As the UK becomes increasingly aware of the damage that plastic is causing to the planet, more and more of us are looking for ways to cut down on our single-use plastic consumption.
And this is not just at home.
In the UK alone we generate around three million tonnes of plastic waste annually
Many large companies are now trying to lead the way in cutting down on single plastic use and although large-scale programmes have historically been rare, mainly due to costings, we are now seeing more companies than ever sitting up to take responsibility for their products and their packaging.
Plastic is so cheap and versatile to use that it has been the go-to product for years, but with consumers gaining an ever-increasing conscience, many large-scale businesses have taken notice of this trend and vowed to pave the way to making more environmentally-friendly products.
In the UK alone we generate around three million tonnes of plastic waste annually, 56% of which is used packaging, with three quarters of this coming from home.
But the tide appears to be turning with a range of plastic-free products.
A good example is Britain’s carrier bag charges which, although not plastic free, did lead to plastic bag use in England falling by a whopping 80% in the first year.
And that is not the only change we will see in our supermarket in the coming year, in fact, our shelves are set to get quite the overhaul.
Take tea bags for example
In Britain, tea drinking is known as one of our most popular pastimes with an estimated 165 million cups of tea a day being consumed, enough to fill around 20 Olympic swimming pools.
The problem lies in what the tea bags are made from though, with most brands using polypropylene – a sealing plastic – which fastens the tea bags and ensures that they hold their shape.
With 60.2 billion cups of the hot stuff being drunk annually, that equates to a lot of landfill rubbish piling up.
But the tide is turning
At the tail-end of last year one of the UK’s biggest tea brands announced it would be launching a completely plastic-free bag by switching to a new material made from bananas.
Clipper Teas announced they had tasked a team who had come up with an innovative, world-leading solution – a plastic-free, unbleached and non-genetically modified tea bag.
And they aren’t the only ones, with PG Tips and the Co-op following in their footsteps and announcing they also plan to switch to biodegradable bags by the end of this year.
"We are committed to doing our bit" - Icelands spokesman
Iceland supermarket also have an entire section on their website telling customers just what plastic-saving measures they are putting in place to be more environmentally friendly.
They became the first UK supermarket to take plastic wrappings completely off their bananas and they are now trialling carboard punnets to hold fruit such as grapes and strawberries in, with a view to that being standard practise in all stores by the end of the year.
Other changes include replacing plastic egg boxes with pulp trays and stopping the sale of plastic bags.
An Iceland spokesman said: "We are committed to doing our bit but we have also encountered a number of challenges that re-emphasise the ground-breaking nature of our pledges and the many difficulties we will continue to face in seeking to replace a material that has become the food industry’s default packaging solution precisely because it is effective, versatile and cheap."
Waitrose is another leader in the plastic-free field.
Waitrose are banning plastic laminated board or paper from items such as on-the-go sandwiches and will completely ban plastic crisp packets by as early as 2023
As well as being the first supermarket to stop the sale of products containing microbeads, they have also now switched their cotton buds from plastic stems to paper.
Bosses there have also vowed to replace loose fruit and vegetable bags with home compostable alternatives by as early as next year and are completely eliminating glitter from the cards, wraps, crackers, tags and flowers by the start of 2020.
Customers will also see a change to the lunches they buy, with the High Street leader banning plastic laminated board or paper from items such as on-the-go sandwiches and they say they will completely ban plastic crisp packets by as early as 2023.
A spokesman said: "This is just the start. We want to work with our customers to understand which plastic packaging truly is unnecessary without impacting the freshness and the quality."
But it isn’t just companies taking the lead, with world leaders stepping in to ensure our products are as environmentally friendly as possible.
Just last month, the Parliament of the European Union voted to ban single use plastics in our supermarkets, with measures put in place to put this law into effect within two years.
80% of rubbish in the ocean is plastic
By 2021, plastic straws, plates, cutlery, trays and all other ‘single-use’ items will be subject to a Europe-wide ban.
Ministers said it must “look at the damage we are allowing”, citing figures that 80% of rubbish in the ocean is plastic – with scientists estimating that between eight and 12 tonnes of plastic end up in the seas every year.
The new measures will require plastic bottles to be made of at least 30% of recycled plastic by 2030
The new measures, which were voted into force almost unanimously, also require plastic bottles to be made of at least 30% of recycled plastic by 2030, while 90% of plastic bottles must be made recyclable by the same year.
This means that in the next two years, the state of supermarket shelves could change quite drastically.
We are likely to see fruit and vegetables either loose or in recyclable brown paper, with the crisp and the fizzy drink aisle also getting a radical overhaul.
And it isn’t just European MPs taking a stand, in December of last year Education Secretary Damian Hinds urged schools to go plastic free by 2022.
The Tory MP said recycling was an "important and timely issue which has captured the interest and the imagination of everyone in society."
A step in the right direction
The compulsory changes are welcomed by many pro-Green organisations like Greenpeace who labelled the move a "step in the right direction", but the newfound information about how much damage is being done is making some take a step to being proactive without prompting.
For the first time in history, chiefs running the popular music festival Glastonbury announced they were taking it upon themselves to “do their bit” this summer.
We’ll be able to prevent over a million single-use plastic bottles from being used at this year’s Glastonbury festival
Organisers announced this month that they were putting an end to single-use plastic bottles being sold on-site during the five-day event.
In a statement they said they were "taking a stand against the detrimental impact of plastic pollution."
It read: "With more than one million plastic bottles sold in 2017, we feel that stopping their sale is the only way forward.
Plastic bottles will not be supplied backstage, in dressing rooms, to the public or to people working in production or catering."
Organiser Emily Eavis added: "It is paramount for our planet that we all reduce our plastic consumption and I am thrilled that, together, we’ll be able to prevent over a million single-use plastic bottles from being used at this year’s festival.
I really hope that everyone – from ticket holder to headliner – will leave Worthy Farm knowing that even small, everyday changes can make a real difference. It is now or never."