Thornton’s Budgens in North London has become the first UK supermarket to introduce a plastic-free zone.
Around 10% of the world’s annual 260 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean, reports plastic-polution.org. To put that into perspective, the World Economic Forum announced that as of 2016, one garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the ocean every minute.
With that in mind, it is no wonder that environmental advocates the world over are campaigning to reduce single-use plastics, and to recycle existing material into anything from backpacks to yoga leggings. Unfortunately, many types of plastics are made from mixed materials, and are therefore difficult to recycle, leading them to be abandoned in landfill instead.
But how does landfill end up in our oceans? The WWF explains that as plastic is being transported to landfill, it is often blown away due to being so lightweight, and via drains and natural waterways such as rivers and streams, can be carried to the ocean. The sad thing is, that many animals can’t distinguish between plastic and food, and over 180 species of marine animals have been found to have consumed some kind of plastic.
Luckily, it’s not only activists that are working to reduce plastic waste. Thorton’s Budgens is a ‘community supermarket’ in London, and has made national news this week by being the first supermarket in the UK to introduce a plastic-free zone. The Telegraph reported that over 1700 lines have been converted to non-plastic packaging, and that the store’s owners are promising to make the store “virtually plastic-free” in the next three years.
Budgens’ franchise owner, Anthony Thornton, told The Telegraph, “We’re hoping that what we’re doing here will challenge the likes of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and others.”
“As soon as one of them turns round to the big producers such as Coca-cola, Heinz or Unilever and says ‘unless you stop sending us products in plastic, we’re not going to stock them’, change will come very quickly.” – Anthony Thornton
The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle was launched in the Netherlands earlier this year, and the fact that plastics can take centuries to degrade means that curbing their usage is one of the best ways to slow down what some scientists are dubbing the ‘Plasticene Era’.
Here are some tips on how you can reduce your plastic usage in simple, everyday ways.
1. Swap out the plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one
Bamboo is a fast-growing type of grass, and is a great alternative to plastic thanks to its multiple functions. Bamboo is strong enough to build with, and can even be spun into fabric for anything from t-shirts to socks. Bamboo toothbrushes are relatively easy to find, and a purse-friendly alternative. Check out the many options online.
2. Invest in a keep cup
Coffee on the go is a treat that many of us wouldn’t want to give up. However, the disposable cups it comes in often have plastic lids that can’t be recycled. Try investing in a keep cup from your favourite coffee shop, or the multiple brands online. It’s a stylish and eco-friendly way to get your caffeine fix on the go, and some coffee shops even give you a discount for using your own cup. Bonus!
3. Try out the local grocer’s
Chain supermarkets often sell their vegetables in plastic wrap. Why not check out your local market or grocer for a wrap-free experience, or try and do one shop a week where you only choose plastic-free veggies from your regular supermarket. A little goes a long way, and you could also be supporting a local small business that will be very grateful for your custom.
4. Tote a tote
Tote bags are not only sustainable alternatives to plastic bags, but are darn cute while they’re at it. Get one with your favourite band, film, or your pet’s face on. They’re easy to fold up, so you can keep a stash of them in your car, your regular handbag, or even your coat pocket. The sky’s the limit with totes, and the oceans will thank you.5. Bring your water with you
And finally, the dreaded water bottle. Staying hydrated is of course essential, but if you can cut down on the amount of plastic bottles you buy, you’ll feel the difference in your heart and in your wallet. Not unlike reusable coffee cups, refillable water bottles are all over the high street and online now, so there is a plethora of style and budget options.