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Every year around the world we create more than 300 million tonnes of plastic, and half of this is single-use use. Plastic bottles are a huge problem, with 1.2 million of them sold every minute around the world. But here in the UK we have some of the highest quality drinking water in the world, so we really don’t need to be using all of this plastic.

A recent global study of bottled water brands found tiny plastic particles (microplastics) in over 90 per cent of samples. In 2020, National Geographic confirmed that less visible and more pervasive plastic particles have spread into virtually every crevice on Earth, “from the deepest sea trenches to the highest alpine mountains; some microplastics are so tiny they are part of the dust that blows around the planet, high in the atmosphere.”

But it’s not only plastic that damages the environment; the sheer volume of waste is causing a problem. In the UK, our ‘grab-n-go’ habit helps to generate 11 billion items of packaging waste a year. If we take single-use coffee cups as an example; we get through 2.5 billion every year, and research suggests less than 1 in 400 is ever recycled – meaning these are destined to end up in landfill, polluting incinerators, or as litter in the environment.

But there are things we can all do to help.

  • The Refill App can help you find places to shop, eat and drink without the pointless packaging; from coffee shops and takeaways to grocery stores and greengrocers.
  • Switching from a single-use coffee cup to a reusable cup not only helps the environment, but it could save you money too – many local cafes offer a discount when you BYO cup.
  • A shocking 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used every year in the UK. By carrying a reusable water bottle instead, you’ll be part of a growing community of people committed to reducing that total. 
  • Look for opportunities to shop with less packaging; try local grocers and retailers who offer plastic-free fruit & veg, refill options etc.
  • Contact your local cafe, restaurant, grocery store etc, and ask them to reduce their single-use in favour of more sustainable options.

Let’s set an example, and make ‘reduce, reuse, refill and repeat’ the new social norm here in Cardiff.

Please remember that single-use items such as straws and containers are a vital accessibility aid for many disabled people and there may not currently be suitable alternatives.