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#MiljöMåndag and Reducing Plastic Pollution

It is all over the news these days that our plastic consumption is causing havoc in the environment. We have seen the pictures, we have read the sad stories, and we have all probably seen it in our own streets. But to get to the root of the matter we need to find out why this is happening and how we can stop it. In this little article we are going to break it down and show you that your choices have an impact and how you can cut your plastic consumption in half AND save money in the process.


Marine debris that was washed ashore covers a beach on Laysan Island in the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. (Susan White/USFWS)


Who is causing the plastic pollution?

Well, sadly we all are. Even if we don’t litter, even if we recycle, we are all consuming plastic. It would probably surprise you just how much of it we use every day. Sure, we can blame the waste management systems*, but these systems struggle due to the sheer amount they have to deal with. Waste management systems are measures to reduce consequences of our behaviours, if we change the behaviour in the first place we do not need such measures.

Plastic pollution exists because we consume plastic. Reject plastic and pollution will be reduced!

*Depending on the country you live in, the chances are the waste management systems near you are not doing their jobs in the first place. Recycle plants often reject plastic recycling due to contamination with food and non-recyclable plastics. On windy days waste from public bins is blown and strewn around our cities. In landfill, plastics take thousands of years to rot. In some systems, such as in Sweden, they burn much of their waste, increasing their emissions and causing toxic air pollution. And in many parts of the world waste management systems simply aren’t present.

What does our plastic consumption look like?

Take a look around the room you are in right now. Furniture, crockery, maybe some food? How did you buy these things? In a shopping bag? Delivered home? As gifts? Was it wrapped in plastic? Secured and stuffed with polystyrene foam? Bubble wrap?

In our everyday lives we need plastic. We need it to wrap our produce, to transport our goods, to cover the top of our coffee on the commute in the morning. We need it to store our bottles of cosmetics, to secure our deliveries, sometimes we need it to dress up the look of our product in the first place. But this need has been manufactured for us. We don’t need individually wrapped apples and bananas.We don’t need a plastic bag for every purchase. We don’t need a new bottle for every time we buy shampoo.

It is a bit ridiculous when you think about it.

It was normal in the past for people to bring their own bags and jars when they went shopping. Fruits and vegetables would be washed at home. We would make our own sauces and meals, rather than relying on pre-made products. The plastic packaging boom has infected the way we consume in the name of convenience and we need to change things for the health of the planet.

How do we stop it?

  1. We need to invest our time into making our own products.
  2. Reject excess packaging
  3. Plan ahead for lunches and drinks.
  4. Buy into systems that reuse packaging.
  5. And cook a lot more from scratch.

These five instructions at first sound like a huge burden, but they actually save us money and time in the longer run.

Make your own products!

Check out these three recipe suggestions for making your own body products. They are super easy to make, incredibly cheap, and really good for you!

Simply put, you have a lot of cheap and healthy ingredients for body cleaners and scrubs at home. Sugar and salt are the environmentally friendly alternative to micro plastics. Vegetable oils are a super moisturisers and stretch much further than conventional products.

Baking soda is a SUPER ingredient for washing hair, brushing teeth, cleaning your home and pets. Baking soda with a little lemon and apple cider or white wine vinegar diluted in water can clean your home much more cheaply and reducing the dependence on products. These ingredients are usually available in glass packaging, which is much more easily recycled. They also stretch further in a diluted solution. You can google a variety of recipes, but here are some to get you started: Organic Lifestyle Magazine.

Reject Plastic Packaging!

Refuse the fruit and vegetables wrapped in plastic. Tell your local supermarket if they don’t have unwrapped options. Bring your own bags with you when shopping, especially for the produce you need to pick and package yourself. For less regular items you could ask yourself if you need to buy it new. Furniture, electronics, and clothes are available second hand through local buy and sell groups on facebook, or on auction websites. You can save money and reduce your plastic consumption by buying local and second hand.

Plan ahead!

Making lunches at home seems like a chore, but the time it saves you over lunch from “just popping out” is substantial. Who wants to stand in a queue for a third of their lunch break? If you don’t want to make something fresh each morning, bulk prep for lunch during a free afternoon. Or save left overs from dinner.

Take a coffee with you to work! Calculate how much that coffee on the way to work costs you each morning. On my commute a normal coffee is about 20 Kronor, a latte is 35. In one month I would spend as much on coffee as I could on a date at a nice restaurant.

Buy into better systems!

Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, put it that “Buying is voting”, so make your vote count! Look up options around you. Can you get groceries delivered with less packaging? Is there a bulk buying store near you? Are there shops you can go with your own bags and jars to fill? What about a packaging return scheme store? These all exist and most of them should be available near you. Uppsala, my home city, has bramaten who support local farmers and reject plastic packaging. If these services don’t exist near you ask for them! Write letters and post questions to their social media. It probably doesn’t exist yet because the managers don’t know that consumers want it.

Cook more from scratch!

Make your own tomato sauce. Buy dry beans and chickpeas in bulk and soak them overnight when you need them. Make bread, pasta and pastry from scratch. Make jams and pickles from nearly gone off fruit and vegetables. It actually saves you money in the long run! Bulk cook and save portions for lunches and the ready meals you want after a long day of work. While it make take longer in the kitchen, it saves you time in the supermarket and during the day.

(CNN-Inside Man) Zero Waste

Challenge yourself!

Think about giving it a go for a month and see how much you can reduce your plastic consumption. Let us know how much time and money you save. Check out the Zero Waste Home’s community forum for advice during your challenge.


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