The environmental impact of litter – and how a Zero Waste lifestyle provides a solution

Filed in Uncategorized by on June 25, 2018 0 Comments
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man standing on chewing gum litter.One of the topics that gets discussed a lot on our Facebook group is litter.

Not only does it look unsightly, but it causes harm and costs us money.

The RSPCA receives over 5000 calls per year connected to wildlife that has been harmed by litter – either by eating it, getting stuck in it or sustaining injuries. Litter can cause blockages in drains, causing floods and increases the rat population. In addition, the government spends £682mil per year clearing up litter – think how the NHS, our schools and welfare system could benefit if that money was diverted to them!

There are deeper issues too – litter can affect the tourism trade and lead to increased crime and anti-social behaviour. While the government are set to introduce on-the-spot fines, as part of their new anti-littering strategy, it’s clear we need to look at this from a behavioural level.

Maybe making some lifestyle changes could help! I’ve been thinking about ways in which a Zero Waste lifestyle, automatically reduces the risk of littering.

According to research by Keep Britain Tidy and the Great British Spring Clean campaign, here are some of the most common types of litter and how we could avoid them with a Zero Waste lifestyle:

Food packaging

Crisp packets, confectionery wrappers and sandwich packaging make up a big percentage of litter. When you consider that up to 15% of the cost of a product you buy is the packaging, we could all save money by planning an advance and packing zero waste lunches and snacks.

Sandwiches made at home and put in a reusable container stay fresh and are a great way to use leftovers, homemade biscuits and cakes can cost a fraction of shop bought confectionery and large bags of crisps can be decanted into small reusable containers to save money and reduce packaging.

Drinks packaging

All those bottles of our favourite drink can take a large chunk from the grocery budget, and most of them are little more than water flavoured with sweeteners and artificial colours and flavourings. It’s important to keep hydrated and one of the most environmentally friendly (and cost effective) ways is to refill your own water bottle. There are more and more refill stations popping up across the UK, so there’s no excuse to throw plastic bottles on the ground. The refill app will help you find your nearest location.

Cigarette litter

Cigarette litter is a big problem in many places, especially large cities and roadsides. Although cigarettes appear to be biodegradable, the filters are made from plastic fibres. Plus they are full of chemicals that can leach into the environment and contaminate water. Then there are disposable lighters – you’ve all seen the picture of the dead albatross with the disposable lighter in its stomach, right? If you’re not ready to kick the habit yet, then using a vaping device reduces cigarette litter because there are no butts to dispose of and no lighter needed – win win!

Chewing Gum

Maybe you’ve given up the cigarettes and have replaced it with a chewing gum habit! Unfortunately, chewing gum adheres to pavements, doesn’t dissolve in the rain and every piece of chewing gum costs between 50p and £2 to remove. Not only that, but did you know that most chewing gum is actually made from a type of synthetic, non-biodegradable rubber mixed with flavourings? Doesn’t sound very appetising does it? As you’ll know by now, a Zero Waste lifestyle isn’t about deprivation – and there is one company I know of who have addressed this. Chicza make their chewing gum from the chicle tree found in the Mayan rainforest; it’s organic and biodegradable.

What about you – what ways could a Zero Waste lifestyle automatically reduce litter?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

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