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Plastics

Plastic not included: Small steps for going single-use free with kids

25 MAR 20 | 3 minute read

When you think about the packaging that’s in the average family home, it’s a lot. 

There’s punnets, bottles, snack bars wrapped in unrecyclable packaging...and that’s before we even get to the toys. 

While lots of these items are plastics, many are made of other materials that are also discarded after one use, such as paper, cardboard or glass. 

We all want what’s best for our children, and that’s inextricably linked to the state of the environment.

Teaching them there is a link between the products we buy and our planet’s natural resources may enable the next generation to take better care of the environment than previous generations have.

It's a team effort

Talking to your kids about why it’s important could help warm them up to any change. They may already be hassling you about cutting out single use plastic.

This is great, but what about other single use items that get thrown away after just one use?

Get them to contribute to a plan of action - like creating a list of what can be swapped to reusables around the home - and try to think beyond just recycling.

Kids get taught a lot about recycling at school, and it’s fantastic that they take it on board. Reducing waste in the first place is even better though, so get them to think about what you could all do differently to reduce what ends up in the bin – recycling or otherwise. 

Reducing waste in the first place is even better than recycling. Get the kids to think about what you could all do differently to reduce what ends up in the bin. 

Plastic free shopping with kid

Go naked!

Shopping at packaging-free shops where available, or choosing loose fruit, veg and dried goods and using your own containers, is a win-win. No packaging in the first place (tick!), and you’re also using your purchasing power to demand more sustainable options.

Getting the kids to come shopping with you can help engage them with packaging free. They’ll see all the other options available with their own eyes, and it’ll help them get to know about food and where it comes from. 
 

Draw inspiration

Kids love someone to look up to, so why not highlight some other young people who are out there fighting climate change? From Greta Thunberg addressing world leaders to Sunnyside Primary School and their #NaeStrawAtAw campaign, there are loads of inspiring examples. 

Rethink ‘freebies’

Refusing is the first step to single use free, so if you don’t need it, leave it. You probably will need to speak up sharpish to avoid being given extras automatically. This goes for napkins, sugar, straws… and those free kids' toys!

Be prepared

Thinking ahead is an invaluable tool when it comes to fending off throwaway items.

Taking water or juice in a reusable bottle, carrying a reusable coffee cup and shopping bag, packing a flannel for wiping sticky faces and fingers, and including a couple of toddler spoons in your bag when you’ve got littlies can keep you self-sufficient while you’re out and about. 

Make your own

Kids are always hungry, so prepping your own snacks is an ideal way to cut down on single use packaging.

Fruity porridge bars, savoury muffins and banana loaf are all quick and easy, freeze well, and are portable. You can also throw them together while you’re cooking something else to save on time and energy!

This tip goes for toys too. Reusing empty containers to make shakers using uncooked pasta, rice or lentils is perfect for keeping small children amused, while it’s really easy to make your own playdough.

Just mix together two cups of flour, three tablespoons of olive oil, and half a cup of water in a big bowl (or get your toddler to do it!) and add a drop of food colouring if you have it. 
 

Reusing empty containers to make shakers using uncooked pasta, rice or lentils is perfect for keeping small children amused, while it’s really easy to make your own playdough. 

kid playing with playdough

Get real

Go for reusable crockery and cutlery for celebrations like birthdays. Why not borrow extra cups and plates from relatives or neighbours if you’re short? You can even hire reusable crockery online or from some supermarkets and return it when you’re done.

Get involved

  1. Talk to your kids about why cutting down on single-use is important and get them to help create an action plan

  2. Highlight other young people who are out there taking action

  3. If you don’t need it, say no. This goes for napkins, sugar, straws and those free kids' toys

  4. Pack a couple of toddler spoons in your bag along with a flannel for wiping sticky faces and fingers

  5. Make your own snacks to cut down on single-use packaging

  6. Go for reusable crockery and cutlery for celebrations like birthdays

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