A pocket guide for going zero-waste at university

15 Feb 2018
By Sophie-Leigh S., Student at University of Portsmouth

The UK uses over five million tonnes of plastic each year and around 25% of that used to be recycled through a trading deal with China.

However, that trade deal has ended, which means a lot more plastic waste is going to end up in British recycling plants.

Bringing more zero-waste alternatives into your usual routine is the best way to help reduce the vast amount of plastic being wasted every day.

Did you know Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day?

Here are six tips on how to live a less wasteful lifestyle.

1) Ditch the plastic straws

Did you know Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day? Imagine what the global figure must be. I think plastic straws are such a pointless invention – all that energy to make a product that ends up in the bin after one use.

But if you enjoy having a straw in your drinks, a great alternative to plastic is stainless steel. They are reusable, easy to carry with you and some even come with a small brush to make cleaning them that much easier.

Refusing a straw with your drink will have an immense effect on the amount of plastic straws being wasted.

2) Switch to a bamboo toothbrush

Did you know Americans use 500 million plastic straws every day?

Along with straws, plastic toothbrushes are a real problem. Dentists recommend changing your toothbrush every three months, and that’s a lot of plastic wasted just cleaning your teeth. Don’t worry – just like the straws, this plastic is easily swapped.

When your current plastic toothbrush is too worn out for teeth brushing, add it to your cleaning supplies and get yourself a sustainable bamboo toothbrush. They work just as effectively as their plastic counterparts and can be composted when they’re worn out.

3) Shop at charity shops

You may enjoy shopping on the high street for the latest fashion trends, but what happens when the season ends? Your new clothes end up on the scrap heap and you have to go shopping again.

The fast fashion industry is highly unsustainable and unethical – polluting oceans, paying factory workers unfairly and using materials that pose a health risk to seamstresses and models.

Shop at charity shops to avoid directly funding this industry whilst supporting a local charity.

You’ll be helping to build a circular economy by reusing items, recycling them or donating them – thus avoiding the landfill.

<i>Did you know 35 million plastic bottles are used in the UK every single day?</i>

4) Invest in a good reusable water bottle and coffee cup

Did you know 35 million plastic bottles are used in the UK every single day, and nearly half of them don’t get recycled? Lots of people drink bottled water because they don’t like the taste of tap water or they think it’s unsafe. Which is strange, because there’s more regulation on tap water than there is on bottled water!

If you’re one of these people, opt for a reusable bottle that also has a filter so you get the taste you enjoy while you help the environment.

And then there’s ‘paper’ coffee cups. Despite being made of a product you would think is compostable, these cups often have a plastic lining which means they can’t be composted or even recycled. Minimise the amount going to landfill by using a reusable cup for your daily caffeine fix.

Every zero-waster needs these two reusable things in their life.

Read more: Recycle, reuse, and swap: How to live sustainably

5) Buy loose fruit and vegetables

It’s shocking how much of the fresh produce in supermarket aisles is wrapped or bagged in plastic. It’s such an unnecessary step in production, and one that generates a large amount of waste.

So buy your fruit and veggies unpackaged and bring your own reusable canvas bags to put your items into.

6) Give reusable feminine products a chance

The average American woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of pads, plugs, and applicators in her lifetime. I don’t know about you but, to me, that seems like a lot! And because feminine hygiene products are something us women can’t go without, this waste seems unavoidable.

But you can make your menstrual cycle eco-friendly by swapping the regular cotton pads and tampons for either a medical grade silicone menstrual cup (lasts 10 years) or reusable bamboo/organic cotton pads (can be washed and reused multiple times).

Carry this information with you

Remember these tips, just as you remember your reusable water bottle, coffee cup and shopping bags.

Every time you order a drink, remember to say, ‘I don’t need a straw, thanks.’ Need a new shirt? Try the local Oxfam shop first.

Enjoyed this post? Find more inspiration on going green at my blog, In Sophie’s Mind.

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Sophie-Leigh is a Positive Impact Consultant studying at the University of Portsmouth. at University of Portsmouth