A life less plastic
Advice for living with less plastic from Laura Ford, Peckham local and founder of Plastic Free Peckham.
Plastic is an awkward material to get rid of. Once it’s been used, it is rarely recycled and ends up in the natural environment, causing harm to marine wildlife and entering the human food chain and water system. In fact only 9% of plastic that has ever been made has been recycled and 12% incinerated, leaving 6 billion 300 million tons in landfill and the natural environment.
Not only is plastic waste a massive factor in the global waste crisis, but it is derived from oil and is part of the fossil fuel industry that we must all move away from if we are to prevent global warming in excess of 1.5 degrees by the year 2100 (we are currently on track for 2.7 degrees globally). The plastics industry currently accounts for 7% of global greenhouse gases and this is set to rise to 13% by 2050. That’s almost as much as the automotive industry.
So what can we do about such a huge problem? Yes, we need government legislation to ensure that big businesses stop using plastic, but we can also play a role as individuals, using our purchasing power to demonstrate that we don’t want to buy products that are excessively packaged.
Think about what you’re buying - is it something you really need? Is there a non-plastic alternative? Can you buy it without the packaging? Or can you buy it packaged in card, glass or tin instead? All of these materials have much higher recycling rates so are reused for longer.
You can get fresh fruit and vegetables packaging free from the market stalls on Rye Lane and a variety of grocers on Evelina Road, Bellenden Road and Lordship Lane. We’ve also worked with lots of local businesses in Peckham to help them find ways of reducing their plastic: packaging free dried goods and plastic free swaps from Gather on Bellenden Road and BYO on Nunhead Green; sustainable clothing and gifts from DAY Boutique and FORMSE15 on Bellenden Road; body and soul care with Hot Yoga Peckham, Sheps Sports Massage and Peckham Therapies. You can even spoil yourself with plastic free cocktails at Funkidory on Rye Lane and Thai at Begging Bowl on Bellenden Road.
Save plastic and save money
If you do buy plastic, make it last as long as possible. Keep plastic bags that bread, pasta and cereal come in and use them instead of sandwich bags or cling film, or for storing dry goods in. You can also use these as produce bags to buy packaged free goods. These can be washed and reused - it’s plastic, so it’s very hard wearing!
If you’re given cutlery with a takeaway and you don’t use it - don’t bin it but keep it to use another time.
Whenever you can, buy better quality, reusable products made of wood, aluminium, glass and ceramics - over time it’s cheaper to buy one set of four picnic plates that you keep and reuse for years than 100 single-use plastic picnic plates that you use once and then ditch.
In fact, single-use anything is pretty bad for the environment because it means we’re using up the world’s finite resources on products that we use once and then throw away. Avoid single-use products such as wipes and take away packaging.
Carry a kit and say no to single-use
Always carry a water bottle (many shops and cafes will refill this for free) and reusable shopping bag (shops will now charge you 10p for a plastic bag so this will also save you money!), reusable coffee cup, and if you eat lunch on the go then carry a cutlery set and lunchbox to get your food in.
If you’re eating-in ask for drinks in reusable cups (tea is nicer in china!), glasses of water in glass etc. Most cafes do have them but have started using single use plastic (sometimes compostable but this is not easy to recycle!) for convenience.
Volunteer with us!
We’re always on the look-out for new volunteers to go out and speak to small businesses, do talks for local schools and community groups and join us for a Community Clean Up. These events are a great way to meet local people, spend time outside and help to maintain our precious local green spaces. Our next Community Clean Up is Sunday 31st October from 2pm until 4pm on Peckham Rye. All equipment is provided and we would love to see you there!
Plastic Free Peckham is a community group working with local businesses, schools and the wider community to reduce single use plastic. Our goal is a cleaner local environment and a greener planet.
Written by Laura Ford, Illustration by Mona Neilson