World Environment Day: 5 ways to cut back on disposable plastic in the pandemic

While some single-use items are unavoidable, there are steps you can take to cut down on waste while staying safe

Discarded plastic has become a bigger problem during the pandemic. Unsplash
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Friday, June 5, is World Environment Day, a time when people across the globe unite to celebrate the planet and shine a light on how we can all take action to protect it.

This year, however, World Environment Day will look a little different. It falls at a time when the world is battling a global pandemic, something that has shifted many people's focus away from the environment.

A discarded plastic glove is pictured in London on the morning on March 24, 2020 after Britain ordered a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Britain was under lockdown March 24, its population joining around 1.7 billion people around the globe ordered to stay indoors to curb the "accelerating" spread of the coronavirus. / AFP / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS
Discarded plastic gloves are becoming a common sight world over. AFP 

In fact, many businesses and consumers have turned to disposable plastic items in a bid to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Supermarkets and shopping malls require customers to wear plastic or latex disposable gloves, while cafes and restaurants serve food on plastic plates with plastic cutlery.

In the UK, a planned ban on straws and plastic stirrers that was set to be introduced in April has been delayed until October, with officials stating that the Covid-19 outbreak has meant finding alternatives to single-use plastics is now “challenging”.

While the current situation has made it difficult to avoid disposable plastic, there are some steps you can take to limit your use.

1. Buy in bulk

When buying items that come in a plastic bottle, such as hand sanitiser, where possible choose a large bottle over a small handbag-sized one. It might be a little less convenient, but it will help reduce your overall plastic waste. You can also decant it into an existing smaller bottle.

2. Choose reusable where possible

Using reusable face masks is an easy way to cut back on your single-use plastic reliance during the pandemic. Unsplash
Using reusable face masks is an easy way to cut back on your single-use plastic reliance during the pandemic. Unsplash

While it might feel safer and more hygienic to use disposable items during this pandemic, stop to see if there are any alternative you can try. Take face masks, for example. You can easily buy your own reusable mask, you just need to wash it after use. It might sound like an effort, but it is more cost effective and better for the environment, seeing as you are going to be wearing it every day.

3. Invest in a water filter

If you are someone who drinks bottled water at home, now might be the time to invest in a water filter, or a larger water dispenser. Spending more time at home is likely to have highlighted just how much bottled water you get through, without the option of regularly refilling at the office or while out and about. Use this time to research the best and most cost-effective way to drink water at home, in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.

4. Take your own bags to the supermarket

While some plastic at the supermarket might be unavoidable, such as gloves, you can still take your own cloth bags to pack your shopping into. Just be sure not to hand the bag over to the cashier and pack it yourself, so that you are the only person to handle it, and once you are at home and have put away your shopping, wash your canvas bag with regular detergent to ensure it remains germ free.

5. Request environmentally-friendly packaging

If you are having items delivered to your home, check to see if there is a way you can make the delivery a little more environmentally friendly. Some grocery retailers, such as Kibsons and Del Monte, give customers the option to have items delivered in cardboard or paper bags, and many food delivery services including Zomato and Deliveroo allow you to tick a box to say you do not require disposable cutlery.