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Plastic Free July: Welcome to Kitchen Nightmares - plastic edition

Author: Rebecca Moseley (Socitm Advisory Consultant)

Socitm Advisory are dedicated to reducing their use of single-use plastic within our organisation and within our staff's personal lives. As part of showing our support for Plastic Free July, we have put together a series of blogs throughout the month giving tips and information on how to reduce your use of single-use plastic that we are following too.

Did you know humans consume around 52,000 micro-plastic particles a year, and that number increases if you regularly drink from plastic bottles and cups?

We have all seen the envy inducing zero-waste Pinterest kitchens that have elaborate pantries with shelves of uniform mason jars. But having an eco-friendly kitchen doesn't have to be that hard, reducing plastic in your kitchen is exactly that, reducing plastic. Going zero-waste overnight is for many an unachievable goal, as plastic and waste are both so deeply woven into all aspects of our lives. This makes it all too easy to unconsciously buy, use and consume plastics constantly throughout any given day. Here are a few useful hints and tips to help you move away from plastic in your kitchen and continue our Plastic Free July theme!

Tip 1: BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)

The first and most obvious tip, is to not use plastic carrier bags when shopping. In 2016, prior to the plastic bag tax, research suggested that the average person in the UK used a total of 140 single-use plastic carrier bags a year!

The years following saw an 86% reduction in plastic bag usage which is coupled with a greater awareness surrounding the detrimental effects of plastic on the environment, yet 1.75 billion bags were still sold between 2017 and 2018. This amounts to £87.5 million being spend on plastic bags!

With the huge number of reusable bags available coming in all different shapes and sizes there is no reason not to have at least a few in your household. Advances in the production process have made them even stronger and more compact with many reusable bags coming with their own little storage compartment meaning you won't even notice them in your handbag or coat pocket.

There are even easy tutorials which show you how to make your own individual tote if you're fed up of having the same bag as everyone else and want to take your sustainability journey a little further - bonus points if its made from upcycled material!

Tip 2: Go for unpacked or zero-waste food items

Although we are aware of the plastic that is filling up our supermarket shelves there are more sinister health implications that come with coating our food in plastic. A recent study highlighted that humans are ingesting ever increasing amounts of micro-plastic particles and these may start to have noticeable health effects.

These particles come from the breakdown of plastic products over time. Plastic is non-biodegradable and is in fact photodegradable which means that it will not ever break down into the soil rather it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. These are known as micro-plastic particles and they are entering into all areas of our food chain. One of the key areas that scientists saw these particles coming from was plastic food wrappings. The 2019 Environmental Investigation Agency and Green Peace report highlighted the increasing plastic footprint that notable supermarket chains have created. Over 900,000 tonnes of the stuff is produced annually.

To reduce this there are lots of options, these include opting for unwrapped fruit and vegetables that you transport with you via your own reusable containers. All supermarkets will have "unwrapped" versions of their produce, however if you are unable to find what you need then why not pop down to your local market and support independent fruit and veg stalls (you'll usually get a better price and locally grown produce too)!

But if you're busy and unable to travel there are always delivery services, similar to normal supermarket delivery services - these systems offer fruit and veg boxes that are deliverable (package free) from a local seller, weekly or monthly. Like visiting your local farmers market there are usually options to include milk and eggs as well, again all local grown. Find your local seller here:

Tip 3: Switching out plastic in your home

Around 8 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year and scientists predict that y 2050 this plastic will outnumber fish! This alarming statistic supports the need to change our plastic consuming behaviour and opt for a less permanent product (with your average plastic bottle taking about 450 years to photo-degrade).

Looking in your cupboards now it would be normal to see plastic sports bottles and lunch boxes but look further at the items you didn't register as plastic? Plastic spice bottles, plastic spatulas or tongs? It is these items which can be slowly swapped out over time for more sustainable options such as glass or bamboo, both of which are easily recycled or composted and will reduce the quantity of plastic that is present in your kitchen. Many wood, metal and silicone alternatives are available which tend to be more durable, longer lasting and in my opinion, very aesthetically pleasing.

Tip 4: Use eco-friendly cleaning products

The final and most exciting tip is reducing the level of harmful plastic that comes with cleaning supplies. Understandably, cleanliness has been on the forefront of many people's minds during the pandemic and it has been disinfectant wipes and sprays that have kept us safe in our homes. This shouldn't be compromised but there are low waste versions available. Here are just some:

Oceans SaversOcean Savers are a company which opted to step away from the 29 million tonnes of home care plastic that is produced every year and source a plan-based, non-toxic zero-waste alternative. Eco-drops are high concentrate solutions which dissolve in water and create cleaning products you would normally expect to come in plastic. There are a variety of types such as anti-bacterial spray all the way through to toilet cleaner.

Clean RevolutionAnother great option from Amazon, Clean Revolution delivers a similar product. Here you are able to purchase high concentrate products which can then be used up to a maximum of six times before they need to be replaced. Again, reducing waste however this time, not entirely.

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