Most of us know that plastic is no friend to the environment and many of us have already started working to reduce the amount we use. We’ve cut down on plastic bags (#totebaglife) and brightly colored straws all in the hope that we can protect the planet for the future. But you know what I’ve realised recently? Plastic is literally everywhere and it’s actually very difficult to avoid. We’ve rounded up some of the ways that you might be creating plastic waste without even really realising, alongside some tips about what we can all do to cut down on our waste.
Plastic shampoo and shower-gel bottles are some of the more obvious culprits when we think of plastic waste in the bathroom but they are far from the only problem. So many of the products we use are plastic.
Think about how may make-up wipes you get through, lots of them contain cheeky plastic resins like polyester or polypropylene which means that they are not biodegradable. Cotton buds are another particularly offensive product: they are one of the top ten items found on beaches by volunteers for the Marine Conservation Society. The good thing is that alternatives are available! You can get both biodegradable make-up wipes and cotton buds in the shops – you just need to look out for them.
It might be surprising to hear that a conventional menstrual pad contains as much plastic as four carrier bags (!!!) and it can take centuries for pads and tampons to decompose. When you consider the sheer amount of disposable period products that even one woman gets through – each of us can use up to 11,000 tampons in our lifetimes – it becomes clear that this way of managing our periods isn’t the most sustainable.
Reusable period products are an obvious solution to this. Just one menstrual cup can last someone with a period ten years. If you aren’t comfortable with a cup or if they don’t suit your body type then there are still lots of options available. Why not try out reusable pads or period pants? We love the brand Wuka for UK based period pants!
Fast fashion is one of the worst culprits when it comes to plastic. Lots of us love having new clothes and there’s nothing wrong with that, but an issue arises when consumers buy lots of cheap, polyester pieces that they only wear a minimal number of times before discarding them. Polyester is a non-biodegradable material and so that £5 dress from Boohoo will be around for a lot longer than you think.
The other problem that stems from fast fashion clothing is the microplastics that come off of polyester when it takes a spin in the washing machine. Every time you wash clothes that are made from plastics, like polyester, they shred tiny microplastics into the washing machine water (these are so small we can’t see them). When the water drains from the machines, these microplastics eventually make their way to the sea. This is a problem because it causes great harm to marine life and ecosystems. Synthetic fibres from clothing make up 35% of microplastics in the ocean.The most effective thing an individual can do in the face of this is to cut down on the amount of clothes they buy.
Synthetic fibres from clothing make up 35% of microplastics in the ocean. Microplastics are a problem because they can cause harm to marine life and ecosystems. The most effective thing an individual can do in the face of this is to cut down on the amount of clothes they buy.
Want to enjoy a bag of crisps? Plastic packaging. Short on time and need to pick up a ready meal? Plastic packaging. Want a nice, warm cup of tea? You guessed it – plastic packaging. So much of what we eat and drink comes wrapped in plastic packaging that, when you start to think about it, it’s unbelievable.
There is no reason things need to be like this and there is definitely something we can do about it. Trying to avoid products with unnecessary plastic packaging is a great start. When you’re buying your tea bags make sure that the are biodegradable (yes you even get teabags with plastic woven into them!).
Unfortunately there are lots of products that are really difficult to acquire without their plastic packaging; toothpaste, painkillers and chocolate are all things which can be difficult to find without plastic. Even products that come in glass jars, like jam and honey, often have plastic seals around the lid. It’s important to remember that the reduction of plastic consumption is not a responsibility that solely lies with the consumer. It mostly lies with the companies manufacturing products, the shops that sell them and the governments that passes legislation on plastics.
To reduce the amount of plastic waste we all produce a couple of things need to happen. Firstly, we need to make the best choices we can when deciding what products we want to buy. Secondly, we need to use our influence to try and persuade businesses and governments that cutting down on plastic is an important goal. If you’re for action you can take to cut down on plastic right now why not try a menstrual cup – they can be found inThe Cup Effects online shop.
Katrina Gaffney is a Cup Effect Volunteer Writer and a Media, Campaigning and Social Change Masters Student at the University of Westminster. She is an intersectional feminist who cares about human rights and peace campaigning. She also loves baking and can often be found cooking up a storm in the kitchen!