A wake up call to reduce our plastic use

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We were sat on a cross channel ferry, my two daughters, my wife, mother in law and I. We’d made a mistake with the time of our ferry crossing. To ensure we’d get to the port on time, the five of us had bundled out the house and into the car without eating breakfast.

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I’ve been taking steps to reduce our plastic use because it had got out of hand.

All of us were hungry. We rectified this once on board the ferry by ordering large breakfasts, enough food to see us through before we arrived at our guest house later on that day. Something, however, was bothering me about the food in front of us.

There were five of us, but seven plastic bottles between us for drinks and milk. On top of that there were plastic containers for the various spreads the kids were having on their toast.

Yes, it was the amount of plastic that was bothering me. It’s a material that has become so pervasive and it’s something that I’ve come to notice since moving house.

We moved to a new family home back in June. Before moving, we had several massive clear-outs. I found myself taking a lot of plastic items to the local recycling centre. It was clear to me we had to reduce our plastic use.

Once we started unpacking boxes in our new place, we came across even more items that we simply couldn’t justify keeping. Once again, I found myself taking items to the local recycling centre, many of them plastic.

At the start of the summer holidays, I found Helen and Izzy were frequently asking for drinks when we were out and about. I’m usually quite good at taking reusable drinks bottles with us, but there were several occasions we didn’t take any. I was staggered at the number of drinks bottles we would get through on these occasions.

More than once I opened the car door only for plastic bottles to fall out the car and onto the pavement. It bothered me a great deal because I was trying to reduce our plastic use, yet because of my own poor planning we could get through several plastic bottles in an afternoon.

I’ve spoken to Helen and Izzy about recycling and its importance for the environment many a time. I’ve had some success getting them to understand the importance of leading an environmentally friendly lifestyle but I’ve always felt I could do more. Intent on reducing our reliance on plastic, I went visual. We sat down together and watched a few YouTube videos about the impact of plastic on the oceans and marine life.

It had the desired effect. They no longer like plastic carrier bags and are trying to avoid single use, plastic drinks bottles or when they do consume such drinks, they re-use them in art projects instead of instantly recycling them.

Having noticed that a lot of our plastic recycling was made up of milk bottles, I’ve arranged for us to have milk delivered. There’s something quite nice about having milk delivered to your doorstep and the range of items you can have delivered is much more diverse than it used to be (fresh fruit juice, bakery items, bacon etc.).

This has led to a noticeable reduction in the amount of plastic we’re using. Better still, the milk bottles aren’t recycled, but reused which is even more efficient.

Interestingly, in our old house we had a large American-style fridge-freezer. We’ve moved to a house with a small fridge and separate freezer.

You might think that having a smaller fridge and freezer is less efficient, but it’s stopped us buying too much food. When you have the space, you tend to fill it, or that was certainly our experience. We exploited all those buy one get one free offers and then ended up throwing lots of the food out because it went out of date before we could use it.

With less space to fill, we’re getting through smaller amounts of food at greater speed and there’s less food waste and therefore less packaging and plastic waste as a result. We didn’t plan it this way, but it’s worked very well in terms of reducing the waste we produce.

I know reducing plastic is all the rage at the moment. Maybe the publicity surrounding plastic has made me more reflective about my family’s own consumption. Combined with all the rubbish we’ve cleared out while moving house, I think I’ve become very aware that as a family, we need to reduce the amount of plastic we rely on.

I won’t mince my words. The amount of plastic we were getting through was obscene. We’ve got more work to do to get it down further still, but at least we’ve made a start and have foundations to build on.

Does your plastic consumption bother you? Have you taken steps to reduce the amount of plastic your family uses? If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you’ve done so we could share ideas.


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