World Environment Day ’23: Let’s beat plastic pollution

Drawing of plastic bag and plastic water bottle on a light blue background surrounded by leaves, bees and butterflies

World Environment Day this year is focused on beating plastic pollution.  Here we will share some easy ways for you to take action on plastic and share some ideas on how we can help reduce its immediate effects on nature. 

How to reduce our use of plastic  

Wealthier nations typically use the largest amounts of plastic per person, and almost half of all plastic is used for packaging (followed by the construction industry and then the textiles industry). So, the packaging is a good place to start when cutting our plastic use.  

Here are three things to have in mind when trying to reduce your plastic use: 

  • Cut: reduce the single-use plastic you buy 
  • Swap: change a product or shop for lower packaging options. Think soap bars rather than shower gel in plastic.   
  • Sometimes stop: Try to stop using single-use cutlery or plastic bags (these tips can be help you save money too). 

Food packaging 

Do we need cucumbers or bananas wrapped in plastic? This is an excellent area to focus on cutting and swapping. Try to choose shops and products where packaging is a minimum. Zero-waste shops are often the best option, but if you don’t have one, try to find local shops which use minimal packaging or paper bags. 

You can also choose products that have minimal packaging. At one extreme, take-away meals are often packaging heavy, whereas buying frozen meals packed in cardboard can be a much lower packaging option. Similarly, fresh food sold in supermarkets often uses plastic packaging, whereas you might swap to a smaller, local store that uses less or different packaging. 

Bathrooms and cleaning 

How many plastic cleaning product bottles do you have in your home? And how many bottles of gels, shampoos, and nice-smelling potions can you find in your bathroom? Using up all your half-used bottles and then check whether you need to replace them is a great way to reduce plastic use and costs. For example, a single shampoo and soap bar can minimize plastic, cost, and clutter. 

Likewise, although supermarket aisles stock hundreds of different cleaning products, it’s worth going for simpler cleaning and using refills.

Out and about  

When we are away from home, it is often harder to avoid single-use plastic. Everything from coffee cups to plastic water bottles and sandwich packs is typically single-use plastics. Here is a checklist to help you have a sustainable day out, and coffee cups and water bottles can be costly and give you what feels like a mountain of single-use plastic to get rid of at the end of each day. 

We buy enough plastic bottles globally to lay them around our planet 8x every day. What’s more, most plastics ever created are still in existence today. 

Keep a look out for that hidden plastic 

Another way to reduce your use of plastic is to develop an eagle eye for unlikely use cases. Because it is so versatile, it is used widely in products, including crisp packs, cigarette filters, fleece, and wet wipes.

Increasingly there are alternative, plastic-free items available, so, if possible, you can go for the swap option here. Or, if not, are you up for the ‘sometimes stop’ approach? 

How to reduce plastic in the environment 

One of the most pressing problems with plastic is that a lot of it ends up as litter and as a result a threat to wildlife. Wild animals can become entangled in it, or eat it, both of which can be fatal. 

Beach cleans and litter picks are a great way to help remove plastic and rubbish that is a threat in your local area. 

And if you want to count up all the carbon savings you are making from picking up litter – use our Litter Picker mini carbon calculator to keep track of all the good stuff you are doing. 

Whatever your starting point, there are always ways to reduce plastic use, so why not try to get involved in World Environment Day.