Pat Kane Founder of reuzi.ie and sustainable living coach looks forward to 2021
Over the past two years, I’ve watched an incredible transformation of our society in the fight against single-use plastics.
Ireland made progress on banning plastic bags, shifting from single-use plastic cups and straws to paper products and compostable alternatives.
I watched the rise of sustainable living with people from all sorts of backgrounds – encouraging people to carry their own reusable cups, bottles, bags, cutlery in an attempt to reduce the amount of rubbish each and every one of us generate on a daily basis.
As a sustainable living champion coach and business owner, I watched people make conscious efforts to vote with their money – vote for a better world. Not only are people removing single-use plastics from their lives but I have also witnessed a shift, people choosing to shop locally over ordering from giant dot-coms with warehouses based thousands of miles away and to choose quality over quantity and so on.
I’ve seen people letting go of plastic straws switching to metal straws, or giving reusable nappies and menstrual products a go.
But then, Covid-19 happened.
Our society has become dependent on masks, gloves and little hand sanitiser containers. We have been told that single-use plastic cups, containers and utensils are our safe bet against health concerns prompted by the pandemic.
Although they may be convenient, single-use plastics create long-term and most likely, permanent environmental issues. An average plastic bottle may take roughly 500 years to decompose.
So here are a few ways to avoid single-use plastics during the Covid-19 crisis.
In Ireland, only a third of recyclable plastics will get recycled. A more sustainable solution would be to purchase one reusable water bottle or invest in a water filter for your home. Not only does this avoid single-use plastic from piling up in landfills, but it also sets an example for the people around you.
Reusable Coffee Cups
I hear a lot of people saying that their local cafes are still not accepting reusable cups. A way to avoid that is to order your coffee in a mug and then pour the coffee into your reusable cup.
I am getting sick of cooking at home and have been picking up food from our local restaurant as a ‘weekend treat’. If you decide to order takeaway, bring a reusable container with you.
I’ve been hearing a lot of parents reporting that their schools and montessoris are not willing to accept reusable lunchboxes. Instead, they’ve asked parents to pack their kids’ lunches in disposable plastic bags. If you don’t want to kick up a fuss but can’t bear the idea of sending a plastic bag a day to your kids’ school, I’d strongly suggest you grab paper sandwich bags and even compostable bags and adjust the menu according to it. Remember: this is a temporary move for the greater good.
Although the vast majority of shops do offer paper bags, you don’t want to be caught empty handed having to take a bag home just because you forgot yours at home. My go-to tip is: keep reusable bags in your boot to avoid the use of single-use ones altogether.
It’s been reported that the UK government suspended its 5p plastic bag fee – introduced in 2015 – for online supermarket deliveries during the pandemic. Which accounts for a lot of plastic bags: Tesco, for instance, said online sales for delivery rose by 48.5% in the three months to 30 May.
If you do decide to shop online, please be mindful of packaging. Choose businesses that make an effort towards the reduction of single-use plastics and at checkout, leave a message – “Please do not use single-use plastics when packing my order”. The more we say it, the more businesses will hear it and realize that we will no longer tolerate unnecessary plastics.
The sales of soap – all types of soap – has risen dramatically over the past few months. People are buying tons of liquid hand soap packaged in plastic bottles. What happened to the good old soap bar? Prioritise soap bars over plastic bottles of soap, if you can. There are wonderful Irish made options out there so have fun looking for your favourite!
Masks, Gloves and Hand Sanitiser
This combo became a part of our daily lives, that’s a fact. But fear not, there are ways to avoid single-use plastic items when it comes to protecting ourselves while protecting others. Nowadays, almost every store and pharmacy offer reusable and washable cloth masks. When it comes to gloves, choose compostable ones – and do make sure you dispose of them correctly i.e.: the brown bin. And lastly, hand sanitiser. How many bottles have you bought over the past 3-4 months? I know someone who gathered over 30 bottles! Refill stores across the country are offering to refill your existing bottles, avoiding you having to buy one more plastic bottle and sending the old one into landfill!
Reuse is king and what we should be aiming for at all times.
The one thing I am sure of is that the problems we face are problems for us all; they are not yours, they are not mine, they are ours. And together with the right focus, they can be solved.
All of the items mentioned above are available at www.reuzi.ie