Make A Change: A Plastic Free Change

By Claire Smail


Probably like you, I have noticed a real drive locally, nationally and I hope internationally for us all to be more aware of the effects we are having on our environment. In particular the incredibly negative impact that plastic and specifically single use plastic is creating in our oceans and having on our marine life(I say our’s because it is due to our industry, lifestyles and production that plastic exists).

Like you, I have seen the shocking statistics that are being reported , for example according to we in the UK, are currently using around 5million tones of plastic materials each year. Plastic can take up to 500 years to break-down and over 50% of litter found on our beaches is plastic.  Some of the impact this is having has been documented by Surfers Against Sewage (SAS). They state that ‘recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examine’ and that annually ‘100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution’. Have a look HERE for more facts and figures.

That being said we can make a difference, even with just a seemingly small change. We might not fix the problem but we can certainly do our bit to not make it any worse and there are now some great organisations and charities that are working hard to help us make those changes. Organisations like Plastic Free North Devon, Two Minute Beach Clean, and the charity Surfers Against Sewage.  Each of these associations and their committed volunteers are taking the time to educate us in the issue and support us in being more aware about how to be plastic free.

 Just the other day I caught up with Jasmine from Plastic Free North Devon and found out some of the great things that have been happening locally, such as beach cleans, informative film nights and how they have been supporting local events with re-fill your reusable water bottle stands (rather than buy a single use plastic product).  This idea that by just starting out small and only making one or two seemingly small changes can still make a difference got me thinking…

Now I am already pretty good at taking my ‘bags’ for life’ to hold my shopping, so almost eradicating my use of plastic carrier bag and I do try to recycle and compost as much as I can at home (using the councils recycling scheme) But the question is…Could I become more plastic free in my lifestyle and if so what 5 small changes could I attempt over the next month, to try and make a difference?

5 Tips To Help You Be More Plastic Free…

Car Cup

My ideal day included hours at the beach and probably a coffee and piece of cake at some point.  Unfortunately I have found that a lot of beach cafes use very hard to recycle single use cups.  By keeping a spare mug in the back of a van, I now find that when the need for caffeine strikes I can ask the café to fill my mug and then just take it home to wash it out at the end of the day.

Water bottle

I would love to say for this challenge I went out and treated myself to a fancy metal or none plastic water bottle but I did not.  Having owned a metal Sig bottle as a child and having found it was annoying to open (just seemed to take ages to unscrew) and the fact that is got covered in dents, I have settled to just borrowing one of my Dad’s plastic (multi use) cycling bottles.  I will admit my usual water bottle is a single use plastic water bottle that I just re-use over and over until it is no longer useable.  I am hoping that by transferring to the cycling water bottle it will last longer, be better for me (as in made for long-term use) and somehow encourage me to take a drink of water with me when I go out, rather than buy one when I am out.

Avoiding Plastic Wrapped Fruit and Vegetables

This one seemed so important to me as why do I want to fill most of my bin up with packaging used to cover fruit and vegetables?  It seems such a waste of my time and the world resources.  To avoid this plastic I have started to do two things; try and buy more from the local green-grocers and if this is not possible, then when I go to the supermarket I try to only pick up fruit and veg items from the loose boxes of products. This means I can select the exact quantity I actually need and I can just place them in my basket. No plastic bags needed!

 A Bar of Soap

Embarking on this plastic free challenge I knew there where somethings I was very reluctant to change, such as swapping my chosen brand of shampoo and conditioner for a shampoo bar (as it has taken me years to find a good one).  However it has made me question why on earth I buy soap in a plastic bottle?  What is the actual reason or more importantly the overall impact of those plastic bottles during my lifetime?  So I went out and treated myself to some luxurious handmade soap for showering and essential oil enriched bars for washing my hands. Neither came in plastic and seem to be lasting ages!


I do love to bake and so can get through quite a large amount of butter and margarine which I have realised generates a lot of plastic tubs (in fact I have got to the point where I probably do not need any more plastic storage tubs for the next few years).  So to avoid losing any more of my kitchen storage to plastic, I have started to buy the blocks of butter (and baking margarine) that is wrapped in the traditional paper. 


So far some of these changes have been really easy to make and live with, they have been of no real extra cost.  A couple of them I am definitely still working on and I have found my lack of organisation or fore thought has led me to buy single use plastic instead. 

I am hoping though that even after only one month and my 5 little changes, I might make some kind of difference in the overall scheme of things!?

If you are interested in knowing more about becoming plastic free or wish to take part in some up and coming events, check out for all the up to date information