By Chloe Mackean

Say no to single-use plastics

Will you join us for the plastic-free July challenge? This July, we’re joining millions of others around the world to say no to single-use plastics. By choosing to refuse single-use plastics, we hope to change stubborn habits and make some lasting changes. It’s a personal challenge that will make a global difference, to our oceans, our community and the planet.

The problem with plastic

Plastic waste in oceans is a huge problem. Most of you will also be familiar with the heart-breaking image of a turtle with a plastic straw up its nose or seabirds with their heads caught in beer can rings. These images have helped to raise awareness of the detrimental impact of plastic waste on marine life across the world. But reading the figures it is truly shocking, at least 8 million tons of plastic ends up in our waterways every year and makes up 80% of all marine debris, from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. Not only do plastics injure and kill sea-life, but pollutants cling on to plastics, which then transport them through ocean currents, spreading pollutants and toxins across the world.

The impact of plastics on our planet does not stop in the oceans. A report that was published in 2019 says plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its lifecycle, right from production to how we deal with it as a waste product. Thanks to our addiction to the shiny stuff its estimated that by 2050 plastic will account for 13% of the UK’s carbon budget, equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants. Plastic can now be found in some of the most unlikely products, such as clothing, foil wrapping, chewing gum, tea bags and sea salt. Yes, you read right, astonishingly researchers have now shown that all of the plastic we are putting into the ocean are breaking down into microplastics and now making their way into everyday table salt.

What is ‘single-use plastic’?

Plastic is used so extensively that it would be almost impossible to cut it out of your life entirely. But, saying no to single-use plastic

is something that all of us can do, and

as it is also the fastest growing segment in the whole plastic economy, it’s important we get on top of the issue quickly to prevent it from doing any further damage. First, let’s define what is meant by ‘single use’ plastic: single-use plastics are goods made using fossil-fuels and are intended to be thrown away after use, usually just minutes. A study on plastic bags showed that consumers will use one for an average of 12 minutes before chucking it away. That bag can then take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Plastic bags are one of the most common types of single-use plastic, but other big culprits are packaging used for service-ware such as bottles, wrappers and straws.

Single use plastic during coronavirus

As an organisation that cares about the health of people as well as the planet we have been taking every necessary caution to protect people’s wellbeing during coronavirus. As everyone has been extra vigilant, the use of single-use plastics has undoubtedly increased, but a recent open letter from 118 health experts from 18 countries addresses the safety of using reusable plastic bags during the pandemic. The statement assures retailers and consumers that reusable bags can be used safely by implementing basic hygiene and contact-free options for customers’ personal bags and cups.

What we’re doing at the Fold

Here at the Fold we are passionate about protecting our planet and finding ways to live in harmony with nature. Reducing our reliance on plastics is part and parcel of this and we try to be a ‘no

to single use plastic’ site and bear this in mind in all of our procurement and business decisions.

Down on the farm we use compostable bags for packing salad and the team also ask people to bring back crates and punnets, so that they can reuse them in future. In the farm shop they request suppliers to provide things in biodegradable packaging wherever possible, and they also save cardboard boxes from deliveries so that shoppers can use them to carry their groceries in as opposed to using plastic bags. They also sell a range of products that help people who are swapping to a no-single-use-plastic-lifestyle, such as Chilly’s waterbottles, Turtle shopping bags and a whole range of eco household and hygiene products.

On our nature trails is where we see the negative impact of single-use plastics the most keenly, with litter left by day-trippers along our pathways and down by the river. The damage that this has on our wildlife and local ecosystems is huge. In order to reduce this we do regular litter-picks and encourage visitors to take home their plastic by putting up signs in the car park and elsewhere on site. Our goal is to become a single-use plastic free site.

What can you do to say no to single-use plastics?

But we know our efforts are just a drop in the ocean. We need to be better at saying no to single-use plastics and prioritise the environment over convenience, cost or pleasure in all of our future buying choices. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of an issue and refocus our minds and intent. That’s why we’re getting behind Plastic-free July, and we challenge you guys to come along on the journey too!

The plastic-free July website is full of loads of useful resources on how to say no to single-use plastic, but here are some of our own tried and tested tips:

  1. Do a bin audit. A good place to start with all this is by working out what you’re currently throwing away, recycling and composting. What are your main offenders? And how can you reduce that
  2. Bring your own reusable cup next time you get your coffee. Most places will also give you a discount for doing this too – it’s a no brainer!
  3. Avoid buying fruit and vegetables in plastic packaging. Choose produce that is loose and put them into your own bags. Lidl sell reusable vegetable bags that are another good option
  4. Always keep spare shopping bags or a tote bag in your car or handbag, that way you will never be caught out!
  5. Make a difference to the environment around you by organising a community litter pick.
  6. Say no to plastic straws and other pointless serviceware
  7. Swap liquid soap for bar soap
  8. Bulk buy dry foods from a zero waste shop, like GL2 in Malvern or Pack It In in Worcester.