I recently watched a BBC TV program called Drowning in Plastic. You may still be able to watch it on BBC iPlayer depending on when you read this. It was truly eye-opening and if you can, watch it.

During the program biologist, Liz Bonnin looked at current levels of plastic on our planet and what’s being done to change our current unsustainable levels of plastic consumption. It’s fair to say more work needs to be done. By us all! The Drowning in Plastic program made me think about my own consumption of plastics and I felt this topic would make for an excellent blog post.

What does it take to achieve change?

I genuinely believe that for humans on a mass scale to truly bring positive change to this planet, we need a financial reason. The good of our hearts as a mass movement only seems to extend so far. For a few examples, we could go in-depth talking about the move to renewable energy sources, switching to electric cars, and the reduction of plastics. But this page would get derailed and end up very long.

Human goodwill

These topics are incredibly important. I genuinely believe if you give people financial incentives it’s far more impactful compared to simply appealing to people’s goodwill. There’s over 7 billion of us on planet Earth, it’s too easy for people to simply say, “what’s the point, it won’t make a difference.” But with finance you have a reason. If it’ll reduce your living costs you may be more interested and more likely to change.

With that said a new category has been created on MoneyCortex. I’ve called it Reduce Waste. In that category, posts will be published about things we can do that are good for the planet, but also good for our personal finances! This post you’re reading now is the first in the category. So let’s get on.

What ways are there to reduce plastic consumption and save some cash?

With the above-mentioned ethos in mind then. The main thoughts are on:

  1. What ways are there to reduce plastic usage?
  2. Will they save money and if so how much?

Hopefully they interest you and you consider them. Let’s get stuck in.

Reduce plastic consumption

Here are the best ideas of ways to reduce plastic in your life and an explanation of how it may impact your finances.

Don’t use clingfilm, buy Tupperware boxes instead. Tupperware will be far more eco-friendly in the long term. Tupperware may have harmful plastics in though (I say “may” because this is a whole topic of itself), so if you really want to go the whole hog then buy glass food storage containers.
Difference to your finances? Clingfilm can cost around £2 for a 40m roll in the UK. It depends on which supermarket you use. Tupperware is cheap. You can go to the shops and pick it up from places like Wilko for £3 for a decent-sized container that will last a very long time. Or browse Amazon for lots of choices. Over time the avoidance of buying clingfilm will save a lot of money. Glass storage containers are more expensive but could last a lifetime!

Use bags for life, no need to ever use supermarket plastic bags again. We all know this one but it’s worth repeating.
How much money will it save? The plastic bag levy has meant using bags in supermarkets has become expensive. Having bags for life will inevitably save lots of money over the long term and make a big difference in reducing your plastic footprint. Don’t think bags for life are cool? Take a look at Etsy. Some sellers create pretty decent looking ones I think. In the U.S there’s a really cool company called Package Free who have some nice bags here.

Don’t use or buy disposable plastic bottles. Have one sports bottle you use for cool drinks and one bottle for hot drinks like coffee.
Difference to your finances? No need to ever buy drinks in plastic bottles from the shops again. Use your juice and coffee from home and you’re good to go. As the years roll on it’ll save you lots of money and there are some nice bottles you can get. Some come with a lifetime guarantee! One bottle for life!

Grow your own veg or have an allotment. Look at the amount of plastic next time you get your fruit and veg shopping. It’s a lot! Grow your own for fresher food, less plastic and to save money. It can also be a fun hobby too.
Potential savings? Seeds are cheap. It could save hundreds of pounds in the long term.

Buy plastic-free tea from companies like Pukka Tea. Some companies use polypropylene, a plastic that’s used to heat-seal the edge of teabags. They explain it better on the Pukka website.
Difference to your finances? Check out the prices when you do the shopping to do comparisons. It depends on what you currently buy and what alternative you could buy. There are so many products I couldn’t possibly do a comparison here! So look next time you’re shopping.

Don’t shop online when possible. Think how much packaging it comes in. There’s the offset here of pollution caused by using transport to visit the shops. But I can’t help but feel the amount of pollution of fumes being put into the air over two journeys would be tiny in comparison to the huge volume of plastic that comes with shopping online. Of course, there aren’t always alternatives. For example, I like ASOS, but they aren’t on the high street.
Difference to your finances? Being restricted may help you reduce how much you spend which is no bad thing. No simple answer though of potential financial savings, it could be a lot, or it could make no difference to you. You could avoid the costs of postage and packaging which would save a lot of money over time.

Reduce your clothing consumption. This is a whole other topic on its own! If you don’t know how much damage clothing manufacturing does then get googling. It’s one of the biggest challenges we face. There are microfibres in clothes. We literally have huge amounts of tiny bits of plastic in our clothing. Reducing clothing consumption will make a huge difference.
What financial difference will it make to you? It depends on how much you buy and how much you can reduce your volume of purchases by. Potential for some big savings though. Always wear clothes until they have holes in them!

Do you have a milkman in your area? Think how much plastic we all use each year when buying milk from the supermarkets. Good old-fashioned glass bottles are much more eco-friendly in the long term.
Difference to your finances? Inevitably prices vary so speak to the milkman and compare it to your supermarket shopping. The taste of the milk will also come into it. If the milkman’s milk was a bit more expensive but tasted nicer, then you could potentially make a change that makes a big reduction to your yearly plastic consumption and you get tastier milk for not a lot more money. In that scenario, you may consider it worth it. As I said, do your research in your area and see how the figures stack up.

Stop using plastic straws. It’s been well covered in the British press about plastic straws. We can significantly reduce how many plastic straws we use, so don’t bother with them. Often you can drink straight from the cup! Maybe it doesn’t look so classy but it will make a difference. Thankfully companies like McDonald’s are making a step by stopping plastic straws soon, it’s reported to be by September 2019 in Maccie D’s case.
Difference to your finances? Never buy them from the supermarket if you do. Other than that it might not save you money but you should feel good you’re making a difference, and that has non-monetary value I suppose!

Don’t buy CD’s/DVD’s. Stream everything instead! Admittedly many people won’t be buying DVDs or CDs anyway. But there are huge amounts for sale out there. Let’s go digital and kill off the plastic cases once and for all. Maybe CD’s could have cardboard sleeves like vinyl sometime soon? That could be cool.
The difference to your finances? It depends entirely on how many you currently buy. An added benefit is it’ll reduce the clutter at home too!

If you’re ever concerned, ask the company before purchasing a product. Whether that be how much plastic is in the product itself or whether the plastic is recyclable.
This may help you avoid a product or help you look for cheaper alternatives.

Try to think of alternatives at every turn. For example, if having a party do you really need that much plastic cutlery? Why not get some wooden forks as you get in the chippy. Or use your regular metal spoons from home. Of course, it’s not possible to think of alternatives all the time we are shopping, it just won’t be on your mind. But try your hardest to get in the habit of it popping into your mind.
Potential savings are impossible to say, but over time they will add up.

I’ve by no means covered everything here. There is so much that we can all do. Also, check out the WWF website and feel free to get searching for other information. Brainstorm your own ideas too!

These won’t save cash, but they will help bring positive change
Retweet to bring positive change

You can also take action that helps bring change and is free to do. Such as signing online petitions. If you’re into social media then consider sharing links to campaigns you see about reducing plastics. It may have no immediate financial benefit for you, but long-term it will help increase pressure and we should all get the benefits. Doing retweets like this is quick and easy to do.

Consider boycotting companies. If there is a like-for-like product that uses less plastic but is the same price, then buy that. It will help send a message to the global food companies. When they wonder why they’re selling less and a competitor is selling more, they’ll eventually work out they use more plastics and for that reason, consumers are put off.

Share ideas. Tell companies of innovative ideas you have. If you can think of something that will reduce plastic and be cost-effective they will love you for it! Recently I saw on the news about people posting Walkers crisps through the post back to Walkers in protest of how much plastic they use. Action does get noticed by big companies when it hits the press. There’s no reason Walkers can’t reduce the size of their packets, there’s so much air inside!

What’s specific to your life?

I feel there’s only so much that can be written here as ideas for us all. Think about your own lifestyle. We all live different lives. We all buy different products. Think about the things you buy and how much plastic they have. What can you do that’s different that’s not been covered here to save yourself some money and reduce plastic consumption?

We all need to get out of this habit of using such a vast quantity of disposable products. Now is the moment to start.

If you want to get involved with tracking how much change people are making then head over to the BBC Plastics Watch page where you can contribute.

This isn’t easy or straight-forward

Make no mistake, changing habits is hard. I’m not under any illusion that all it takes is to read one blog post and suddenly you can make changes that significantly reduce plastic usage and put more cash in your back pocket. But I hope this is a step in the right direction and has helped you in some way begin to make changes. As you’ll have seen when I talked about what differences it makes to finances, it’s not straightforward. You often need to do comparisons of your own shopping and habits. Work things out. Begin now. Start to make the changes necessary so you can do your little bit for our beautiful planet and gradually put extra cash in your back pocket trickle by trickle.

Last update: July 12, 2023