It can seem like single-use plastics are everywhere. But what are they? Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are normally used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. This includes things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, coffee cups, water bottles and most food packaging.
The environmental impact of single-use plastics is significant. Many disposable plastics end up in the general waste stream, rather than being recycled, wasting the vast quantity of resources used to make them.
Millions of tonnes of single-use plastics also end up in the environment. Here they break down into microplastics, contaminating the soil and marine environment, and eventually entering the food chain as they are consumed by animals on land and sea.
Avoiding single-use plastics isn’t easy, especially when out and about, but there are many ways to do this.
Switching to a reusable water bottle saves money – buying one plastic water bottle a week could add up to over £100 a year – and reduces plastic waste. You can check the Refill app to find hundreds of water refill points across London.
Disposable paper coffee cups normally include a plastic layer to make them waterproof, which makes them very difficult to recycle unless collected through a specialist scheme. Reusable coffee cups prevent plastic waste and can save you money, with many coffee shops such as Starbucks and Costa offering discounts for customers bringing their own coffee cups.
Try to also avoid disposable plastic carrier bag waste by using a reusable carrier bag for your shopping instead. If you have trouble remembering to take your bag with you when you pop to the shops, try keeping one at your office, in your car and by your front door.
Try Zero Waste
More and more Zero Waste shops are springing up across north London where you can buy plastic-free alternatives to everyday single-use plastic items, such as compostable or reusable metal straws, or fill up on food products using refillable containers.
The USELESS site has created a map showing you the nearest Zero Waste shop to you and providing tips on how to reduce your waste.
Low Plastic Zones
NLWA is working with our boroughs to create positive action among residents, businesses and local communities in a series of Low Plastics Zones around north London.
We’re encouraging businesses to reduce the use of unnecessary plastic and work towards being low plastic. If more than 50% of the shops in an area are also low-plastic, the area will be certified as Low Plastic Zone.