Background

Single-use products are products that are only used once before they are thrown away or recycled. Our need for convenience has made the use of throw away items a normality. Huge amounts of resources and energy are used to create these products and some of them take hundreds, even thousands, of years to break down; this all comes at a huge cost to our planet.

Plastics are often used to create single-use products and, thanks to programmes such as Blue Planet II and Drowning in Plastic, we’ve all seen the devastating impact that plastic can have on our environment. Of the 320 million tonnes of plastic we produce globally every year – the same weight as every human on Earth! – around 50% of this is intended for single-use purposes. Although likely to have only been used for a few moments, these single-use plastics are destined to pollute for centuries.

Reducing Single-Use Plastic

We can all help to combat plastic waste by reducing the amount of single-use plastics that we use. From reusable cups to shampoo bars, there are lots of easy ways to reduce our plastic consumption.

Here are 3 simple ways to get you started:

  1. Say no to straws; unless you need to, say no to straws in drinks, alternatively why not consider a reusable straw. There are ones available made from paper, metal, bamboo or even glass.
  2. Swap plastic shopping bags with reusable ones. Reusable bags can be made from canvas, hessian or you could even make your own from old clothes.
  3. Buy a reusable cup or bottle. Some coffee shops or cafes will even offer a discount if you purchase a takeaway drink in your reusable cup.

For more ideas, please take a look at our Single-use Swaps sheet.

If  you have a plastic free tip or have reduced your single-use plastic why not let us know on facebook and twitter.

What's the problem?

  • The production of plastics contributes to climate change. Drilling for oil and processing it into plastic releases harmful gas emissions into the environment
  • Around 50% of plastics are only used once, then thrown away. In addition, only about 9% of the plastic that has been produced since its invention has been recycled
  • Plastic in the environment will never degrade in a natural way. Once thrown away, plastics break down into tiny fragments called micro-plastics – these can never be cleaned up properly
  • Micro-plastics can be found on most of the world’s beaches, in oceans, soil and even in the air we breathe. These micro-plastics could end up in our food chain and, although we don’t yet know the full impact, there is potential that this could cause harm to human health
  • Around 8 million tonnes of plastic flows into the sea every year – the equivalent of a rubbish truck load of plastic each minute. This is harming marine wildlife (through injury and accidental ingestion) and destroying habitats
  • Plastic bottles are the third worst plastic polluter of the ocean and more than 13 billion single-use plastic bottles are sold in Britain each year
  • Because of ocean currents, plastics and other rubbish can gather together in areas called gyres. The North Pacific Gyre is twice the size of France!
  • Scientists predict that, if nothing changes in our plastic consumption habits, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight)

Did you know?

The average UK household uses around 500 plastic bottles per year, but only recycles just over half of them.

Bottles make up 67% of household plastic packaging collections, including soft drinks, cosmetics and household and cleaning products. That’s 21 million bottles collected for recycling, which is only 58% of the plastic bottles that are used in households!

ALL types of plastic bottles can be recycled, including those used for cosmetics, shampoo, shower gel, juice, water, fizzy drinks, squash and more!

In Norfolk you can also recycle plastic pots, tubs, trays and punnets, that’s packaging items such as yoghurt pots, ice cream and margarine tubs, meat trays and fruit punnets. Just remove any shrink wrap and film and any absorbent packing or bubble wrap material.

Norfolk’s PET plastic bottles and HDPE milk bottles are currently recycled to make new food grade rPET and rHDPE bottles – making it a closed loop system.

Please make sure any plastic container or bottle is clean, dry and loose (not bagged) before it goes in your recycling bin.

So WHY Recycle?

Recycling decreases the need for raw materials, which helps save energy and carbon emissions:

  • It takes 75% less energy to make a plastic bottle from recycled plastic compared with using ‘virgin’ materials.
  • Recycling 1 tonne of plastic bottles saves ¾ of a tonne of carbon – this is the equivalent of travelling nearly 2,500 miles in car/taxi/motorcycle.

Plastics can be recycled into so many items! Clothing, t-shirts, toys, chairs and tables, headphones, kitchen utensils, paint pots, car parts, soft cuddly toys, filling for duvets and sleeping bags, pens and pencils, building materials such as fencing, flooring, piping, etc, garden furniture, buckets and of course, more plastic packaging … the possibilities are endless!

 

Did you know your favourite team maybe wearing football kits made from recycled plastic bottles?

How many bottles, on average it takes;

  • 8 recycled PET bottles make a football shirt
  • 3 recycled PET bottles to make a pair of eco headphones
  • 1,500 recycled HDPE milk bottles to make a picnic bench