Theresa May has announced an action plan to eradicate all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042, saying we will look back on plastic waste as "one of the great environmental scourges of our time". And although it may be a while before we see the proposed plastic-free aisles or produce in our supermarkets, there are several things you can do to help reduce your own plastic use and help the environment. We've rounded up ten things you can do every day to protect our planet – and maybe even save some money while you're at it.
Straws, cling film, plastic cotton buds, plastic cutlery and plastic cups are all things we use without a second thought, but did you know it could take over 450 years for these items to decompose? Think again when it comes to taking single-use plastics, and instead look for biodegradable or reusable alternatives, such as stainless steel straws, cotton buds with paper stalks, or proper cutlery.
Ditch plastic bags
The 5p carrier bag tax will eventually be extended to all stores, so save your pennies - and unnecessary plastic usage - by carrying your own reusable shopping bags and tote bags with you. Shoppers such as Paperchase's foldaway bags fold up into a small pouch so are easy to carry around, and cost just £5. And it's not just about carrier bags; avoid putting fresh produce into separate plastic bags with cloth produce bags from ecobags, which start from £2.
Use a refillable bottle
A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, with fewer than half of these collected for recycling. With most of this ending up in landfill or the ocean, plastic is even finding its way into the human food chain! Do your bit to help by investing in a refillable water bottle such as Brita Fill&Go (£11.99) or Chilly's Bottle (£20), which can be used to store your hot drinks too.
Carry a reusable coffee cup
Not only will this help you to avoid the proposed 'latte levy' which could see a 25p fee to use disposable coffee cups, but carrying your own refillable cup could also save you extra money off your caffeine fix. Many leading coffee chains such as Starbucks and Costa offer discounts for customers who bring their own cup, while Pret recently announced it was doubling the discount it offers to 50p for anyone who brings their own cup. Try KeepCup (£11), which has a secure clasp to prevent spillages, and is recyclable at the end of its life.
Eat less meat
Research led by Oxford Martin School has found that widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions and help people become healthier too. While you don't need to cut out meat completely, even cutting down on your intake or following a plant-based diet one day a week would still help to reduce your carbon footprint.
Use natural beauty and cleaning products
They may cost a little more, but natural beauty and cleaning products are well worth the extra expense. Not only will they reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals (do you really know what you're putting on your skin?), but it also means less chemicals will get into our water supply too. Ecover is a great choice for cleaning products made from plant-based and mineral products, which are as effective as they are eco-friendly, and are available in many leading supermarkets.
Only buy what you need
A life mantra we should all live by. Whether you're shopping in your local supermarket or making another impulse purchase on the high street, only buying the things we need can help to prevent food waste and slow the staggering amount of clothes that end up in landfill each year (some 300,000 tonnes of clothing were binned in the UK in 2016 alone). Your bank balance will be better for it, too!
According to Recycle More, each household in the UK produces more than one tonne of rubbish every year. Yet statistics from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs show that only 44.3 per cent of household rubbish was recycled in 2015, a figure that can easily be increased. Make an effort to check the labels of all the products you buy, ensuring they are disposed of correctly.
Walk, cycle or use public transport
Leave the car at home and walk, cycle or use public transport wherever possible. As well as helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, this could help you to get fitter and save money on petrol too.