A student's guide to reducing plastic waste


By Daisy Farrow, Second Year English

Breaking news: plastic knives to be discarded. They're just not cutting it anymore.

So it’s 2019, and one of your New Year’s resolutions is to use less plastic. Or maybe you’ve just had one too many angry environmentalists judging you for using plastic bags when you go to the supermarket. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that this year you’re going to cut down on your plastic consumption as much as possible. And beyond the old paper-straws-that-get-wet-and-dissolve, you don’t really know what else to do. Well – look no further. Here I have compiled a list of things to do that are either student-friendly or Bristol-based.

1. Take out the plastic when you take-away your dinner

Taking away your left over Nandos? Ask for a cardboard container, not plastic. Grabbing some food on the way home from your night out? “No plastic cutlery please” (you’re drunk so you’ll probably be eating it with your hands anyway). Hell, even Donervans will give you your chips in a paper bag and not a polystyrene container. Even if you only have one takeaway a month, which I highly doubt considering we’re all students with poor self-control, then you’ll still be making a difference. Single-use plastics like cutlery and food containers are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to contributing to our waste, so be more mindful the next time you open the Deliveroo app.

2. Embrace the magic of bamboo

Epigram / Daisy Farrow

For Christmas this year, I received bamboo toothbrushes and bamboo straws. Sounds like a bit of a crap present, right? Wrong. Bamboo is a fantastic substitute for plastic as it’s so cheap and a natural resource that it literally doesn’t make sense why you wouldn’t swap over. Not only can you get them in really cute styles, but making the swap from plastic to bamboo is such a small change that has a huge impact! Plus, think of how indie and progressive you’ll look sipping your vodka lemonade through a bamboo straw at pres. It definitely fits in with your Bristol-student aesthetic.

3. Ditch the plastic whilst keeping your hair fantastic

As part of a new effort to reduce our cosmetic plastic waste, companies like Lush have now started selling bars of shampoo and conditioner, makeup, and even hair dye that come without a plastic container, meaning that you can lather up without the concern for your plastic wasteage. Whilst walking into a Lush store may be harder than it sounds (the over-friendliness of the staff can be off putting) it’s definitely worth making the trip into Cabot Circus or even buying it online. Granted, these bars can be a little more expensive for students, especially if you’re used to buying Sainsbury’s own-brand £1 shampoo, but we all have to make sacrifices, right?

4. Think about your drinks

If you haven’t done this already, then you must be part of the 1% of the Bristol student population that doesn’t have a keep-cup, because I see these everywhere. A little store on Cotham Hill called Amulet sells these cute little bamboo takeaway cups, perfect for hot drinks (can you tell I’m obsessed with bamboo?) But if these don’t take your fancy, any reusable cup will do. Cutting down on your plastic waste every time you buy a hot drink not only will make a huge difference across your lifetime, but can also save you money in the long run too. Source Cafés on the university campus and the Hawthorns Café offer discounts if you bring in your own takeaway cup, so if you’re not doing this for the environment, at least do it to save yourself some money.

5. Say goodbye to mass-produced, and hello to fresh produce

When we go to Sainsbury’s or Waitrose for our weekly shop, we end up buying so many plastic-dependent items that even if it’s recyclable, it still encourages the making of plastic. So here’s my solution: buy fresh. Fresh fruit and veg or loose items from independent stores means you can bring in your own bags to bag them up, and don’t have to use the plastic punnets which are the size of a book but only contain three strawberries. And if you’re looking for a place in particular, then I recommend Zero Green Bristol: ‘Bristol’s First Zero-Waste Shop’, located on North Street. Bring in your own containers, jars, cloth bags, and fill up as much as you want from their loose products. From organic coffee beans and rich spices, to dishwasher safe dining-ware and natural deodorant, they’re the first store in Bristol totally committed to reducing your waste.

Featured image: Flickr / Bo Eide

What steps have you taken to cut down on using plastic? Epigram wants to know - get in touch!

Facebook / Epigram / Twitter