As we are enjoying the summer at last here, I notice even more how much plastic waste is accumulating in the bins in the city. Whilst there is a good system of recycling from homes there is none really for public bins and that is where people are putting a lot of plastic waste from smoothie cups and coffee cup lids to straws and ice cream spoons. Bins are overflowing with plastic.Whilst we can put pressure on supermarkets to reduce the amount of plastic they use, there are many steps we can take to reduce the single use plastic we use ourselves. I read last week that Americans throw away 500 million plastic straws a day and that every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence somewhere on the planet.
I recall working on campaigns to reduce plastic waste over 15 years ago when I worked for the Women’s institute and it astounds me that the same campaigns and advice is still needed now. It is easy to look at the huge issue of plastic waste and feel that we are powerless but unless everyone takes even the tiniest of steps themselves there will never be change.
I am as much of a culprit as many others but I do try and takes steps to reduce our plastic consumption and when I don’t I feel a twinge of guilt. So today I thought I’d share some ways you can reduce your plastic waste this summer and beyond.
First up plastic bags. This is an easy and inexpensive one to tackle – cloth bags. Pop into any Søstrene Green and you can pick up a cloth bag of a few Krone, roll it up and keep it in your bag and you will never need a plastic bag again. For heavier shopping bags from Onya are amazing and they pack up into little pouches so you can again keep them in your bag. You can also find these kinds of bags in many shops in Denmark. I bought a selection of these bags about 10 years ago and the first one has bitten the dust this summer. We have a selection of strong cloth bags in our shoe closet so if anyone in the house goes shopping they can simply grab one.
When you are shopping for loose fruit and veg (which isn’t always easy to find this kind of produce without packaging) you can use cloth bags instead of the plastic ones in the supermarket and they can be used time and time again. There are other places that sell these kind of bags but keep in mind you are reducing plastic waste so try and find cloth ones. You can buy them very cheaply in Løs in Vesterbro (as well as package free foods).Coffee cups and lids are an obvious one and again an easy one to tackle with reusable coffee cups. If a coffee shop refuses to use your cup then find one that does – Riccos certainly oblige. You are spoilt for choice with insulated coffee cups here from expensive ones from places like Imerco to cheap and cheerful ones from Søstrene Green, Tiger and supermarkets. Again be mindful about what the cup is made from as you are trying to reduce plastic waste. Drinking bottles are another thing you can buy and refill with water – you can get metal ones easily. You can also get smoothie cups with lids in some shops for that smoothie on the go (not tried to ask the guys in Joe and the Juice to fill one of these but I can’t see there would be an issue).
As mentioned above one time use plastic straws are a huge issue. An alternative is paper straws which again can be found easily in (you guessed it) Søstrene Green. But an even better alternative is reusable straws such as these Eco StrawsWe all love a bit of ice cream in Denmark but think of all those colourful plastic spoons used every hot day. Easy fix is to keep a little spoon in your bag for such occasions. Nothing fancy just something you can wash and use again. Same goes for cutlery you may use with takeout lunch food.
Finally a real bug bear of mine is the little plastic gloves supermarkets provide at their self-serve bakery shelves. There are also tongs there – use the tongs, people and save on plastic, it’s just as hygienic. And if there are no tongs available vote with your feet and money and go elsewhere (after mentioning it to the manager).
I know you are probably thinking that is a lot to carry around but it isn’t really and it makes all the difference to the city and the world around us.
Some other actions to consider are buying things such as washing detergent, hand soap etc in eco bags and filling your bottles at home. Neutral do Eco Pack which use 75% less plastic than a bottle. Also direct action by complaining to your local supermarket head office about their plastic use. Little steps create big leaps.