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Isabel Goodwin: How small changes can have a big impact

Isabel Goodwin (Outreach Manager at CEN)

As individuals, we can sometimes feel powerless in the face of the global challenges of climate change. What meaningful action can we take individually to limit the impact of climate change and help restore nature across the world?

Today’s World Refill Day is an opportunity for us to reflect on our daily routines and make some small changes to reduce our plastic footprint, helping to protect our planet for future generations. These can be as simple as carrying around a reusable water bottle and coffee cup, using refill stations for detergents and signing up for your local milk round as they tend to sanitise and reuse glass milk bottles.

There are other benefits of refilling besides reducing plastic waste. Refilling is often by far the cheaper option. Furthermore, by reusing items we save the valuable energy and resources which are expended on creating each new product.

Reduce plastic pollution

Strikingly, figures from Greenpeace estimate that up to 12 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of a rubbish truck every minute. Marine plastic pollution has a deeply damaging and pervasive impact on our natural environment and the health of wildlife, with 90 per cent of seabirds having plastic in their stomachs.

Most of the marine plastic pollution starts on land, with household and commercial waste blowing from bins and landfill sites into sewers and rivers before floating out to sea. In the UK alone it is estimated we use over 35 million plastic bottles a day. Therefore, by reducing our plastic consumption individually and supporting businesses doing the same, we can make a big difference to help protect the environment and nature.

Save money

The upfront cost of buying a reusable product will be higher initially but it will soon pay itself back. For instance, refilling your water bottle at home will be much cheaper than regularly buying bottled water.

The Refill app is a useful resource which is free to download and highlights places to eat, drink and shop with less plastic in the UK. Refill Stations include everything from fountains where you can fill up your bottle, to cafes and restaurants where you can get a hot drink in a reusable cup.

Increasingly companies are offering discounted rates to customers using reusable cups. For instance, Starbucks offers a 25p discount, Pret a 50p discount and under the Costa Club Loyalty scheme after buying four drinks with a reusable cup, you get a free drink. These schemes not only save consumers money but also help reduce waste as out of the 2.5 billion coffee cups thrown away every year in the UK, less than 1 in 400 are recycled.

Conserve energy and resources

Something which is perhaps less considered is the energy and resources consumers save by refilling rather than buying a new product.

For instance, drinking bottled water has a substantially higher carbon cost to produce and dispose of than tap water in a refillable bottle, notably in the production of the bottles and their transportation when they travel long distances. These distances can be significant as the resin is transported to be blown into bottles; then the empty bottles transported again ready to be filled; before being transported ready for sale; and then finally further journeys for the collection, processing and recycling of them. When using a refillable bottle, the resources and energy to manufacture the bottle are only expended once.

World Refill Day is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of refilling and reusing, highlighting the positive impact we can have as individuals and consumers to restore nature and the environment - all whilst saving money!


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