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Plastic Free July 2021

Learn more about the swaps you can make to be plastic free.

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Hand crushing plastic water bottle

Reducing waste can be daunting, especially when plastic is such an unavoidable part of life. Plastic can take up to 500 years to fully decompose, and at the rate we’re going there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish by 2020. One of the biggest issues is that it’s the cheapest and most convenient choice that we have at the moment, and opting for the more eco-friendly option can often mean spending more money. On a student budget this isn’t always practical.

Your brand new Activities & Community Officer Tom Guilbert-Newell is particularly passionate about the cause and left you this quick message of encouragement:

"Hello everyone we are in Plastic free July now, this means we must focus on reducing our single use plastic usage. Of course we should strive to always be reducing our use of plastics however it is a difficult endeavour and sometimes unacceptable to many. This month I ask for you as students to think about what you are throwing away, whether it be wrappers for your vegetables, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, etc and what you could actually replace with reusable items. There are so many ways we can as students to reduce our plastic use so please go to Plastic Free July – Be Part of the Solution to learn more and take the month to reduce your single use plastic waste. In the end you may find it easier to have reusable items on hand for everyday activities. Thank you everyone!”

Scroll down to see what you can do as a student at Keele to help reduce your plastic consumption!

In the Kitchen

European household food waste nearly doubled between 2004 and 2014, whilst plastic packaging rose by more than 25%. Going food shopping these days can feel overwhelming if you’re trying to reduce your plastic waste, so here are five ways you can go plastic free in the kitchen!

  1. Buy loose fruit and veg instead of packaged ones. Not only will you only purchase the amount that you need, but unpackaged products tend to be cheaper.
  2. Don’t be fooled by ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘3 for 2’ offers. Ask yourself, do you need that food item? Will you be able to eat it before it goes off? Whilst we all love a bargain and it can sometimes be cheaper to bulk buy, we can drastically reduce our plastic waste by only buying what we need.
  3. Look out for Zero-Waste shops! Did you know we have our very own here at Keele SU? It’s been closed during the pandemic, but Weigh-To-Go will be reopening in time for the new academic year. Here you can buy anything from rice, pasta and even milk – without a single bit of packaging! Simply bring your own jar or tub and fill it with what you need. Places like Weigh-To-Go are popping up everywhere these days, and some major supermarkets have started introducing zero-waste sections too. The giant Marks & Spencers in Wolstanton has one!
  4. Switch to plastic free sponges for washing dishes. You can buy plastic free, bio-degradable and vegan sponges, scourers and brushes for doing your washing-up, which often last longer than their plastic cousins!  They also look really wholesome and make washing the dishes *slightly* less of a chore. You can also get refillable washing up liquid and plastic free dishwasher tablets. Why not pay a visit to Weigh-To-Go or check out local businesses like RefillRewind at the Newcastle-Under-Lyme markets.
  5. Swap your sandwich bags and clingfilm to plastic free alternatives. There are loads of options around these days from bamboo tubs to beeswax wraps. You no longer have to resort to flimsy, disposable plastics to keep your food fresh!

In the Bedroom

Huh? What? Plastic in the bedroom? It’s not the first thing we think of when considering how much waste we produce, but plastic can be sneaky and creeps up on us in the most unexpected ways. Did you know that the clothes we wear and the bedding we wash are one of the greatest sources of plastic in the ocean? Roughly a third of it comes from microfibres released from fabrics when we wash them, and the rise of cheap, fast fashion means that 60% of the clothes we wear are made from polyester. A fleece jacket alone could be responsible for releasing as many as 250,000 microfibres, so how do we avoid this?

  1. Buy fewer things. A lot of us have emerged from lockdown with a slight addiction to online shopping, whilst we have a wardrobe full of clothes we haven’t worn since before the pandemic. The longer you wear your existing clothes, the kinder you are being to the environment (and the more money you save!)
  2. Wash your clothes less! Yep, this might sound gross, but a lot of people wash clothes out of habit or routine. Try to only wash synthetic fabrics when you have to – when they are actually dirty. Not only will this make them last longer and save you money at Circuit Laundry, but it vastly reduces the amount of microplastics being released into our oceans. When you do wash your clothes, make sure you do a full load and try using the ‘eco’ setting. There are also a rising number of plastic-free laundry detergent options these days. We love using Smol!
  3. Re-use, mend and upcycle. Don’t throw something away because you lost a button or there’s a hole somewhere! Learning how to mend your clothes is a valuable skill that will save you a lot of money, and can also be really fun. Why not jazz up an old pair of jeans with a bit of embroidery, or embellish your old jacket with a fabric patch or some colourful buttons? Keep a look out for Crafternoons here at the SU, as there will be opportunities to learn skills to mend your own clothes and even spruce them up a bit!
  4. Purchase natural materials. They’re often better quality, last longer and don’t release a loaf of microplastics when you was them! Yes, they can sometimes be more expensive but they will likely last a lot longer than cheaper, polyester versions.
  5. Shop second hand. Everyone loves a bargain, and charity shops are so underrated! You can find some absolute treasures by shopping second hand. We love Dougie Mac in Newcastle! Not only will you be saving money and rescuing clothes from landfill, but the money will also go to a great cause. Also look out for traveling fairs like the Kilo Sale and Lou Lou’s Vintage Fashion Fair.

In the Bathroom

There are lots of ways we can be more sustainable in the bathroom, from taking colder and shorted showers, turning off the tap when we brush our teeth and remembering to switch off the lights. But making these simple changes to your bathroom habits will also drastically reduce your plastic consumption!

  1. Use soap bars instead of bottled products. Bars of soap are making a comeback! They often last longer and usually come in plastic free packaging, or sometimes with no packaging at all (looking at you, Lush!) Better yet, if you ask your family to search their cupboards, you might find a huge stash of unopened soaps from Christmas gifts over the years that will last you ages without having to spend a penny. Shampoo and conditioner bars are also increasingly popular and accessible. We sell them in Weigh-To-Go, but popular brands like Garnier are also starting to follow the trend!
  2. Consider switching to a bamboo toothbrush. This might seem like a strange swap if you’ve never heard of them again, as toothbrushes don’t immediately spring to mind when thinking of plastic waste in the bathroom. Dentists tell us to get a new one every three months, so just think how much plastic is going to waste! You can buy bamboo toothbrushes from Weigh-To-Go, but they’re also increasingly accessible in local shops and major supermarkets.
  3. Ditch the face wipes. Or at least use plastic free biodegradable ones! 93% of blocked sewage pipes in the UK are caused by flushed wipes, which is just gross. They’re full of plastic and are generally not brilliant for your skin. You can now buy snazzy alternatives like reusable face pads, which you can also make yourself if you’re feeling crafty!
  4. Choose to have a plastic free period. Disposable menstrual pads can contain up to 90% plastic, and 2 billion menstrual items are flushed down Britain’s toilets every day. In the UK, people who menstruate spend an average of £128 on their period, which is a cost that can be avoided by simply going plastic free! There are lots of options out there from menstrual cups, period knickers and reusable pads. If you’re curious and want to find out more or talk to others about the issue, why not join us for an afternoon session of tea and cake on Wednesday 21st July, to tallk all about sustainable periods!
  5. Use eco-friendly toilet paper. Yes, this is a thing. Companies like Cheeky Panda now do toilet roll subscriptions that are completely plastic free, recyclable and responsible source. You can also get it from Newcastle Market from time to time!

On the Go

This is perhaps the most difficult part of life to reduce our plastic consumption. We’re all so busy, and it often feels like plastic waste is the last thing on our mind when we’re running for the bus! Changing your personal habits is key to conquering a plastic free life-style when you’re on the go. Take a look at these tips!

  1. Don’t forget your bags! Keep a stash of re-usable bags under your kitchen sink and take them with you when you go shopping. If you’re prone to forgetting, try and keep a small one in your handbag, wallet or coat pocket to use during emergencies!
  2. Eat, Drink, Rinse, Repeat! Does this campaign sound familiar? Around campus you can often find discounts for bringing your own reusable coffee cup or Tupperware in order to avoid creating more waste. Of the 2.5 billion coffee cups that British people use each year, only 0.25% are recycled. That’s a lot of plastic! Help save the environment (and a bit of cash for yourself!) next time you visit Keele SU or various other outlets on campus by making this simple change.
  3. Have a plastic-free packed lunch. This one links in to our tips for in the kitchen! Remembering to bring a packed lunch is usually healthier and cheaper than buying a meal deal or eating out. It also avoids all the unnecessary waste from sandwiches, crisp packets and drinks. Less than half of the 25million plastic bottles that British people throw away every day are recycled, and 6.9% end up as litter. Next time you’re heading to a lecture or out to meet your friends, don’t forget your re-usable water bottle and your packed lunch!
  4. Avoid plastic cutlery. You might have noticed that shops are increasingly selling portable cutlery sets to take on picnics or simply have in your bag in case of emergencies. This helps avoid the need for a plastic knife and fork should you spontaneously decide to eat out.
  5. Look out for recycling bins. Sometimes plastic is unavoidable. Perhaps you forgot your lunch of left your water bottle on the kitchen table. That’s ok, but try and recycle your waste properly if you can. Read the label to see if the packaging can be recycled, and if so, how. Even if you have to keep hold of your waste until you get home, it’s worth it to save it from going to landfill!

Article Sources & Other Useful Resources

How to Give Up Plastic by Will McCallum

A Plastic Ocean, Netflix

Anything by David Attenborough, BBC iPlayer & Netflix


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