Admittedly, plastics are impossible to avoid altogether, especially for families and individuals on budgets. But there are ways we can drastically reduce the amount of plastic that we use by making a few tiny changes that will hardly cause any inconvenience.

Image credit: Unsplash

Image credit: Unsplash

But why should we quit single-use plastics? The number one issue with plastic is that much of it ends up in our oceans, killing our ocean life and finding its way into the food chain. It doesn’t matter if you dispose of your rubbish correctly; this won’t guarantee they won’t end up in the ocean as lightweight items often blow out of our rubbish and end up in rivers or directly in the sea. Floods and tides also carry plastics into the sea.

Equally, putting them into recycling won’t keep plastics out of the ocean as much as you might think; only around 9% of plastics actually get recycled and the rest end up in landfill. Instead, try and avoid the plastics that can easily be replaced by reusable options.

Plastic bags

It only takes a gust of wind for a plastic bag to fly out of a bin or landfill site and end up in the ocean either directly or via rivers. Not only can animals get entangled in them and suffocate, but turtles also ingest them accidentally, thinking they are jellyfish, and ultimately die. 

Use canvas totes wherever possible for your shopping and carry reusable mesh bags for fruit and vegetables.

Plastic cutlery

The sharp prongs on forks are dangerous enough, but when they are broken into tiny pieces, they are easily ingested by birds and fish, and are sharp enough to pierce vital organs or give them blood poisoning.

If you’re someone who regularly uses single-use plastic cutlery for takeout, it’s time to stop. If there’s an option for wooden cutlery, use that. Better still, you can buy handy portable cutlery sets that you can carry with you if you are likely to end up getting takeout.

Straws and stirrers

As well as the dangers we’ve already mentioned, straws and stirrers can get stuck up animals’ noses or down their throats, and are not easily blown out due to the hole. We understand the frustration that comes with paper straws though, so we suggest carrying around silicone straws; these are easy to get hold of and fold up easily to go in your bag or pocket.

Coffee cups

Apart from the plastic lid, a lot of paper takeout coffee cups have a plastic lining to prevent the liquid from leaking out. When these cups end up in the ocean, the plastic breaks down and gets eaten by fish, prawns, lobsters and a variety of other animals that may end up on our plate. If our food is eating it, we’re eating it. 

There are so many different kinds of reusable coffee cups around now and many coffee shops provide incentives to encourage customers to bring their own. If you grab a coffee everyday on your way to work, consider going waste free with it.

MORE: Counting down to nationwide Greenpeace campaign to reduce single-use plastics


It’s time we gave up these environmental disasters for good. They are the staple decoration of any celebration from birthdays to christenings but they are terrible for birds and other animals. They are completely indigestible and can stretch around food in stomachs and cause starvation. Stick to biodegradable options instead, like streamers and paper lanterns, or reusable banners and bunting. 

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