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How Can We Reduce Single-Use Plastic?

Research carried out by Censuswide has found that 69% of people in the UK want to help the environment more, but three out of four aren’t sure how to go about it. Half of the 2,020 adults surveyed believed that the best way to help was to recycle more. Recycling is certainly an excellent way to save valuable materials from disposal and convert them into new products. However, even better still is reducing waste in the first place. This can be especially difficult when you’re out and about, but that’s where we’re here to help…

Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly is single-use plastic? Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. These items are things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, coffee cups, water bottles and most food packaging.

Plastic doesn’t immediately biodegrade (water bottles can take 450 years before breaking down into microplastics), it can end up littering cities, and eventually contaminating oceans, and water supplies.

Low Plastics Zones

We are working with our boroughs to create positive action amongst individual residents, businesses and local communities in a series of Low Plastics Zones around north London. We’re encouraging businesses to reduce the use of excessive and unnecessary plastic and work towards being low plastic. If more than 50% of the shops in an area are also low-plastic compliant, the area will be certified as Low Plastic Zone. You can find out more about Low Plastic Zones here.

Seven simple ways you can break free from single-use plastics:

There are plenty of practical and cost-effective solutions that you can easily implement in your daily life to cut down on single use plastics, including visiting your borough’s Low Plastic Zone. You can also watch our video and try these top tips to help you reduce your plastic waste.


Carry a reusable shopping bag

Plastic bags are a big environmental problem. Don’t contribute to plastic waste and take a carrier bag with you when leaving the house. It will also save you the cost of 5p a bag to take your own bag to larger stores. Try keeping one carrier bag at your office desk, one in the car and one right by the door to avoid forgetting them when you go shopping.

Use reusable water bottles

Saving money and reducing plastic waste is as simple as switching to a reusable bottle. Disposable plastic water bottles can cost up to £2 each, so even buying one plastic water bottle per week could add up to around £100 over the course of a year. Wherever you go, take your reusable bottle with you. t’s a great way of reducing single use plastics while keeping yourself hydrated. If you want to check where to refill your bottle on the go, you can check the refill app. There are hundreds of refill points across London.

Ditch the coffee cup

In the UK more than 7 million disposable coffee cups are used daily. Cups are normally made of tow different materials that can’t be recycled unless separated and processed through a specialist scheme. We all love to grab a coffee on the go, but disposable cups are one of the main contributors to single-use plastic waste. If you still want to enjoy a freshly made brew, don’t forget to take your reusable coffee cup with you. Many north London businesses are giving out discounts to customers that bring their own coffee cups.

Plastic straws and coffee stirrers

When sipping on your favourite drink, avoid using plastic straws and coffee stirrers. There are plastic free alternatives like compostable straws, wooden coffee stirrers or even reusable steel straws that you can take with you in your bag. More businesses are going for more environmentally friendly options like plastic-free straws, or keeping plastic straws under the counter to avoid unnecessary waste.

Choose washable cutlery

You can ask for no disposable utensils (or use your own cutlery) when you order takeout or pick up your lunch at your favourite deli.

Better in bulk

Buy items such as milk, sugar, butter, jam and condiments in larger (ideally refillable) containers or dispensers rather than individual single use portion packs. These items are normally more cost-effective and reduce packaging waste compared to single-use portions.

Avoid pre-packaged foods

More and more businesses are offering refill options to customer who bring their own containers to cut down packaging. If you don’t know any shops nearby that offer refill options, try shopping for products that use recyclable packaging, buy loose fruits and veggies.  


Top 5 single use plastic items people found it hardest to reduce or eliminate – and tips to help:

  • Thin film packaging: Usually used to wrap fruit, veg and meat. Increasingly shops are removing these so buy loose when you can and bring your own reusable food wrap, such as beeswax wraps, or net bags to pop loose fruit and veg into.
  • Punnets or trays: These are usually the base for fruit, veg or meat. Many supermarkets will now allow you to bring your own reusable containers – just make sure you weigh loose items before you put them in the box. If you can’t bring your own, try and avoid black or dark plastic trays – as often found in ready meals – these are usually not recyclable.
  • Water bottles: Most people now own one of these – the trick is to remember to take it out with you. Try leaving it near your front door or handbag as a reminder.
  • Carrier bags: As with water bottles, it’s a case of remembering to take them with you. Try leaving a set in your car boot or near the front door so they can’t be forgotten.
  • Food on-the-go: Increasing numbers of cafes and takeaways are allowing customers to bring their own containers. You could also consider buying a set of bamboo or small metal cutlery for use on-the-go. And if you’re ordering from home, refuse the plastic knife and fork!