I’m sure most of you will have seen the headlines about the huge environmental issues caused by single-use plastics. Plastic, in its many forms, is useful, versatile and cheap to manufacture, however its also harming animals and sea-life and polluting the ocean at an alarming rate.
For example, did you know that 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950s? Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled and the rest sits in landfill sites. The scale of these issues can seem almost too big for us to comprehend, but there are plenty of small steps that we as students can take to reduce the amount of single use plastic in our lives. Here’s a few ideas.
Switch to reusable drinks cups
Most students like to pick up a hot drink from time to time, I know I do! Standard hot drinks cups are hard to recycle, so consider investing in one of the many fun and practical reusable cups that are readily available. Most can be washed easily, and some even can be folded to save space.
Lots of cafes now offer a small discount on drinks if you bring your own cup, so you can get back the value of your investment in the money you save.
Even better, you could consider buying a metal flask for your hot or cold drinks made at home, helping you avoid the temptation of buying drinks at university all together!
Reduce your use of plastic bags
We all know that plastic bags from shops and supermarkets now come with a 5p price tag, but it can be really temping to still grab one when you’re in a rush. Try and carry one or two fabric shopping bags with you wherever you go, even if you think you won’t need it.
I’ve got one that folds into a tiny ball and keep it clipped to the inside of my university backpack, and I think this has helped reduce my use of 5p bags by over three-quarters. You’ll probably find you have some suitable bags lying around at home already.
Change the types of personal hygiene and cosmetics you use
For example, try and buy the bigger sizes of bottled products like shampoo if you can, this will contribute to reducing your plastic waste and often save you money in the long run. Or, even better, try out products from brands who use recycled material in their packaging.
Have a search on the internet for ethical toiletries and cosmetics brands available on the high street, many of these don’t test on animals either so it’s a win-win. In addition to this, if you have periods, try switching to a menstrual cup or reusable sanitary towels, which come in a range of patterns and size and are surprisingly easy to wash in the washing machine.
Lastly, consider getting a bamboo toothbrush, which can biodegrade easily and are less likely to harm sea life when you throw them away.
If you can’t reduce, recycle
Recycling plastic and paper packaging at home can be quite confusing. Local councils often have different rules about what can and can’t be recycled in your dedicated bin, so familiarise yourself with how it works in your area. Remember, if you’re living in student accommodation what can be recycled there may be different to back at home.
There are also lots of hidden plastics in items that you might throw in the bin. Make an effort to donate anything in good condition to charity shops, such as clothes, books, unused stationary, etc.
The University often has collection points for various charity donations throughout the year, so keep an eye out for those, especially if it’s easier than walking to the shops with all your items!
Photo by Takahiro Sakamoto on Unsplash