket, better yet, buy these vegetables from your local farmer’s market to try and help support your local suppliers.
Movements such as #TheLastStraw was around right at the start and at the forefront of encouraging people to stop using plastic straws which was one of the campaigns that really led to people thinking about the bigger picture with single-use plastic. Luckily, a lot of establishments have switched to paper straws, even Mc Donalds now but there are some who still offer plastic. If you find sipping your drink through a straw to be the ultimate way to quench your thirst, then you can buy reusable metal straws that you can travel with for use on the go.
So, as much as you’ve avoided it (and don’t worry we are certainly not perfect), sometimes it just isn’t possible to avoid plastic completely. And that’s ok, really! The second-best thing you can do after avoiding plastic is making sure it’s used more than once. That can be said for a lot of items that are seen as waste.
As children, how much fun was it to turn supposed rubbish into something fun and useful, but somewhere along the way we swapped creative upcycling for other pastimes. Now, as a part of trying to use less and create less waste, it’s time we recaptured our creative youth.
Plastic bottles can become anything from ribbon dispensers to plant pots, so, rather than just popping that water bottle or laundry detergent in the recycling, why not see if you can get some more mileage out of it first. There are 100’s of ideas from amazing creative individuals all over sites such as Pinterest and we will be sharing ours in future posts.
Of course, reusing doesn’t mean you have to get out the glitter and glue, it can be a simple case of reusing the packaging as it was initially meant for. When you go to your local farmers market and you pick up some olives, wash out the pot and take it with you next time you go, or, use it for transporting your other favourite snacks when heading out for the day.
This is possibly the most well-known of the three R’s, but are we actually recycling effectively?
Of course, there are things we’ve been recycling for years that we’ve perfected. We know we have to wash out baked beans tin thoroughly before putting it out to be collected alongside our general rubbish, but what about the items we’re unsure of or that are new to us? We know a water bottle or jar can be put out with the recycling, but what about batteries, inhalers and disposable coffee cups?
There is a great big list of items we throw away on a weekly, and even daily, basis that could be recycled with a little effort. Next time you reach for the bin, take a moment to really look at what you’re about to throw away. Could it be useful to a charity such as an old pair of reading glasses? Is there a safer way to dispose of your batteries (this one is a definite yes)? Disposable coffee cups might not be accepted with your curb side recycling, but it can be dropped off at certain coffee shop chains or your local Household Waste Recycling Centre. Every time you’re unsure of something, check your local recycling guidelines, ask a friend or ask the internet. It might just surprise you the things you can recycle.
Its worth looking up if there are any local TerraCycle points near you, this link explains more about the type of recycling they do. https://www.terracycle.com/en-GB/
Now you’ve mastered what you can recycle, it’s time to master how you recycle effectively. Simple things such as thoroughly washing out containers, condensing bottles and replacing the cap and ensuring any cardboard hasn’t become saturated with grease, will help your recycling be easier to recycle.
Another key way to recycle effectively is to anticipate your recycling. When doing your weekly shop try and steer clear from products that aren’t recyclable and, similarly, try and opt for products that are made out of recycled materials (although double-check that these will still be recyclable).
These tips will hopefully get you started on your Reduce, Reuse and Recycle journey, but don’t stop here. Find your own ways to reduce plastic and other waste in your life and when you find one, let us know, we would love to see how you are living consciously.