10 (easy) things you can do to reduce your plastic use

Who's been watching the new series of Blue Planet II? 

We absolutely love this new series and the wonders of the ocean continue to amaze and surprise us. It's the perfect Sunday evening viewing but we cannot ignore that our oceans are in trouble and in need of our help.

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It is estimated that there is a minimum of 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans (Pollution Solutions) which is a huge threat to marine life and humans. Large pieces including fishing nets can strangle or entangle animals such as seals and dolphins. Extensive swathes of plastic can block sunlight for algae and plankton, which are vital for the survival of other species. As the first crucial step of the food chain, a threat to these microorganisms is a big concern for the future of marine ecosystems. Smaller pieces can be ingested by fish - allowing harmful substances to travel up the food chain, and ending up on our plates. In reality, we do not know how this is affecting our health.

sad biology GIF by PBS Digital Studios

Now, it’s up to us to make a change. We have done some research and found 10 ways that you can make a difference.

1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics

Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.

2. Make safe, sustainable Seafood choices

Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable. You can look for brands that are sustainably certified or special terms such as "line caught", "diver caught", "sustainably caught" or "sustainably harvested". Alternatively, reduce the amount of fish you're eating and use replacement products - we've tried Linda McCartney's vegan scampi and Quorn fishless fingers, YUM!

3. Stop buying water

Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter (you will also save money - it's a win-win). We especially like these Swell bottles - https://www.swellbottle.com/stories/about-us/

4. Boycott microbeads

Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products (facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes) might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.

5. Cook more

Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.

6. Buy your Christmas presents from Ocean Conservation Charities

Check out these websites where you can buy gifts for your family (or yourself!) AND donate money to ocean conservation. Christmas shopping and saving the world is as easy as that.


7. Recycle (duh)

It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.energy environment GIF by Mighty Oak

8. Put pressure on manufacturers

Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.

9. Help take care of the beach

Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups. Find out more on this site:  https://www.sas.org.uk/our-work/beach-cleans/

10. Spread the word and share this post

Tell people what’s going on with the world’s oceans and what they can do to make a difference. Spread the word, share this post and talk to your friends. If you would like more information or support with any of these things then please contact thegreenteam@uwe.ac.uk 

Thank you for reading!

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