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Can you live without plastic to help the environment?

Written by Vicky Martin

Think twice before grabbing yet another plastic bottle from the fridge.

Staying hydrated on the go is great for your health, but we should be aware of the negative impact plastic bottles have on the environment.

Almost half of the plastic bottles we use in the UK are just thrown away and sent to landfill rather than recycled, equating to a massive 16 million plastic bottles every day – based on data from the Recycle Now campaign group.

The group suggests that this number could even reach 29 billion by the end of 2020, which puts enormous pressure on landfill and has dire consequences for marine life.

Refill for free

Are we doing enough to prevent plastic being sent to the dump? Can we limit the amount of plastic we use in the first place?

One person doing just this is Bristol-based environmental campaigner, Natalie Fee. She abandoned her media career to set up Refill, a campaign that persuades businesses to allow people to refill their water bottles on their premises rather than throw them away.

Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses simply put a sticker in their window alerting passers-by they’re welcome to come in and fill their water bottle on their premises for free. There’s also an app to help thirsty people find their nearest refill location!

Sister schemes have since launched in Hamburg, Bonn and other German cities.

Brexit bad for the environment?

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP, believes the EU has played a key role in protecting the environment and will continue to do so with circular economy goals for all member countries by 2020.

Yet, outside of the EU, she believes the Tory government will be unable to keep up with these standards and the, “UK risks becoming an off-shore pollution haven.”

According to Pieter Depous, policy director at the European Environmental Bureau: “The frequently touted ‘low tax, low regulation’ economic model suggested by Conservatives will most likely result in lower domestic fees for producer responsibility.”

He believes this will lead to “fewer incentives to manufacture reusable and recyclable packaging solutions, which will in turn lead to more resources being used and more plastic ending up in the ocean.”

Not all bad news

It’s not all bad news, however.

WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) believes significant improvements have been made in recent years around creating a circular economy for plastics.

This includes a sharp increase in recycling of plastic packaging (up more than 50% since 2009) and the introduction of mixed plastic collections by the majority of local authorities (up to an estimated 67% in 2014/15).

WRAP has also estimated the level of waste will drop by 20 million tonnes, the amount of material reprocessed in the UK will rise by 15 million tonnes, and landfill is projected to drop from 40 to 15 million tonnes.

WRAP Chief Executive Marcus Gover has also said the UK’s household recycling rate will reach at least 75% within the next 25 years.

We might not all be as passionate as Natalie Fee, but we all use plastic bottles and packaging almost every day. Before grabbing another plastic bottle from the fridge or shop, consider whether you have one already that you could reused, or have a drinks bottle that could be reused daily.

We can take the time to be more mindful of our actions and consider the consequences – after all, we’re just one of the millions of people buying bottles day in, day out.

For advice around plastic recycling and improved waste management for businesses, contact our team to protect our land, oceans and the environment – and save money too.

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WRAP has estimated the level of waste will drop by 20 million tonnes.
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Where next?