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A New Spin on Single-Use Packaging

By Hollie Moxham

Wednesday 20 December 2017 Student Journalists

We are living in a world of single-use, disposable packing; from the bags at your local supermarket, to the cups at your nearest coffee shop. It’s a habit that encourages littering, endangers wildlife, and creates tonnes of unnecessary waste. Your single-use plastic bag will stay in the ocean far longer than it will take you to carry your shopping home.

We’ve compiled four simple ideas to help reduce the impact of single-use packaging on the environment, and bring sustainability into your life.

1. Reuse your bags

Every year, eight billion tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, and a lot of this will be consumed by marine creatures. Since introducing a carrier bag charge to the UK, six billion fewer single-use bags have been bought, meaning less danger to our marine species, and a more sustainable way for us to shop. Most retailers now sell reusable ‘bags for life’, which they will replace for free if they rip or break. But we could take this even further by using fabric tote bags for our weekly shop.

2. Recycle your bottles

Coca-Cola have recently launched a new advertising campaign to remind us that 100% of their packing is recyclable – including their bottles, cans, lids, and even the glue used on their labels. But that statistic is useless if only half of the packaging gets recycled. We can all help by being a little more thorough when throwing our cans and bottles away – whether that’s walking a metre further to the nearest recycling bin, or separating our weekly waste.

3. Replace your cups

Seven million single-use coffee cups are thrown away every day in the UK. The plastic lining used in these cups means they can’t be recycled, creating 25,000 tonnes of waste a year. Instead, they can be replaced with ceramic travel mugs. These can be reused again and again - and as an extra incentive, some coffee shops may even offer money off when you bring your own cup.

4. Remove your straw

Single-use straws are used for 20 minutes and take around 500 years to decompose: it’s extreme waste for minimal convenience. This is why NUS have launched The Last Straw campaign, to encourage us to say ‘no’ to a straw, or replace it with a reusable one. Support the campaign by signing the NUS pledge linked below, and share the hashtag #TheLastStraw, to spread awareness.

Thousands of marine animals and seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic or getting stuck in packaging, and around 80% of that plastic comes from our rubbish. Single-use packaging makes up a huge proportion of this. If we can reuse our carrier bags, recycle our cans and bottles, replace our coffee cups, and remove single-use straws, we could save the lives of marine wildlife, and encourage a more sustainable lifestyle.