It has been increasingly on my mind about the environment and the part we all have to play. Sorting the house and my daughters' toys, I realise how much plastic we have in the house and how much we rely on it. The bottles of shampoo, household cleaning products, the plastic around all the food, the bin bags… Many of the foods we buy in the supermarket are covered in single-use plastic that we throw away, destined for landfill.
Single-use plastic is the biggest problem. It is estimated that in the UK five million tonnes of plastic are used every year, nearly half of which is packaging.1 Plastic waste does not decompose and can last for centuries in landfill or it may end up as litter, spoiling our environment and harming our wildlife and our sealife.
The UK Government has a 25-year environmental plan and this includes working to a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.2 This seems a long way off and we need to be acting now as individuals. I know we all have a lot to juggle in life: work, looking after family, looking after our health, ensuring we eat healthily, and now trying to think about helping our environment too.
ONE STEP AT A TIME
Small changes are needed one step at a time. This month is ‘Plastic Free July’,3 a global movement helping us to think about decreasing and make changes to our personal plastic use. I thought about some of the ways I try and avoid plastic already:
- Using re-usable lunch boxes instead of plastic wrap
- Reusable water bottles
- Buying toilet paper covered in paper instead of plastic
- Having a veg box delivery instead of buying lots of veg with plastic round it
My girls and I have used our fabric scraps and made handmade bunting for their teachers as an end-of-term present instead of buying something with plastic! But I could go further:
- Using a shampoo bar instead of buying plastic bottles
- Baking bread in my bread machine instead of buying it covered in plastic
- Baking more cakes, flapjacks and biscuits instead of buying them individually packed in plastic
I realise a lot of it is time and convenience in our busy lives. To be able to go to one shop for everything and buy everything we need (covered in plastic!) is very convenient for us. I would love to see more plastic-free shops where you can bring your containers and fill them up with grains, pulses, and nuts. Sadly, these are few and far between where I live. One revamped supermarket has just added an aisle of ‘pour your own’ foods, but the supermarket is an expensive one! Using the local bakers, greengrocers and butchers will help decrease your plastic packaging greatly.
If we made the time, then our diets may be healthier as well. Buying better cuts of meat from the butchers may be more expensive, but in return, it means we may buy less. Baking more of our bread and cakes means we know what has been put in them. Making more of our meals with beans and pulses instead of buying ready meals means we use less plastic. I appreciate that not everyone can do this, so even the small changes will help, such as trying to buy loose fruit and vegetables.
Challenge yourself, look around your home and in your cupboards and see how you can cut down on your single-use plastic products so we can leave our planet in the best shape we can for our younger generations.
Louise Robertson, RD
Specialist Dietitian in Inherited Metabolic Disorders,
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust
Dietitian for the Galactosaemia Support Group UK
and owner of www.dietitianslife.com