Things we are doing to reduce plastic consumption, a London family

A little bit of context – the Plastic issue!!! 

Of course we have all heard of the Plastic Issue and how it keeps growing fuelled by every day consumption and in particular single-use and disposable plastic items. Only about 10% of plastic waste is recycled with the rest of it ending up in landfill or in the oceans.

The forms and shapes of the plastic pollution are numerous and it is part of our job as parents to work with kids to find ways to contain it and overtime make it smaller and eventually make it disappear. (Is that really even possible??)

As an adult I believe that policies and governments have a strong role to play in guiding the market, setting boundaries around production and putting the needs of future generations, first before any other types of consideration.

However as an adult I also know that markets dominate in today’s economies and what can be sold, is produced and whatever happens with the by-products left behind, is an after-thought.

The issue of plastic has never been as big as now because we have come to realise that the plastic we throw away will not go anywhere else, it will always be somewhere.

The first question to resolve (for me) would be to ask why do we produce what we are not capable of recycling?? And the answer is far more complex than I can explain here but there is a great article The Plastic Backlash that explains the history, the major production players of plastic and how closely plastic production is linked to fossil fuels and companies that produce both. 

And there is good news – the Attenborough effect

A recent report has referred to the “Attenborough effect” following the ‘David Attenborough’s acclaimed TV series Blue Planet II and Our Planet, released on Netflix, which has encouraged people to reduce the amount of disposable plastic they use. Considerations of sustainable materials are becoming more common when it comes to choosing items we consume.

What do we do as a family? 

This is what we do as a family to try and reduce our contribution to the plastic excess, and  by all means we are not perfect. At the end of the post, I will also list other resources that are far more competent than me with relevant facts and practical suggestions.

  1. Plastic bottles – we really think twice (or even more) before buying one. In fact I do almost everything for us not to buy one. I always have a water bottle in my bag and when we’re out and about, I ask to refill. No cafes or pubs, ever say no to a “thirsty child”! Even at airports there are refill stations or I ask cafes or restaurants directly. And you can carry an empty water bottle with you through security to refill at the other end!
  2. Plastic bags – we have bags on us before going to the shops. We keep all plastic (wrapping, grocery bags, delivery bags) in a separate box and give it to the delivery man that collects it after delivering our online shop without plastic bags.
  3. Plastic containers – I really don’t know what to do with them, as meat, sausages, fish almost anything fresh from the supermarket comes in them and they are not recyclable. I know that I could buy meat from the butcher (but its expensive) and also reduce our consumption of meat (which we do, to once or twice a week).
  4. Plastic straws – we have discussions all the time about them and I have bought a kids book “Finn the Fortunate Tiger Shark and his Fantastic Friends” that tells a great story of how fish are affected (in their stomach) from plastic pollution. In fact I gave the books as birthday “party bag” presents one year, instead of the “plastic tat” that every parent complains about (and wastes money on). Order bulk copies of that book, and help fight the Plastic Monster and raise awareness. Also you will make the writer of the book Georgina Stevens happy and over the moon (she is a local mum in Roehampton).
  5. Snacks and crisp bags – that’s a hard one as every kid is so used to having an own individually wrapped snack that it’s a hard battle to fight. When I can, I bake (cookies, cake) and put them in a box from our delivery boxes stack. For crisp I try and choose ones that come in just a plastic bag (again hard as there are so few that do not come in a metallised plastic film). Crisps and snack bags are not currently recyclable (!!) and the amount of bags Walkers crisps alone produces in its Leicester factory is 7,000 bags every minute. Walker have committed to making their packaging 100% recyclable by 2025, having produced in the meantime an additional 28bn plastic crisp packets by that date! Walkers have set-up collection points all over the UK where crisp bags of any brand can be collected. Let’s go and try them out.
  6. Presents – the amount of plastic contained in a present is one of my main consideration often and I tend to buy books/non plastic/ethically made presents to friends and family. Handmade items from other counties that are produced ethically and sourced by local entrepreneurs in London such as Boho Homes, a great ethical online shop of homeware ad gifts.
  7. Single use coffee cups – despite not being recyclable they are sold everywhere although the alternative of using your own re-usable coffee cup is being incentivised by discounts on the coffee. On the other hand the market of beautiful and valuable reusable coffee cups is huge and it has been grasped by Ecoffee who want to democratise reusable coffee cups as“the perfect product for the Instagram generation.”
  8. Educate grand parents and others – kids are very sweet when it comes to introducing behaviour change and by commenting on things that can help raise awareness against the Plastic Monster, in their own innocent way.

Resources and useful links 

Ways to reduce plastic use as family in London 

https://foodism.co.uk/guides/ways-to-reduce-your-plastic-usage-in-london/

Reducing plastic as a family is easy, the National Geographic 

https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/environment-and-conservation/2018/06/reducing-plastic-family-easy-heres-ho, w

Take action, educate and involve school, Kids against Plastic  

http://www.kidsagainstplastic.co.uk

Refill station in Tooting Market that has everything from food, to toiletries, detergents, accessories

https://byo.london 

A Greener Tooting, a blog and campaign raising awareness and suggesting practical swaps 

Boho Homes, a social enterprise that brings incredible, qualitative ethical products for your home

https://www.bohohomes.co.uk