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What Are Single Use Plastics? And How Can We Reduce Them?

I had a conversation the other day about what constitutes ‘single use plastics’ and to be honest it was a valid question.  I categorise them in three camps:

  1. The mega consumables

  2. The occasional consumables

  3. The empty and throw away consumables

I’ll explain each one and give some examples of products that fit within them to enlighten people to the problem.  Many manufacturers claim to also be solving the issue but I also feel they’re not doing anything at all!  Let’s jump into the detail!

  1. The mega consumables

I categorise these as the mega consumables as in reality any human could contribute several times a day to this plastic waste problem.  In this category are drinks bottles, food packaging, plastic bags etc.  These are the worst problem we have as anyone may drink 3 bottles of water in a day, do their food shopping and take home 6 plastic bags or open a packet of meat and vegetables for dinner in the evening and contribute to the waste problem.

Quite rightly governments and institutions are looking to reduce these contributors by legislating and regulating their use first.  Food and drinks manufacturers are under the microscope to see what they plan to do this reducing the issue.

In our consumerist economies we’ve all become used to the convenience of fruit and veg always being available in our supermarkets as they’re flown in plastic packaging from all over the world.  Generations before us waited to eat specific fruits or veg until they were in season.  I by no means wish for this to stop as it helps growing economies sell produce all over the world, packaging must change.

2. The occasional consumables 

The categories get broader now but are still issues for our environment. The occasional consumables whilst not under the scrutiny of governments and campaigners yet should still be dealt with quickly as they are a massive contributor to our plastic waste issues. The occasional consumables I talk about are products such as car screenwash bottles, drain unblockers etc. They are basically products in plastic containers that are used once, totally emptied then discarded. I call them the 'occasional consumables' as we don't tend to use them daily like the mega consumables above but they are still contributing to the problem and manufacturers must take responsibility.

Whilst you may not want to re-use a drain unblocker bottle due to the nature of the product inside manufacturers must take responsibility for these products. I am yet to see a screenwash bottle that encourages you to re-use it. Responsible recyclers may re-appropriate the bottle to something else however this does not solve the issue.

3. The empty and throw away consumables

Okay - getting broader again. In this category you still have a huge amount of volume so its still a large contributor. This category in my mind is made up of products like washing up liquid, fabric softener, bathroom cleaner etc. These plastics in my mind are still single use to the general consumer just the timescale involved is different. Not many users apart from the environmentally aware re-use their bottles for other purposes. Once empty they are still sent for recycling or in the worst case to landfill or the oceans.

Responsible manufacturers again I feel should be looking to change all of these types of products too. Why not grow your brand and reputation by leading from the front and making a difference!

So this now brings me nicely to my final rant of this blog post. I get increasingly frustrated by manufacturers that are utilising marketing campaigns to try and persuade the wider public that they are doing things to address the problems we face. I'll use an example without mentioning any names, there is a well known brand out there claiming their product is helping our future by utilising over 50% of recycled ocean plastic in their bottle.

Can anyone see why this bugs me so much? We should be working to NO plastic going in the oceans in the first place! Not convincing ourselves that the problem will go away if manufacturers use 50% ocean recycled plastic. How much sea-life could that plastic already have killed before it gets recycled?

Here at EcoBarber working in conjunction with the PPG range of products we want to work towards a sustainable goal of the plastics never reaching landfill or the ocean. In an ideal world we would re-use everything we can then send smaller amounts of waste to responsible recycling programs to reduce our impact.

Let's just hope more manufacturers and businesses start to think this way!!!