10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Use While Saving Money

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By Cai Bradley
Updated on Thursday 30 May 2019

Turtle swimming next to plastic bags in the ocean

Recycling and plastic waste have become recurring topics in the news stories we’re fed every day, with the country’s big companies now feeling the pressure from environmentalists to use less plastic and encourage more environmentally-friendly lifestyle choices, and rightfully so.

In the last few months, Morrisons doubled the price of its reusable plastic bag in order to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced by the store, and Scotland announced plans to introduce a 20p deposit on plastic bottles, which will be refunded if the bottle is returned.

It’s with good reason that these changes are being made, as recent research has produced statistics that would open the eyes of even the most stubborn of plastic users.

Here are some of those statistics, which reiterate the true impact of plastic pollution and why we should work towards reducing plastic usage in the UK:

  • Plastic pollution is now found on every beach in the world (regardless of how remote it is)

  • Around 5,000 items of plastic pollution is found per mile of beach in the UK

  • Of those examined, plastic pollution was found in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabirds

  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, and 1 million seabirds are killed each year as a direct result of plastic pollution

  • By 2050, there is expected to be more plastic than fish in oceans

  • It’s not just animals that are affected – the average person eats 70,000 microplastics each day

So, you’re probably ready to find out how you can use less plastic to save our oceans and our environment as a whole. Here, we give you a list of the best ways to reduce plastic use while also saving yourself some money – it’s a win-win situation!

How to Reduce Plastic Waste UK

There are many ways that an individual can reduce the amount of plastic they use and we’re here to show you how to do just that - while saving you money at the same time!

1. Refill Your Water Bottle for Free

Plastic bottles are amongst the main sources of plastic waste, with the UK using an estimated 36 million bottles every single day. So, instead of buying and throwing away bottle after bottle, we urge you to refill a reusable drinking bottle or flask using the many free water stations dotted around the country.

There are apps available, such as the free ‘Refill’ app, which list cafes, restaurants, shops and other businesses that allow people to refill their own bottle for free, regardless of whether they’re a customer or not. 

Costa and Premier Inn are two of the many companies that you can get a free refill from without being a customer, as part of the nation-wide campaign to get 10,000 free refill locations in England by 2021.

Many airports in the UK and beyond are also offering water fountains nowadays, allowing passengers to refill their own bottles once they’ve been through security – avoiding the hefty airport prices, saving money and reducing their overall plastic use.  

2. Reuse Plastic Bags and then SELL them!

Shockingly, around 2 million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide, and although the average time a plastic bag is used for is just 12 minutes, they can take up to a thousand years to decompose!

Here at Compare UK Quotes, we urge you to reuse old plastic bags (in whatever way you wish), take your own bags shopping with you, or even use a ‘Bag for Life’ (see Tip 3).

Reusing old plastic bags can even reduce the cost of your weekly shop, with both Morrisons and Ocado rewarding customers who return their plastic bags when they shop online. You simply hand over your used plastic bags to the delivery driver (any supermarket bag for Ocado, but Morrisons only accept their own), and you’ll receive money off your current order.

The plastic bags you return are recycled and made into new bags, meaning that you save money, recycle, and reduce your plastic use all in one go!

3. ‘Bag for Life’ Schemes at Supermarkets

As we mentioned above, supermarkets have been offering ‘Bags for Life’ for quite some time now, which are often made of stronger materials and can be reused for longer.

If your ‘Bag for Life’ breaks, you'll be offered a free replacement, meaning it really is a bag for life, rather than a ‘bag for a few months’.

4. Use Refills of Coffee, Herbs, Soap and Air Fresheners

All sorts of products can be refilled, including air fresheners, coffee granules, herbs, and hand-wash, which not only allow you to save money, but also reduce the amount of plastic waste in some cases.

This method of reducing your plastic use does generally depend on the product, as some refill packaging can produce plastic waste and others don’t, but it’s certainly worth considering and experimenting with.

There are also eco-friendly, plastic-free alternatives to almost all products, including toothpaste without plastic packaging, and plastic-free moisturiser. It’s all out there, you just have to look for it!

5. Replace Shower Gel with Bars of Soap

Bars of soap are better value than shower gel products, as they last longer and have far less plastic packaging, so switching from hand-wash and shower gel bottles to bars of soap is an easy way of reducing your plastic waste and saving money.

6. Discounted Hot Drinks with Reusable Cups

If you get yourself a reusable cup, you can get up to 50p off takeaway drinks with Pret A Manger, 30p off Starbucks, and 25p off Costa and M&S cafés. You can get your own reusable cup for as little as £1, so you make your money back in discounts pretty quickly, and you obviously reduce your plastic waste by a significant amount as you aren’t throwing away lids and fused plastic cups!

7. Let Go of Cling Film – Get Reusable Wraps

There are now plastic-free alternatives to cling film in the shape of beeswax and soy wax wraps, and they actually work! They are made from wax, cotton and resin and are reusable, as well as biodegradable. The wraps surround containers and food but, unlike cling film, can be washed, dried and reused for around 12 months.

They cost around £4 each and £10 for a multipack of three, so they’re not cheap initially, but they are a far more cost-effective and eco-friendly alternative to the endless rolls of cling film that you’d be using otherwise. 

8. Buy in Bulk to Reduce Packaging and Save Money

It’s no secret that, generally, the more of an item you buy, the cheaper it will be per unit. Buying things based on the ‘price per unit’ isn’t a bad idea at all, and when you buy larger packs, you’ll typically throw away less plastic waste. 

9. Recycle As Much As Possible!

Regardless of how hard we try, we’re always going to end up with some sort of plastic waste in today’s day and age, and recycling is quite simply one of the most important things you can do with this waste in order to reduce the harm it does.

Not only is it great for the environment, but you could also save yourself some money, with Scotland announcing their plans regarding a 20p deposit scheme on bottles and the UK Government stating that it will follow suit. You also risk being fined up to £60 if you put rubbish in the wrong bins and don’t recycle properly, which doesn’t really benefit anyone.

10. Reuse Before Recycling

We’ve mentioned the importance of recycling, but before you do so, make sure you get the most out of your plastics by reusing them.

You can reuse plastics in endless ways around the house and in your daily life, for example, reusing mesh packaging bags to pick up loose fruit and veg, and using plastic containers for a variety of gardening and DIY activities. One of the most common is using larger containers to store tools, nails, screws and so on.

How to Use Less Plastic in the UK: Summary

So, now that we’ve given you our top 10 tips for using less plastic and reducing your plastic waste while saving yourself some cash, you should be able to make some very small lifestyle changes to make a big difference in the long-run. If everyone in the UK adhered to these waste-reducing tips, a clear difference could be made in the next few years.

Going completely plastic-free could probably be done, but it would require a considerable amount of thought and effort, and it could actually increase your costs in some ways, rather than cut them.

More realistically (for now, at least), we feel that people must try to reduce the plastic waste they produce by being cautious of their purchases, and by reusing as much plastic as possible in their every-day lives.

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