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Top tips for tackling plastic pollution

Plastics have become the big environmental story of the year thanks to David Attenbourgh and Blue Planet II. Public awareness of the dangers of plastic pollution has never been so high. But how do we approach a seemingly insurmountable problem?

Answers lie not just with our individual actions. They also come from how we engage with the issues as a community. When communities come together to create positive change, a movement is born.

Plastic pollution threatens the environment and our health. Plastic Pollution: Single Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans from SLO active is a great resource for people wanting to learn how. Here are some of our top tips on how we can take action to tackle plastic waste together and help shape the world we want to see.

Campaigns like #PlasticFreeFriday mean you can pledge against plastic as part of a community and movement

Take a pledge

Thousands of people have already made a commitment to reduce their plastic consumption. By joining a community with a common purpose, it’s easier to find the support and direction you need to make a difference.

Friends of the Earth’s #PlasticFreeFriday is a great way to learn from a community of people all taking steps towards plastic-free living. Similarly, Marine Conservation Society is inviting the public to take the Plastic Challenge and ditch single-use plastics for the whole month of July!


Empower your community

There’s a common proverb that if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together. Clean sea campaigners Surfers Against Sewage recognise the power of community in creating impact and are inviting local leaders to drive the transition to a plastic-free community.

The scheme offers practical advice and a toolkit for the first steps a community needs to take (such as how to get schools and local businesses on board) to be designated ‘Plastic Free’.

Reduce use

Some of the easiest steps towards reducing plastic use start with us as individuals. There’s a wealth of information available on the easiest ways to do so, from refusing plastic straws, to ordering milk in glass bottles. Last year we caught up with zero-waste blogger Kate Arnell to discuss the easiest methods she’d found for going waste-free and campaign group Less Plastic have got some fantastic ideas for individual action.


The Triodos Current Account debit card is made from sustainable sources, such as corn starch

Small changes can add up to a big difference, particularly when we add our voices to a common goal. City to Sea began campaigning in 2015 to highlight that our actions in the city had implications for the ocean. Their #switchthestick campaign hit success last year when a number of major UK retailers committed to only sell biodegradable paper stem buds.

They’re now switching focus to other unflushables. Find out how you can help with the campaign.

Get out and about

It’s crucial to reduce the amount we use. But by also helping to reduce the amount of plastic that has already made it into the environment we can help defend ecosystems, educate others, and get healthy at the same time. #2minutebeachclean is a great place to start, while Surfers Against Sewage also organise a Big Spring Beach Clean.

Triodos Bank’s commitment to reducing plastic

At Triodos Bank, we do all we can to ensure our values and mission inform every element of our activities. This is true of our approach to plastic, too.

We have developed one of the UK’s most eco-friendly debit cards for our Personal Current Account. Instead of being made from plastic (like the other 159 million cards currently in circulation in the UK) it is made using a strong biodegradable material made up of renewable resources such as plant leaves and corn.

We were also one of the first water refill points in the UK, offering members of the public the opportunity to fill up for free at our offices and avoid single-use plastic bottles (download the app for a full map of refill stations).

Reducing our impact goes deeper, though: we have ambitious recycling targets, carefully source all of our office equipment from the most aligned suppliers, and are even moving to metal milk churns to avoid plastic milk cartons.

Do you have some top tips for reducing plastic waste? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook.

What do you think of "Top tips for tackling plastic pollution"

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rix pyke 3 years ago

The real problem is that the plastics industry – like the drug companies and the tobacco companies and many other polluting and poisoning industries – won’t let go that easily. The REAL problem has to be ‘how do we stop making plastic at all?’ and the answer is to invest in hemp – which makes all the plastic-type things we need and is biodegradable and grows and nourishes the earth it grows on and so on and so forth.

Donald Pike 3 years ago

A very good start thank you. We must not ignore the plastic flower pot problem – terra cotta is a little bit heavier but so much more attractive. However, here in France the plastic pots can at least be recycled…

Janice Barrett 3 years ago

Education Education Education. Start in schools – show videos produced by agencies promoting this – show clips from Blue Planet , have discussions about it, try getting children involved in the problem-solving, talking about litter, make plastics from biodegradeable products, provide more bins on school routes. Its a start!

jo gibson 3 years ago

So many ways we can try – from buying plants seasonally – out of the ground – not in pots. Using our own containers for buying food, transporting stuff, getting coffee etc. Make your own fizzy drinks, sauces, jams, liqueurs and salad dressings – pack them in re-used jars/bottles (good for presents too!) Save any packaging and re-use, if you won’t re-use it, take it to a charity shop and they’ll use it. Use bubble wrap to insulate any pipes or cold spots. Cut up any old synthetic clothing and make rag rugs. Save any plastic containers you do get and use to store non-food items, crafty bits, tools, screws and nails – tidy it up! Use charity shops FIRST – recycle all that stuff. Need a pair of boots, some walking trousers, a basket or a stereo… – keep looking – it will turn up.

Barbara Haigh 3 years ago

Thanks for the article. A question – What can you store food in the freezer in? At present we use plastic boxes.

Reply to Barbara Haigh
Nigel 3 years ago

So do I but multiple times
I Wash zip lock and re use
I use glass For the rest – fridge / store
I carry multiple washed cotton Cartier bags
Refuse all plastic in stores

clean the local beach several times a week according to tides – big tide means more plastic left

Rosy Jones 3 years ago

We’ve stopped going to our local ASDA for vegetables as they’re all wrapped in plastic, and now go to a greengrocer. It is further away, and more costly, but it’s certainly reduced our unrecyclable plastic waste.

Reply to Rosy Jones
Nigel 3 years ago

That’s a good step. We need more local greens but will only keep them if she shop there

Susan Seymour 3 years ago

Buy toothbrushes with exchangeable heads Yaweco or with wooden handles.

Patrick Cosgrove 3 years ago

Write to your MP about it – regularly

Tim Ellis 3 years ago

We need to cut down our use of plastic certainly, but in the short term it is important to see that all plastics are recycled, or at the very least binned. If you see plastic litter, pick it up!

Reply to Tim Ellis
Nigel 3 years ago

Agreed but recycling isn’t working
Most of uK was being shipped to China ( 500,000 tons of mixed goes to Sweden and UK pays – they burn it to heat homes
China managed it badly and the Yangste river dumps 1.5 million tons a year into the sea
They have closed the door on imports but have their domestic mess

so now countries have a huge issue – Uk supermarkets generate 1 million tons a year and most from the back of the store
Government not interested to act – big talk means nothing
The only solution is refuse Plastic

Mandy McIntosh 3 years ago

What about encouraging re-use? At my fair trade shop fair2all in Ashby de la Zouch I offer a refill service for Ecover Washing Up Liquid, Laundry Liquid, Fabric Conditioner, Hand Wash, Delicate Wash, All Purpose Cleaner and Floor Cleaner. Many of the containers I refill are at least ‘two designs’ old making them many years old but still are usable to hold the liquids.
Mandy McIntosh fair2all, 17 Bath Street Ashby de la Zouch LE65 2FH

Annie 3 years ago

More pressure needs to
Be put in the manufacturer if all plastic goods and real recycling if manufactured goods needs to happen not the pretend recycling they we have now … where we dump
Our waste on other countries …
We need political will to charge the manufacturers … for damage to the environment but sadly I don’t believe that will happen …

Mary Venning 3 years ago

Helpful. Greening Beeston is collecting and disseminating ideas such as these. Thanks for setting the ball rolling.

Bill Martin 3 years ago

When will supermarkets stop putting all their soft drinks in plastic bottles?

Sue Harrison 3 years ago

Well done for highlighting this vital issue. At Plastic Free Abergavenny we are working hard to change people’s behaviour and give up single-use plastic products and packaging.

Gary J Vaudin 3 years ago

Around 159 million debit/credit cards made of plastic currently in circulation? Perhaps Triodos could encourage and influence fellow banking institutions to switch to the more environmentally conscious alternative.

Andrew Korsak 3 years ago

Some good ideas

Alan 3 years ago

Surely we must find a replacement for plastics first. Which is environmentally friendly. At the same time finding a reusable way for all this waste plastic. So this will have to be a 50 year plan. But what will the big Question be “Who’s going to pay for it” us?.

Donna 3 years ago

Yes, we all need to change. How about good old paper banknotes instead of the new plastic ones?

Paul Cryer 2 years ago

Having read the comments below, I whole heartly agree with the points, but I believe there is an issue that most overlook. Since 2011 I have been focussed in delivery of a mixed waste plastics extrusion plant, ever since delivering a product from a european manufacturer which was not available in the UK.
Now you may say that this is good and well meant, but what is overlooked in all the comments is what polymers are being recycled as most just see plastic as a product. hopefully this may explain a few things:
Thermoset, or thermosetting, plastics are synthetic materials that strengthen during being heated, but cannot be successfully remolded or reheated after their initial heat-forming. This is in contrast to thermoplastics, which soften when heated and harden and strengthen after cooling.

So why my interest well we have a constant melt flow system that will allow a true mixed waste process from bails of cleaned plastic through to extrusion of product, which we have seen delivered into the market. But from my perspective I cannot raise the finance to deliver a full plant as this is in excess of 2.5 M and beleive me I am still trying.. So if anyone has any ideas or wishes to get involved please get in touch.
Regards Paul Cryer 3B Ecological Group Ltd

betty 2 years ago

Ban manufacturers from producing plastic packaging in the first place ! we sometimes haven’t any choice when buying products.

+ Show all 23 comments