2019 has been a big year when it comes to plastic. So many more of us are now finally trying to use less, recycle more and just generally think about the planet. And it's high time. But there's always at least one extra change you can make.
"We believe that simple swaps, from plastic to paper and cardboard alternatives, could significantly reduce single-use plastic, says Alex Manisty, group head of strategy at DS Smith, a sustainable packaging company. "While there is no silver bullet, sustainable packaging has a huge role to play - and unlike plastic - paper and cardboard are materials that are recyclable not just in theory but in practice, achieving recycling rates of 85 percent today across Europe."
So, how can you do more? Try making these easy eco swaps at home...
1. Keep food fresh without using cling film
You can use off cuts of fabric, covered in beeswax and coconut oil instead of cling film, to keep food fresh in the fridge. Or if that's too much like hard work, you can buy your own beeswax wraps.
2. Only use recyclable wrapping paper
Most of us are aware you can't recycle all wrapping paper, but we often throw it in with the paper waste and hope for the best.
Non-paper gift wrap, such as foil-based wrapping paper or bags, cannot be recycled. You can check if your wrap can be recycled by scrunching it; if it springs back when you scrunch it, it's not recyclable. Just buy lovely brown paper and decorate presents with ribbons or string, which can also be re-used. When you are recycling wrap, remember to remove any bits with labels or sellotape on them, too.
3. Put your recycling in the right bin
It sounds obvious, but so many people put items in the wrong recycling bins. This Christmas, more than 90 percent of us are set to shop online, which according to DS Smith, means that 25 percent more cardboard will make its way into residential collections. To make sure that all recyclable paper and cardboard is actually sent for recycling, residents need to make sure that it ends up in the correct recycling bin.
4. Bin the bubble wrap
Bubble wrap and plastic-lined envelopes are extremely difficult to recycle, so use paper versions instead. They'll protect any goodies you're popping in the post and can then be recycled.
5. Use a good old hankie
Tissues, paper towels and kitchen roll cannot be recycled once used - mainly for hygiene reasons. So why not go old school and swap these for a handkerchief or cloth, so you can wash them and re-use?
6. Don't forget to recycle your pizza boxes
Pizza boxes are 100 percent recyclable even when greasy, as long as there is no food left in them and they aren't heavily stained. The best way of ensuring your pizza box can be recycled is to remove any crusts, leftover food, and soak up any excess oil.
7. Think about the cards you buy
Greetings cards can be recycled, as long as they're not covered in glitter or other non-paper materials, so only buy ones you can actually recycle.
8. Stop buying records and CDs
I know, I know, we love vinyl too, but do you really need any more stuff cluttering up your home? Sign up to a music streaming service like Spotify, where you can select and play pretty much any song you fancy listening to. And if you treat yourself to a new Google Nest Mini, not only will you be able to listen to your tunes on a quality speaker, but you don't even need to use the app - you can just ask Google to play you anything you want to listen to. Oh, and the Nest Mini base is made of 35 percent recycled materials, while the cover is made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, so it's also a green product to invest in.
9. Use more eco-friendly ways to stay warm
If you feel the cold, it can be massively tempting to have the heating on more frequently, but if you want to use less energy, why not focus on just warming yourself up? Throw on an extra jumper, or cosy up in a super-efficient electric blanket - perfect for popping on the bed at night time, having on your lap if you work from home or snuggling up with on the sofa.