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Humpback whale. Image: Christopher Swann

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Dead sperm whale in The Wash, East Anglia, England. © CSIP-ZSL.

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Risso's dolphin © Andy Knight

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Meeting the challenge of reducing plastic waste at the Scottish Dolphin Centre

Emily Burton, one of our fantastic volunteers at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, gives an update on the Scottish Dolphin Centre’s efforts to reduce its plastic waste.

12.7 million tons of plastic is dumped into the sea each year. That’s the equivalent of a full bin lorry every single minute. Greenpeace

This is one of many shocking facts that inspired us to try life without plastic over the past week. As interns for WDC working up at the Scottish Dolphin Centre we already considered ourselves pretty passionate about marine pollution, but it wasn’t until we watched ‘A Plastic Ocean’ that the severity of the situation really hit home. Since then, we’ve been trying to cut down the plastics we use and buy, especially focusing on single use plastics like wrappers, bags and other packaging. Some swaps were easy, some took a little more thought, and at first some seemed nearly impossible…but where there’s a will there’s a way!

Here are some of our top tips on how we managed to cut down on plastic over the past week:

Easy swaps: We managed to massively reduce the amount of plastic we bought simply by swapping to tinned goods therefore avoiding hard plastic packaging and bottles. If you can’t avoid plastic bulk buy and go for recyclable packaging where possible.  

Natural packaging:  The majority of fruit and veg grows complete with its own wrapper. Boycott wrapped potatoes, bananas, apples and the rest by taking your own canvas or paper bags to the super market and choosing loose items. Another great option, especially if you’re a lover of seasonal organic produce, is to order a weekly ‘veg box’ – just send them an email or give them a ring beforehand to make sure the food will be delivered without plastic packaging. For berries, which are pretty impossible from a supermarket, try visiting a ‘pick-your-own’ or a farm shop.

 

Tit-bits and treats:  We were pleasantly surprised at the number of sweets and treats available plastic free. It took some initial investigating to work out which products come plastic wrapped and which are packaged in foil or paper, but after a peek around our local super market we began to get to grips with it. Many bars of chocolate and individual tubes of sweets like polos, smarties and fruit pastels come in cardboard, paper or foil packaging. We also found some alternatives that, although still used plastic tubs, cut out the non-recyclable packets that chocolate and sweets are usually wrapped in.

We made sure to avoid chewing gum, which is made of plastic, and bought mints instead.

Basics: It’s definitely not impossible to get pasta and rice plastic free. In fact, we managed to find both packed in cardboard boxes rather than plastic bags. It’s a shame that some boxes still contained a small plastic window; however this still marks a vast improvement on the normal quantity used.

Bread has the potential to be a little tricky depending in which supermarket you favour. In some you can easily pick up freshly baked bread in a paper bag but in others the bakery aisle is plastic city. A great way to buy plastic free and support small local businesses is to visit your local bakery! Here you’ll find a variety of freshly baked bread and you can take along your own bag. We also had a go at making our own bread!

Liquids: Fruit juice and milk were two things that challenged us a little. We ended up going for recyclable plastic bottles looking out for paper labels. We also found fizzy drinks, cordial and condiments in glass bottles with metal lids.

Meat and fish: A local butcher or fishmonger is definitely the place to visit to avoid plastic packed meat. Take along your own Tupperware or container and ask for the meat to be transferred directly into that. Depending on which shop you visit there may be some difficulty with hygiene regulations but the great thing about chatting to someone directly is that they can usually sort something out for you. Another option is to visit the freezer section of the supermarket. There are quite a few options, especially vegetarian meat replacements and fish, which come in cardboard boxes alone (although the fish itself may contain plastic!).  

The last week has been a real eye-opener for us. The more we think about plastic, the more we find out and share. It would now be impossible for us to forget about the plastic problem after only a week. To spend a little more carefully, think a little harder, and speak a little louder is surely the very least we can do for the sake of our oceans and the magnificent creatures that live there.

 “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Jalaluddin Rumi

We’re still looking for plastic free alternatives for:

  • Yoghurt
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Cheese and cheese alternatives
  • Breakfast cereal

Please leave any suggestions or tips of your own in the comments below.

Find out more on our new website about the issue of plastic waste in our oceans and why it’s #NotWhaleFood.

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.