Why should we reduce the amount of plastic we use?

Did you know that in Britain, we use 13 billion plastic bottles every year? Around half of them are recycled, but that leaves 7.7 billion that go unrecycled.

Thankfully, the culture around plastic usage is changing.

At the moment, plastic bottles make up around a third of all plastic pollution in the sea - and they take around 450 years to disintegrate.

What’s more, around 700,000 plastic bottles are littered in the UK every day. It’s a problem, but one we can tackle with some simple acts.

We’ve listed out 15 ways you can help to reduce our collective plastic usage.

reducing plastic tips

Here are some quick tips you can put into action today.

  1. Always bring a refillable water bottle…
  2. ...and a coffee cup, too!
  3. Replace disposable sandwich bags and cling film with tupperware (it’ll keep your lunch better protected, too!) or reusable beeswax wraps
  4. Say no to plastic straws and disposable cutlery
  5. Sanitary and nappy products have plenty of plastic-free alternatives - keep an eye out for them
  6. Consider getting your milk delivered in reusable glass bottles, if you have a local electric float service
  7. Carry a tote or two and save money on plastic bags at the supermarket
  8. Scrap chewing gum. Did you know that most gum contains plastic, talc or latex products?
  9. Avoid food with excessive packaging and use refill stations whenever you can
  10. Reduce microfibres from washing fabrics by washing at lower temperatures or using a specialist washing bag and other techniques outlined below
  11. If you have some single use plastic on you while you’re out and about, keep your eyes peeled for kerbside recycling stations (or just hold onto it ‘til you get home)
  12. Always check the recycled content information on any plastic items you’re buying
  13. If it’s safe and sanitary, pick up any discarded plastic bottles you see lying around
  14. Lobby your local MP, sign petitions and make your voice heard. Find their contact details here.
saving plastic tips

Bottled water: the facts

Bottled water has a huge carbon footprint. It’s over 1,000 times that of tap water. In fact, a 2013 study estimated that it takes 1.39 litres of water to produce a single litre of packaged water.

If we stopped producing plastic bottles, we’d save more greenhouse gas emissions than if we scrapped 1 million cars.

Eradicating plastic bottles entirely might be a little ambitious, but the 65% reduction by 2025 target is certainly doable. It’s set to create over 115,000 jobs, too!

More on Microfibres

When some fabrics are washed, they release small fibres, known as microfibres, into the drainage system. Acrylic, polyester and nylon are the main fabrics involved. These microfibres can’t be captured by sewage works and so end up in our rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. They do not biodegrade, instead they break into smaller pieces and absorb pollutants found in the environment.

Fish mistake them for plankton and so eat the plastics and pollutants, impacting on behaviour and health. The toxins bio-accumulate, concentrating pollutants higher up the food chain and ultimately into the fish we might eat.

The clothing industry is looking for solutions but there are also things that we can all do to minimise the production of microfibres:

  • Fill up your washing machine: washing a full load results in less friction between the clothes so less fibres are released
  • Use washing liquid instead of powder: the ‘scrub’ function of the grains of the powder result in loosening the fibres of clothes more than with liquid
  • Use a fabric softener: some ingredients in fabric softeners reduce friction between fibres so the release decreases
  • Wash at a low temperature: when clothes are washed at a high temperature some fabrics are damaged, leading to the release of fibres
  • Avoid long washes: long periods of washing cause more friction between fabrics
  • If drying clothes is unavoidable, dry spin clothes at low speeds: higher revolutions increase the friction between the clothes, resulting in higher chances of fibres loosening. Put the dryer lint in a bin not down the drain
  • Minimise washing frequencies
  • Consider a specialist washing bag to wash clothes in to reduce microfibres
  • Until the ban on the sale of microbeads comes into force in July, look for cosmetics and personal care products that are microbead free.

Why your reusable coffee cup matters

In the UK, 2.5 billion coffee cups a year are thrown away. Around 1% of them get recycled. Sounds small? That’s because most coffee cups have a coating that means they can’t be easily recycled. Remember: bringing your reusable coffee cup could have a huge impact on our recycling culture.

Reducing plastic pollution is something we can all do together.

Sustainability at WWT

We have a responsibility to future generations to look after our planet. In carrying out our conservation, education and visitor attraction roles, we're committed to having a positive impact on the environment.

Find out more