Supermarkets have increased their plastic footprint over the last year, even though they vowed to cut down on their packaging.
The use of single-use plastics in supermarkets has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes.
The major supermarkets were ranked according to their commitments to reduce single-use plastic.
Waitrose was at the top of the list, followed by Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and M&S, with Aldi coming at the bottom.
The Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace are urging supermarkets to work towards eliminating single-use plastic altogether by offering packaging-free products or switching to reusable and refillable alternatives.
But how can you help to cut down your own plastic use?
- Don’t buy fruit or veg in plastic film
Environmental groups would likely encourage anyone to buy organic but not if the piece of fruit or veg comes wrapped in a thin plastic sheet.
Friends of the Earth suggests you stay away from those and look for organic box deliveries, which they can advise on.
Failing that, buy from your local farmers’ market.
- Soap nuts for your washing
However eco-friendly the detergent, you’re still going to be left with a plastic bottle.
Some health stores and eco-supermarkets let you refill your empty bottle and this can end up being cheaper than the normal product, Friends of the Earth says.
Instead, the organisation recommends using soap nuts. These are little, dried-fruit shells with completely natural soap inside.
These can be thrown in with your laundry so you don’t have to carry around a plastic bottle.
- A bamboo toothbrush
Another way of cutting down the use of plastic is to go for a bamboo toothbrush.
They do still contain plastic in the bristles but, as the organisation says, there isn’t yet an alternative.
“You can go further by getting your toothpaste in a jar instead of a plastic tube,” they say.
“And if you're feeling creative, there are homemade toothpaste recipes online.”
- Beeswax food wraps instead of plastic film wrap
Instead of wrapping your sandwiches in plastic film wrap, you could use beeswax food wraps.
They're reusable, biodegradable and there are even vegan wraps available too.
- Buy a reusable coffee cup
Something else you'll probably use for your lunch break.
Because of a plastic film on the inside, very few coffee cups are recycled, says Friends of the Earth.
The group has launched a petition to sign up to calling for a ban on disposable cups that can’t be recycled.
In the meantime, they suggest getting hold of a reusable coffee cup.
- Loose tea is better than a tea bag
First it’s your coffee cups, now it’s your tea bags.
You could be forgiven for thinking you’re safe from plastic-use when you’re drinking tea but the majority of teabags in the UK have a thin layer of polypropylene plastic, Friends of the Earth says.
“That thin layer will likely end up as tiny pieces in the soil, which could then find their way into our rivers and eventually the sea,” the group added.
The suggestion is to buy a tea infuser so you can prepare tea with loose tea leaves.
- Switch to packaging-free soap and shampoo bars
What many soap products have in common is the plastic packing - the bottles, tubs, tubes and pots they often come in.
Using these daily can add up to a lot of plastic, so the group suggests you buy packaging-free soap instead.
- Wash at low temperatures
Continuing the washing theme, Friends of the Earth recommends washing clothes at low temperatures.
That’s because extremely thin plastic fibres – called microfibres - make their way on to our clothes from things like larger plastic items of from paints on buildings and marking roads.
Washing at low temperatures is less likely to shake out the plastic fibres, which can end up in the sea.