Ever heard of the Baader-Meinhoff effect? Until this morning, I hadn’t either.
In a nutshell, the Baader-Meinhoff effect is what you experience when you notice or learn something for the first time, only for that thing to start popping up everywhere you look. There’s a similar effect when you think about single-use plastic. It can form part of your daily routine without you being aware of it but, when you are, you notice the many ways in which plastic crops up in all our lives. It’s everywhere.
The question is – how do we avoid single-use plastic?
Here’s a quick guide to help you cut plastic waste from your life...
This is probably the most important step you can take. Being aware of plastic consumption throughout your routine can help you focus on positive steps to make a difference. An example of how this works in practice on a large scale is the UK plastic bag tax.
Since its introduction, the UK bag tax has cut use by a massive 86%. Leaving the 5p levy aside for a moment, even being asked whether you need a bag has an impact. As soon as you start to consider it, you realise that it’s not necessary in most cases. And it’ll cost you if it is. So, you always make sure you’ve brought your own. It’s done wonders for increasing awareness of plastic use. Apply that thinking elsewhere and you can really start to see the bigger picture.
2) Small Steps
Just as you ask, ‘do I need that plastic bag?’, so finding other small ways of cutting plastic consumption is equally important. Taking a cup with you to the coffee shop is a great example.
Disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled. Their interior lining and lids are made of plastic. Billions are discarded every year. But there’s a simple fix. Bringing a stylish reusable coffee cup with you cuts this waste out completely. And what’s more, most coffee chains offer discounts for doing so. You’ll cut plastic, cut costs and your cup will eventually pay for itself. It’s a no-brainer.
This is just one small step you can take, but there are many others. Does that single red pepper in your shopping trolley really need an entire bag to itself? Could that cocktail go without the 4 little straws poking out of it?
3) Finding Alternatives
There are some things that we use every day that we might struggle to replace. This has been highlighted by the UK government’s recent proposals for phasing out wet wipes and cotton buds. Both contain plastic, and one of them is responsible for the creation of giant ‘fatbergs’ in the London sewer system. Gross.
But it’s hard to imagine how we can just do away with these household essentials. A lot of us depend on them. So why not stock up on non-plastic alternatives? As we’ve said previously, bamboo makes a great replacement for the plastic stems of cotton buds and the plastic component of wet wipes. It’s highly sustainable, biodegradable and cruelty-free. It grows incredibly fast, too. Up to 3ft per day, in fact! Crazy.
Shop now to pick up a few things for your home to get started.
4) Being Proactive
Understand that there’s only so much we, as individuals, can do. If factories keep pumping out products with plastic wrapping is that your fault? No. It’s the fault of an industry that needs to catch up, and a government that needs to take firmer action. But think of the progress that has already been made by people like you that continue to make small changes to their routines around the country.
Twenty years ago, recycling and waste were low on the agenda. Now, they’re a part of our lives and the decisions we make every day. That’s not just because of government initiatives. It’s because we all adjusted. We bought into the idea of being environmentally responsible. The percentage of household waste recycled in the UK is now 2% and increases every year.
By taking a similar approach to plastic we can all make a difference. It’s time to get cracking.