In October The European Parliament voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans. MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. The proposal also called for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups. One MEP said, if no action was taken, “by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans”.

This can’t happen soon enough. A dead sperm whale that washed ashore in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 6kg (13 lbs) of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials say. Items found included 115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops. We all need to do more to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our everyday lives. Here are some simple ways to do so.

1. Use a reusable coffee cup for takeaway coffee
Disposable coffee cups are one of the very worst offenders when it comes to waste, as they are not recyclable and take hundreds of years to biodegrade in landfill. Reusable coffee cups are now widely available to buy, including from most of the coffee houses, so make this a must-do swap! I’d go as far as to say, if you don’t have your own cup, skip the coffee.

2. Bring in a packed lunch
Takeaway food and drink leaves a huge disposable footprint. The best way to avoid this is to bring in your own packed lunch in a reusable lunch box, just like you did in your school days. To earn extra brownie points, wrap snacks and sandwiches in beeswax wrap or cotton sandwich wraps and snack bags, to avoid using clingfilm or foil.

3. Use a container for your takeaway lunch
You may well be lucky enough to have a great canteen or fantastic cafe nearby, and don’t have time in the morning to make lunch. The waste-free answer to this is to bring in your own plate and cutlery and keep it at work to use in your canteen, or bring in a reusable food container and cutlery. Cafes are getting far more used to this practice and most won’t mind filling up your container for you (as long as you don’t take a ridiculously huge container and expect them to fill it to the top!).Yes, you will have to wash it up afterwards.

4. Think of extras like straws and cutlery
Remember that anything disposable, even paper, uses energy in its manufacture, so the greenest thing you can do is to bring your own and reuse, rather than using new and throwing away:

Take a few cotton napkins to work that you can bring home to wash intermittently (and they can double up as a hanky when needed).

Have a stainless steel straw handy in your draw, for post work drinks.

Going to a concert or gig? Take a stainless steel tumbler so that you don’t have to use the plastic cups provided. Your cup can be used for hot and cold drinks in the daytime too, as it is vacuum insulated (with space for your stainless steel straw).

Carry your own natural soap with you – you can pop into a biodegradable soap holder and avoid plastic bottles, as well as synthetic chemicals and palm oil.

5. Give your Secret Santa a green theme this year
Opt for things like stainless steel straws, natural soap and reusable coffee cups. Or gifts could be homemade – who doesn’t love a batch of chocolate brownies? Ban the throwaway tat.

6. Make a New Years Resolution to reduce your plastic
Carry out an audit looking on all of the areas in which you regularly end up with single-use waste. Think about the commute, lunch-time, meetings, trips to the coffee shop and prepare yourself with a kit to cover all eventualities. And when shopping use cotton bags instead of plastic ones.

7. Become the office (chic) eco geek
A crockery amnesty – ask everyone to bring in spare cutlery, mugs and crockery from home to kit out your kitchen. Visitors to the office can have their tea in a real mug, and water (tap please) in a real glass. Maybe your boss would consider installing water refill points for visitors.

Speak to your canteen and/or local coffee house and ask if they will do a discount on BYO cups for you and your colleagues (hopefully they are already doing this for customers).

Make sure your recycling facilities are up to scratch – talk to your manager/ office manager about installing more recycling bins.

Words: Lucy Holden