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Reducing your plastic footprint

Do your bit to reduce your consumption of plastic with these tips from eco-expert Howard Carter

Choose the fruit or vegetables without plastic wrappers. And when buying loose, don’t put them in the plastic bags supplied. Either bring your own paper bag or don’t use a bag at all.

Make different choices when choosing things like oats, lentils, pasta and cereals, as you can buy these loose at larger independent health stores. You can bring a box or jar to put them in instead of a plastic bag.

Be more choosy! Opt for products with no plastic packaging – lots come in boxes now or bio-degradable packaging.

Buy your milk in a card carton that can be recycled, rather than a plastic bottle.

Look for toiletries that come in greener, recyclable packaging.

If you do have to buy something packaged in plastic – for example insect repellent in a malaria zone and there’s no alternative – ensure it’s recyclable plastic. Check for the recyclable triangle which will appear somewhere, usually on the base of the product. Look for the number inside the triangle: ‘1’ is very easy to recycle everywhere. So, where possible, pick a ‘2’ instead of a ‘4’. And ensure that you’re strict and always recycle it so it doesn’t end up in our oceans.

Always go for natural materials when choosing a product as these can usually be recycled. For example, choose a hairbrush with a handle that’s made from 100 per cent wood and non-plastic bristles as wood can be recycled.

Choose soft drinks that come packaged in glass rather than plastic. And make sure you recycle the glass afterwards. The government is planning to bring in laws involving a deposit scheme for plastic bottles. You may need to pay extra for big bottles which you get back when you take them to be recycled. So it’s good to get into the habit before this is implemented.

Don’t use straws – they’re not actually necessary for drinking!

Don’t buy bottled water. Instead switch to using an eco-friendly water bottle or use a steel one which is anti-bacterial.

Get crafty with your items to recycle! (And especially the ones that you can’t!) You can create beautiful gifts from recyclables. There are lots of books out there with imaginative ideas to get you started.

Howard Carter is an eco expert and CEO of incognito (, which received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Development.

Read more on reducing your plastic footprint in our Time to stop the tide article...

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