With ever more alarming headlines about the climate crisis, taking action even in the smallest way is empowering.
The feelgood factor of simple everyday acts, like refilling your water bottle or being able to say no to a plastic bag because you brought your own, is important both for the planet and our mental health – but new research shows 65 per cent of UK consumers feel forced to give up on plastic-free shopping due to the cost-of-living crisis.
New research, released today (16 June) to mark World Refill Day by environmental campaigners City to Sea, finds that although 95 per cent are concerned about plastic pollution, only half of us are doing less to reduce single-use plastic as a direct result of the increase in household bills.
Responses from those surveyed said they felt frustrated, powerless, angry, sad, and worried about the amount of plastic that comes with their weekly shop – that’s a lot to hold when all you are actually wanting is to buy your groceries.
Shifting responsibility to consumers to ‘do the right thing’ while not providing affordable ways of doing this is a situation that needs to change – fast.
Greenpeace estimate that at least 56.5 billion units of single-use plastic packaging go onto the UK grocery market each year – and 99 per cent of plastic packaging is made from fossil fuels.
Although cost is now the most important factor in purchasing decisions, 93 per cent would like to see more refill and reuse options available.
There have been small scale supermarket refill scheme trials, and The Refill Coalition is working with major UK retailers on a universal refill system that could be an industry-wide solution, but real change still feels like a long way off.
While progress has been slower at the major retailers, there is also a thriving network of independent zero waste and refill shops across the UK, and by buying there you support small business owners while shopping with less impact.
Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, says: “We urgently need to shift from our disposable, single-use culture to a more sustainable, circular future, with reuse and refill at the centre. The good news is, we already have the tools we need to change the world. A reusable future is possible.”
Refilling on a budget
- To find local zero waste shops, cafes and water refill stations across the UK, City to Sea’s free Refill app is a great go-to resource.
- The Zero Waster also lists some great independent stores.
- Some refill stores sell containers but go ready stocked with your own upcycled jars, bags and bottles.
- Being able to buy smaller amounts of good quality spices, herbs and dried goods can help you diversify your diet on a budget.
- Check the price of each product per 100g/kg/100ml/litre and calculate how much the amount you want is going to cost before you fill your container.
- Form a purchasing group with friends or neighbours to bulk buy, reducing both the cost and the amount of packaging – Suma and Essential Trading are both great ethical co-operatives.
- Try mail order eco-friendly refill subscriptions such as Splosh, Smol and Bower Collective.
- Get inspiration for zero waste on a budget from influencers including @my_plastic_free_home, @zerowastedoc and @sustainably_vegan.