A guide to living consciously in the wake of the UK’s plastic waste crisis.
Sustainable living has been the topic of conversation for many, especially after 38 countries – starting with our very own Scottish Government – declared a state of climate emergency just two years ago.
Since then, shocking documentaries and campaigns have opened our eyes to the extent to which global warming is damaging our Earth. Last September, national treasure David Attenborough released ‘A Life on Our Planet’ on Netflix which proved to be as astounding as his previous documentaries. As usual, he captured breath-taking footage of planet earth and of earth’s inhabitants.
The documentary also exposed the damage from years of toxic pollutants being released into the atmosphere. It also illustrated the impact of the industrialisation era on the state of the wilderness. Latest figures show the concentration of carbon dioxide in the air is 412 parts per million: an increase of 47% since the beginning of the industrial age.
Plastic has also had a drastic effect on the environment over its years of mass production. There are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic waste currently in our oceans; The UK itself throws away over 295 billion pieces of plastic waste each year.
Greenpeace made a more recent plea for change to the UK’s mass production of plastic this April with their video campaign “Wasteminster: A Downing Street Disaster.” The campaign highlighted that 1.8 million kilograms of plastic waste – equivalent to three and a half Olympic-sized pools – is shipped, dumped and burned overseas, with more than half going to Turkey and Malaysia. Not only will the cleanliness of the ocean and marine life be badly affected in these countries, but the burning of waste has also been found to be damaging to the health of local residents.
Greenpeace have also recently uncovered that only 10% of the plastics, tins, cans and paper that we dispose of responsibly are actually recycled. This doesn’t mean the answer is to stop recycling, however. Perhaps we could all take one step further than recycling our waste and change our own relationships with plastic.
Your carbon footprint
David Attenborough concluded his documentary with some optimistic advice: if every individual adopted a more sustainable lifestyle that minimises their carbon footprint, this could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere and slow down global warming!
Minimising your carbon footprint sounds like it could be a headache, but it doesn’t take much. Travelling more by foot and bike, having less meat and dairy in your diet, and buying clothes and footwear second-hand all result in lower carbon emissions.
Cutting down the plastic you use is another simple but effective measure you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. While people are catching onto bringing your own bags for the food shop – with Scots cutting down their use of plastic bags by 80% since the tax – we could easily be doing more by swapping out plastics with their up-to-par alternatives!
When trying out a new lifestyle, the most intimidating part may be figuring out where to start. With cutting out plastic, it’s best to start with the single-use plastics. Plastic straws in pubs and restaurants may feel like a lifetime ago, but we still have a long way to go with clingfilm, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, and paper coffee cups and paper plates.
According to a 2019 survey, more than 1.2 billion metres of cling film is used across British households each year. Beeswax food wrap is an alternative which can be re-used for up to a year! You can even easily make your own beeswax wrap at home with some beeswax pellets, cotton fabric and an oven.
Cutting out single-use plastic bottles may seem like a difficult one, but consider investing in a Chilly’s style aluminium bottle. They really do live up to the hype and will keep your fresh Scottish spring water cool for hours!
Water bottles are also more expensive than you might think. The UK tap water average cost is 0.1p per litre compared to the 65p average cost of single-use water bottles; using a reusable bottle may save you around £25,000 in your lifetime.
Another great swap is buying a bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one. As bamboo decomposes naturally, you can remove the bristles and throw it in your compost or garden once it’s reached its end. There are also many more bamboo alternatives on the market these days, from bamboo lunchboxes, travel mugs and straws to hairbrushes, cotton buds and face cloths!
With some things you’ll be able to cut out packaging altogether. Instead of buying exfoliator, shampoos, and conditioners in bottles and shaving cream in cans, buy them by the bar instead! These still last a few months and are often made with more natural ingredients.
There are many other ways to cut out plastic such as buying loose fruits and veg and using refill options. Many zero-waste stores offer this refill alternative with having nut, rice, pasta, and spice stations. They also usually stock dish soap and hand soap refills, shampoo and conditioner bars and many other plastic alternatives! You can find plenty of zero-waste stores dotted around Edinburgh and Glasgow. All you need to do is turn up with your tote bag, a few containers, and shop away!
Making the switch to a more sustainable lifestyle this next year can reduce your carbon footprint on the earth. With more communities cutting out plastic, we could help slow down the rate of global warming.
To learn more about how Revive are tackling global warming and carbon emissions, click here.
Written by Chloe Ruddiman