None of us need to be reminded of the terrifying problem of plastic and the damage it is doing to our planet. I’ve always been very environmentally-conscious and looked for ways to minimise my impact on the world around me. I am the type to carry a long life water bottle in my canvas tote bag and walk or cycle whenever I can. I recycle everything, my recycling bin is always full! But is this enough?
One day walking around Shoreditch on a very rainy afternoon I came across an advertisement for ‘Plastic-Free Month’ and figured this would be an easy, fun challenge to set myself; well, at least I thought so until I got back home and looked around my kitchen. I had never before considered the number of groceries and products that are packaged in plastic, my home was full of it!
I’ve learned that one of the first steps to becoming plastic-free is to refuse single-use plastics or disposable items, such as utensils, cups, straws, food packaging, coffee cups, water bottles, and plastic bags. It wasn’t an easy start and to help with the transition I started following zero-waste advocates on YouTube and blogs to find out more.
Following their advice, I began to make little changes to my routine, like purchasing a reusable cup for my morning coffee.
The UK throws away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year and not one per cent is recycled. It is time for real action to get rid of disposable cups for good and since I’ve been using my reusable cup every day, I can’t imagine ever going back. It’s such an easy, small way to make a big positive impact on the environment.
The fact that most people put their used cups in the recycling bins shows a willingness from the public to act, and it is the responsibility of businesses to ensure people have the information they need to make informed choices about how they buy hot drinks.
I was so proud of myself to be able to change my daily habit so easily and started researching more. The internet community of zero-wasters is huge; there are almost 350,000 Instagram posts tagged “zero waste.” There are blogs left and right that aim to educate the masses on how to manage plastics with ideas such as zero-waste toothpaste and deodorant.
I am vegan but never really paid much attention to my beauty products and looked to see if they were cruelty-free or natural. I have now started making my own products such as soap or shampoo and try my best to reduce the usage of plastic as much as possible by favouring glass or cardboard packaging.
Trying to reduce plastic waste isn’t easy at all in big cities like London, at least I found it quite difficult. As I’m only a student living on a small budget, shopping at places such as farmers markets which are locally sourced and use less plastic, was unfortunately too expensive.
After hours of research, I decided to talk to my friend Grace who has been living a waste-free lifestyle for a while now and she told me about the Bulk Market in East London, “I went waste-free two years ago and I had an absolutely crazy time trying to incorporate it into my lifestyle,” Grace tells me. “The unique thing about Bulk Market is that you have everything all one place,” she adds.
The zero-waste Bulk Market could undoubtedly be the future of grocery shops. Fewer destinations to hit to get what you need, less harmful packaging and products, more natural and locally-sourced products and, most importantly, less waste.
My plastic-free month wasn’t as easy as I’d expected. I realised how much waste is around me and by doing little things like shopping ditching disposable coffee cups and shopping at bulk markets I can make a difference. However, until the big food companies and supermarkets make changes to how they package their products, trying to be zero-waste seems like an impossible feat for the average person.
All images by Emilia Slupecka.