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New year resolution: how to cut plastic waste in 2024

Read our top tips to reduce your single-use plastic and live more sustainably in the year ahead.

Written by Tearfund | 20 Dec 2023

The new year is a great time to change our habits and reduce our plastic waste. Image: Pexels / SHVETS production.

As we celebrate the Christmas season and give thanks for 2023, there are also some big challenges to confront over the next 12 months. One of them is plastic waste. How can we reduce the amount we throw away – not only to protect the environment but also to combat climate change and reduce the impact of waste on our global neighbours? Here are some ideas for plastic-reducing new year resolutions.

Find a refill shop (and then start using it)

So much of what we buy in the supermarket comes wrapped in needless plastic. Fortunately, more and more shops are popping up where you can refill your own containers with anything from rice to fabric softener to cashews. Find your local refill store and pay it a visit. Also, keep an eye out for refill stations in your local supermarket as many of the large chain stores have been trialling them: they’ll spread if we all use them! Many of the smaller refill shops also sell products to help you with the next resolution…

Use reusables

Whether it’s a reusable water bottle, coffee cup or shopping bag, there are many opportunities for us to use reusable products rather than single-use ones. And there are always new products on the market to help us avoid single-use plastics. How about using beeswax (or vegan wax) wraps instead of clingfilm? Or using refillable spray bottles for cleaning products? Or razors with durable handles and replaceable heads (as many companies now provide a recycling service)? You could also use washable and reusable cotton buds or make-up pads, or buy laundry eggs to cut down on detergent and fabric softener packaging. Plastic-free alternatives can be kinder to your wallet too, in the long run. You don’t need to go on a shopping spree now, but consider making the switch next time you run out of something.

Say no to single-use plastic items you don't need

Have you ever received unwanted plastic cutlery with your food? How about an unnecessary plastic straw in your drink? Or even products coming in several plastic bags when one (or none) would have sufficed? The only way we can stop this from happening is to start refusing these items. Politely let the member of staff or company know that you didn’t really want or need this plastic item and it might prompt them to give customers the option in the future.

Choose second-hand clothes

Fast fashion has negative impacts on the climate, human rights and natural resources – and creates vast amounts of plastic waste. In fact, much of the plastic that fast fashion brands produce is brand-new, so-called virgin plastic (including polyester, acrylic and nylon). A 2021 study of four of the largest fast fashion brands in the UK found that 80 per cent of items on sale contained some virgin plastic and 49 per cent were made entirely of new plastic. Buying secondhand clothes is not only normally better value for money but it also saves clothes from landfill. You could also try a clothes swap event, where you donate unwanted clothes and swap them for items that others have brought along.

Plastic-free periods

Over recent years there’s been huge growth in the number of products and brands providing alternative period products that produce little to no plastic waste. Some solutions have been around for a while but there’s now a wider range of options to suit different bodies and budgets. 

Reusable nappies

Babies get through a lot of nappies before they’re potty-trained: 4,000 to 6,000 per child on average. And each disposable nappy contains plastic. Sometimes reverting to more traditional methods, such as cloth nappies, can allow us to live in a less wasteful way. These nappies are washable,  reusable and increasingly poonami-proof, with lots of innovative new designs on the market. Washing and drying them is more convenient that you'd think and they are more cost effective than using disposable nappies. You could even find your local ‘nappy library’ where you can borrow a box full of different designs to try before you buy.

Organise a litter pick

Probably the most obvious sign of our plastic waste problem in the UK is litter in our streets, on our beaches and throughout our natural landscapes. Could you help tackle the problem by organising a litter pick, on your own, with friends or a church group? Not only can you have a positive impact on the environment but you’ll also improve the wellbeing of both people and animals in the area. Have a look at Keep Britain Tidy’s advice on safe, effective litter-picking.

Get someone else to do everything you’ve just done

Everything we’ve just talked about can be easily amplified by getting someone else (or several people) to commit to making some changes too. Think about where you might have influence, be it with family, friends or colleagues, and talk to them kindly and openly about their plastic use, what you’re doing to reduce yours and whether they might like to do the same.

Take action with us

Looking to do more? Get involved in the Rubbish Campaign! We have lots of resources and ways for you and your church to take action on plastic. You can also sign our petition calling on world leaders to end plastic pollution and its harmful impact on people living in poverty, take on the Rubbish Challenge and give to our Rubbish appeal.


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Written by  Tearfund

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