At the moment, reducing our plastic waste is probably not front of mind for many of us. However, there are still small things we can do to reduce our impact while supporting local businesses and keeping the kids busy at home! We’ve come up with some simple and easy steps to help you keep on top of your plastic waste under the current circumstances.
One industry which has been impacted particularly hard by reduced customer numbers and decreased demand are our local cafés and eateries. Restrictions on public gatherings and the movement of people have left many of these businesses struggling and going out for a coffee on your morning walk could be a health risk for both yourself and others. Many cafés which remain open are also not accepting re-usable keep cups due to the risk of contamination, meaning we are faced with the choice of supporting local small business or reducing plastic waste.
So what should we do? One possible option to deal with this dilemma is buying coffee vouchers where they are offered. Many cafés and eateries offer these, essentially allowing customers to pre-purchase their coffee, often at a discounted rate. This affords us the opportunity to support these businesses, and when restrictions are lifted, you’ll have pre-paid coffee waiting for you and your re-usable cups! In the meantime, we can try to get our coffee fix at home instead, making use of reusable or compostable coffee pods instead of single-use plastic ones. Even better, use a French press or stovetop coffee pot to avoid using coffee pods altogether.
Another outlet for people to alleviate their isolation boredom has been online shopping. Online customers are helping many stores stay in business at the moment, so it’s something we shouldn’t look negatively upon. Unfortunately, however, online shopping is a major source of plastic waste, particularly through plastic packaging and for the cushioning of products in shipping (e.g. with foam peanuts). However, there are a few ways we can minimise the amount of plastic used to ship our purchases.
Firstly, it’s always a good idea to request minimal plastic packaging under shipping instructions at the online checkout, ensuring the store uses as little as possible and making them aware of their customer’s distaste for plastic packaging. Second, it is also a good idea to do your shopping in bulk, if you plan to continue to buy products from the same place. One large package is more resource efficient than many small ones, as less plastic and transport are required. As a bonus challenge, try to make as many of your purchases as locally as possible, this will support local business and minimise greenhouse gas emissions related to the transport of your goods!
If you’re looking to send products yourself, remember that generic wrapping paper usually can’t be recycled due to plastic coating or embellishments. A great alternative is to use yesterday’s newspaper for wrapping, you can even keep the kids occupied by setting them to work painting newspapers to make their own personalised, plastic-free wrapping paper.
Keeping on top of your plastic waste is a great way to keep in touch with what’s important to you during a time when the foundations of our lives have been pulled out from underneath us. Reducing waste while supporting businesses can be a great source of positivity and keeping the kids busy while you’re at it is just an added bonus. We encourage you to get creative with your own solutions and plastic-free activities! Stay safe and look after one another. Written by Cody Fowler, former student intern at POA and Environmental Science/International Studies student at Monash University.