It’s just been announced Collins’ Word of the Year; the phrase that’s hot on everyone’s lips: single-use.

The fight against single-use plastics has found a firm place in the public eye over recent years; from bans on plastic straws, to taxes on disposable coffee cups, it’s a plight that people seem to be taking seriously.

I myself have a cool glass and cork KeepCup; a Camelbak water bottle; a selection of canvas tote bags in fun prints; I use reusable period products; I try and avoid plastic straws and I buy loose fruit and veg in attempt to tread lighter. I am a poster girl for the eco-conscious millennial.

But (and it’s a fairly sizeable ‘but’), I don’t always remember to put my KeepCup in my bag after I’ve washed it, if I’ve had more than two G&Ts there’s no way I’m turning down a straw and if Aldi have run out of loose bananas, I’ll go right ahead and buy a plastic packed bunch. For shame.

So, what’s the real impact of my half-arsed bleeding-heart liberalism? Is it enough? Am I just jumping on the bandwagon because sustainability now looks good?

Around the globe, one million cups are disposed of each minute.

After much deliberation and soul searching, I think it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Brands like KeepCup and Chilly’s have done a marvellous job of promoting a change in global behaviour. KeepCup estimate that they alone save five million disposable coffee cups from going to landfill each day.

But when you learn that, around the globe, one million cups are disposed of each minute, that smug sense of self-satisfaction you get when you use your cool cup, somewhat diminishes. On a quick poll of the office, 1/3 of us own a reusable cup, but only 3 people use theirs exclusively. Is this lackadaisical attitude to reducing waste because we were lured in by the nifty design, not the underlying movement?

 

person holding disposable coffee cup

 

According to a JWT survey of 2,000 adults from the UK, US, Australia and China; 94% try to live sustainably, but 54% think they could be doing more. So, what’s stopping them?

Convenience. That nasty little word. Few would admit it, but convenience is king. I could keep a set of reusable cutlery in my bag for when I eat on the go, but isn’t it easier to pick up a disposable fork next time I’m in Pret? As Hege Sæbjørnsen, sustainability manager for Ikea puts it: “Convenience is absolutely key. If it’s not convenient, it’s very difficult to get people to do something.”

It takes a lot to make a discernible shift in mass behaviour. We may not have cracked the single-use conundrum yet, but if one by one we all refuse a plastic straw; remember our canvas shopping bag; and stop buying bottled water, it’s going to add up. This year alone, the UK’s consumption of, and attitude to single-use plastics has made a huge step change, thanks to Sir David Attenborough.

Convenience is absolutely key. If it’s not convenient, it’s very difficult to get people to do something.

In the wake of Blue Planet II, people are taking notice. Since the programme aired, more than 40 organisations, including Coca-Cola and Nestle, have signed up to the UK’s “Plastic Pact” – a pledge to make all of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

There’s a long way to go, but by marketing reusables effectively, we can make huge change. Just look at what KeepCup have achieved in the 10 years since they first launched. If convenience is king, we have to make the alternative sexy. What’s more important, getting your flat white to go, or preserving the planet for future generations? It’s literally in our hands, so make your choice count.

If the world of reusables still feels a little overwhelming, here are some great brands to get you started:

  1. If I haven’t mentioned them enough already, check out KeepCup for your sustainable caffeine fix.
  2. Stay hydrated with Chilly’s, or Camelbak if you’re more trail runner than trend setter.
  3. For cleaner periods, check out Ohne, Thinx and Totm
  4. And if an Aldi shopper just doesn’t cut the mustard, check out these bad boys.

 

If you have any comments or questions, contact Imogen Judd at saintnicks on 0117 927 0100 or via email at imogen.judd@saintnicks.uk.com.