SCUBA’s new environmental columnist Kerry MacKay has suggestions for what we can all do to fight the war on plastic pollution.

There’s a whole month dedicated to encouraging you to try living life without single-use plastic. Have you heard of it before, it happens every year in July? Funnily enough, it’s called Plastic Free July.

A whole movement has built around the simple idea behind the campaign. Can you live one month without single-use plastic?

The average UK household disposes of almost 3,500 pieces of plastic each year, yet only 12% is actually recycled. The rest goes to landfill, incineration, shipped abroad, or worst of all, litters the environment.

A bin lorry worth of plastic enters our ocean every minute. There are floating islands of plastic out there. The largest, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, covers an area three times the size of France.

Plastic, especially single-use plastic, is thoroughly ingrained in our culture of convenience. Some efforts are being made to stop these wasteful habits, such as the plastic bag charge, the plastic straw and cotton bud stick ban, and the bottle deposit-return scheme, due to go live in Scotland in March 2024 and the rest of the UK in 2025.Yet, these efforts are only scratching the surface. Big businesses tout recycling as a great solution. It’s recyclable so it must be good… right? Wrong. Big businesses advocate recycling because it’s the cheapest to implement – not because it’s the best solution to the plastics problem. 

You have hopefully noticed the mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’, probably plastered on the side of a bin lorry. What many people don’t realise is that those actions are in order of importance. So, the most important thing we can do to reduce waste is ‘Reduce’. 

implement simple swaps and you will save over 400 plastic items from clogging up our world

Every snack wrapper, or plastic fork, or drink bottle that you use in a matter of seconds could float around our oceans for at least another 450 years. So, the best thing we can do is not create that waste in the first place – Reduce

Even if you can’t eliminate single-use plastic entirely, you can easily reduce it. Plastic bottles alone (drinks, soap, shampoo…) account for 67% of the plastic thrown out of most households.

Here are my top easy swaps to try this July:  

  • Reusable travel water bottle. Get the Refill App to find locations with free water refills wherever you go. 
  • Reusable coffee cup. Always ask if you can get your coffee to go in your own cup and check the Refill App. 
  • Old-school bar of soap. Be sure to choose ones not packaged in plastic. If you desperately love liquid hand soap, buy bulk bottles to refill the sink-side ones. 
  • Shampoo and conditioner bars. This is all I will use now – they are great for travel as they won’t squidge all over your bag. 
  • Bamboo fibre dish sponge cloth. The usual yellow and green dish sponge is unrecyclable and releases microplastics into our oceans. Simply sterilise your natural fibre sponge cloth it in the microwave occasionally. 

If you implement all of these simple swaps, you will save over 400 plastic items from clogging up our world and around £1,150. Imagine how many dives or what shiny new dive kit you could use that for! 

You can sign up for the Challenge at To date, campaign participants have prevented 2.1 billion tonnes of plastic waste. Please join me this July and discover something fantastic with less plastic. 

Article by Kerry MacKay first published in SCUBA magazine, Issue 136 July/Aug 2023.

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