How can we reduce plastics sustainably this #PlasticFreeJuly?

This month we are celebrating #PlasticFreeJuly, looking into why reducing plastics is important, and championing the progress made to reduce plastics over the past few years.

In recent years, we have all become more aware that reducing the amount of plastic we use can have benefits for the environment. Not only does it potentially limit the amount of plastic that can leak into the environment, for example as litter, it decreases the amount of raw materials needed and the reduced need for new plastic can reduce carbon emissions in production and transit.

Plastics have a valuable part to play in our lives, for example to package food and medicines hygienically and safely, and we cannot simply get rid of them altogether or simply swap to an alternative material. When we do use plastics, it is important that where possible we reuse and recycle them to keep them in the economy and out of the environment – but when and how can we reduce our plastic intake?

Work in progress

The good news is that lots is already happening ‘behind the scenes’. The UK Plastics Pact is an initiative coordinated by WRAP which works with brands, supermarkets, governments and NGOs to make impactful change happen. Since launching in 2018, there has been a 40% reduction in plastic packaging listed as problematic and unnecessary.

This includes single-use items such as plastic cutlery and straws, and UK Plastic Pact members have worked hard to look at other plastic packaging which can be eliminated. For example, Tesco has removed shrink film from multi-packs of tinned foods resulting in a reduction of 350 tonnes of unnecessary plastic every year. Kraft Heinz has also removed all plastic shrink wrap from canned multipacks sold in Tesco. This is saving 175 tonnes of plastic film a year on Heinz Beanz, pasta and soup.

Plastic packaging doesn’t have to be removed entirely to reduce the amount of plastic sold. Work has also gone into light-weighting plastic packaging, where possible, so that there is a reduced amount of plastic in a specific type of packaging. For example, Lucozade and Ribena recently reduced the amount of plastic in their bottles by 1100 tonnes!

What can I do to reduce plastic?

Reuse and refill options are now more available, check out your local shops to see where refill and packaging-free options are available; and remember to take your reusable containers and bottles out with you to make the most of these initiatives. Supermarkets such as Asda and Waitrose are trialling refill stores, so check out what’s available near you. It’s important to remember to reuse any plastics you have as many times as possible – the most sustainable option is the one you already have!

Reducing plastics doesn’t have to be limited to groceries – you can reduce plastic in your cleaning cupboard, laundry, bathroom and bedroom too! A number of popular brands are introducing refillable plastic packaging, for example Proctor and Gamble have introduced a refillable aluminum can for their Aussie, Head and Shoulder, Pantene and Herbal Essences shampoo brands, with refill pouches which use 60% less plastic than their plastic bottles. Ecover offer refills for their cleaning products which significantly reduce the amount of plastic packaging they offer – their bottles can be used more than 50 times and the 15 litre refill carton means less plastic per purchase.

We hope you are inspired this #PlasticFreeJuly – we hope you enjoy exploring your options and finding what works for you!