Everyone has a role to play in preventing plastic pollution. Below are some ideas of how citizens in the general public can take action in their daily lives.
Refusing plastic can be a powerful action that can hold businesses to account.
Public choices change business practices. You can support local plastic free businesses, like zero waste shops, or choose sustainable local products where possible. You can choose not to buy things wrapped in unnecessary plastic. You can buy loose fruit and vegetables or choose cardboard packaged items, and complain when companies use polystyrene. Sachets and other materials coated with plastic can’t be recycled — you can refuse sachets for sauces, sugars, and other products. Ask restaurants or takeaways to provide a dish or bottle of the sauce or other item. Stop supporting companies that create unnecessary plastic waste.
Reusing existing plastic is better than throwing it away.
Find ways to reuse plastic. Not only will this save you money, it will help the planet. Try reusable tubs for storing food in the fridge freezer instead of clingfilm. Reuse shopping bags or takeaway containers. Carry a refillable water bottle with you and use refill stations and shops. And repair faulty appliances instead of throwing them away. Sell, gift or donate unused items instead of throwing them away.
You can choose alternative products to items that are normally made of plastic.
Where you can, choose plastic free or 100% recycled products. These can be things like shampoo bars, soap bars, bamboo toothbrushes, or recycled bottles. More and more products are now being made plastic free, so keep an eye out for easy swaps. Be mindful about appliances too — you could install a microplastic filter in your washing machine.
Recycling is a powerful last resort.
Recycle all items that are allowed in your area by putting them in the correct bin. Check which plastics can be recycled in your local area to make sure you don’t contaminate the recycling with incorrect items or food. You can choose companies that use easy to recycle packaging. Ask supermarkets to collect plastic packaging that can not be recycled in your bin, and make retailers responsible for items that are difficult to recycle. If there are deposit return schemes in your area, make sure you collect and return the items — there are sometimes incentives to do so.
Your plastic litter may end up in a river and then in the sea.
Make sure your plastic waste is put in a waste or recycling bin. Take your rubbish home. You can participate or set up litter picking events in your area, or beach cleans.
The plastic crisis doesn’t stay at home — practice responsible tourism.
Different cultures have different attitudes to plastic so be mindful of this. You can use many of the same plastic free habits abroad. You can refuse plastic straws and stirrers and take a refillable water bottle. In your hotel, you can ask for no mini shampoo or soap bottles, and take refillables with you instead.
Individual action is important — we need change at every level.
In your community, you can lobby for change by writing to your local councillor or starting a petition. Ask the government to act now. Ask companies to act now. Ask for more plastic to be recycled. Ask for more refill stations.
Citizens have a major role to play to ensure that governments are accountable for their actions. Small changes are no longer enough. Bans on some items, like single-use plastics, will not fix the plastic pollution crisis.
Write to your local governing agents or members of parliament to ask that Government action and national policy focuses on:
- Reducing plastic production
- Promotes the use of alternatives
- Design better products for reuse, recycling and repair
- Increase recycling
- Ban plastics that can not be reused or recycled
- Increase control over the export of plastic waste to countries that have limited capacity