5 ways to reduce your plastic usage in London
Finding it difficult to erase images of the Great Pacific garbage patch from your mind? Alleviate the burden by making a few small eco-friendly changes to your city lifestyle
Last year’s nationwide outcry at a heart-wrenching moment in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II provoked many companies and organisations to ditch plastic straws in search of sea-safe alternatives. There has been talk of a potential law to ban the sale of the environmental enemy but as of yet, no conclusion has been reached. But even without the threat of punishment, Attenborough’s uncanny ability to pull on the nation’s heart strings has led to an overwhelming response by the British food and drink industry. Big names like Costa, McDonalds and JD Wetherspoon have already vowed to steer clear of them with many others following suit.
Coinciding with a gargantuan effort by many coffee chains to reduce non-recyclable cup usage, it seems environmentalists are making some crucial, long-awaited breakthroughs. Given that plastic consumption is at its worst in densely populated cities, we thought it would be useful to offer Londoners some tips for reducing their own usage and living as plastic-free as possible. Oh, and there’s the added bonus of saving a few pennies, too.
Reusable coffee cups and water bottles
Recently, Millenials have been advised that if they hope to buy their own home before they reach 30, then they really ought to cut out the avo-toast and £4.00 skinny-lattes from their lives. As far as good reasons to invest in a reusable cup go, this is clearly at the more selfish end of the spectrum. But with many coffee outlets offering decent reductions on their drinks when you provide your own cup, it would be foolish not to take advantage. Add to this the poor recyclability of the average disposable cup and it’s hard to justify not owning one! Oh, and that plasticy after-taste? According to the satisfied customers of Ecoffee cup, that’s a thing of the past, too.
Water, on the other hand, is a little trickier to sacrifice. Unlike coffee, it’s not so much an extravagance as a basic human need, and, occasionally, we all find ourselves dehydrated in the city and living with that very British problem of being too damn polite to ask a local shop or restaurant to refill our water bottles. Instead, we suck it up, buy another one, down the contents and ditch the bottle in the nearest bin. This habit is not only costing us a ludicrous £1.60 a-pop, but with the average Londoner getting through 175 plastic bottles per year, it’s taking its toll on the environment too.
Well, luckily for us, a couple of smart cookies have created a solution to the problem. They’ve done all the awkward asking around so we don’t have to, and as a result, there are now 2,000 refill stations scattered around the city where you can fill up for free. All you need to do is download the Refill app and invest in a decent water bottle. If you’re feeling really charitable, we’d suggest the Chilly’s Refill bottle as half the money from your purchase will be donated to the refill campaign.
We don’t know if you’ve noticed a pattern forming here but, unless you’re the kind of reckless human that will happily give an additional 5p of your hard earned cash to supermarket giants every time you shop, you should probably get yourself a tote. They’re generally inexpensive, in fact, we’d be surprised if there’s anyone left in the world who hasn’t at some point or other been handed one with a promotional pen, lollypop and unwanted stress-ball inside. If you’d like yours to reflect your impeccable taste in wine, perhaps this one by Noble Rot from our guide to the finest London food merch to get your hands on will pique your interest.
The move away from the plastic, whale-killing variety has given rise to some curious creations like the pasta straw - cheap, biodegradable and edible if you’re a fan of the really, really al dente variety. For those of us without a pasta machine (or the ability to keep a strand of spaghetti intact for more than five minutes) perhaps a more durable alternative is in order. Stainless steel, bamboo, glass, silicone, and acrylic are all good options and widely available online. For hygiene purposes, we’d suggest going for one with a wire cleaning brush.
Packaging free shops
Even with all the smart swaps listed above, it sometimes feels like we’re fighting a losing battle when we enter a supermarket, tote in hand, only to find that some imbecile has decided golden delicious apples simply must be couched in a polystyrene tray and sealed in plastic wrap. If this sort of thing infuriates you, perhaps a trip to one of London’s many zero-waste shops is needed to reaffirm your faith in humanity. These places have done away with packaging and stripped everything back to basics. High quality produce. None of the frills.
Of course, if you do decide to go packaging free, you’re going to need some nifty containers – unless you plan to transport rice in your coat pockets, that is. Meal-prep containers are a good way to go because their handy compartments mean you can store a variety of products in each container without mixing them up. Tupperware is also a great way of avoiding food waste. Instead of scraping them in the bin, you can package up your leftovers in airtight containers and bring them to work for lunch. Another benefit of that? Yep, you guessed it, more money in the bank at the end of the month.
But sometimes even Tupperware is not enough to rescue your food from an early demise. If you often find yourself throwing out produce that you haven’t gotten round to eating, there are a couple of handy inventions that could help you cut back on food waste, too. Whilst cling film is a godsend, sadly it’s no friend to the environment. But the guys at US-company Bee’s Wrap have come up with a natural alternative made of beeswax, organic cotton, jojoba oil and tree resin. Check out the handy map on the website to find your nearest in London.
And you know that sinking feeling you get when you go to eat those raspberries you only just bought and they’re already coated in fur? The Eco-egg team have been working to make that a thing of the past. Using technology that’s been used on cruise ships and in supermarkets for years, they’ve created a disc that absorbs the ethylene gas released when food rots to maximise the fridge-life of your fresh produce. Lasting three months and costing just £5.99, this is yet another eco-friendly, purse-friendly no-brainer.