Reducing plastic waste

February 3, 2021

This article is part of the Consumer Council of Fiji’s World Consumer Rights Day Campaign themed “Eliminating our plastic footprint”. The 2021 WCRD campaign will focus on 7Rs: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair and Replace. This 7-week campaign aims to help influence consumers to re-evaluate their consumption habits to minimise plastic use, refuse unnecessary plastic where possible and demand more sustainable alternatives from businesses and governments.

 Single use plastics account for half of the plastic we use each year and have an average useful life of 12-15 minutes. It is no secret that plastic will outlive us and our children because of the amount of time it takes to decompose. The UN Environment estimates that only 9 billion tons of plastics in the world is recycled and it takes thousands of years to decompose. Floating plastic debris are currently the most abundant items of marine litter. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature highlights that waste plastic makes up 80 per cent of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments. This has resulted in many governments and organisations across the world working to curtail the damages plastic causes to the environment.

 Reducing plastic consumption in homes

Many people recognize the importance of reducing plastic waste. It is common however to keep hearing that it is difficult to find alternatives or that there is a lack of grocery stores with plastic free options or that some businesses are simply unwilling to accommodate requests. While understanding that it will take time to adjust to reducing plastic consumption, the best step forward would be to begin evaluating the habits you can control and those which you can change.

REDUCE is all about the virtue of conservation and the notion of doing more with less.  It is the first and most important step of confronting the plastic waste problem.  When consumers reduce the amount of plastic they consume, the harms of that plastic, including greenhouse gas emissions, are lessened.  Furthermore, the remaining “R’s” become easier because there is less plastic to address down the line.  Production companies can also reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging and you can choose to support products that utilise less.

Tips for reducing plastic consumption

Minimising the consumption of plastics is much simpler than it seems. Here are some tips that can change your life and the life of the planet:

  • Avoid single-use plastics
    • Single-use plastics, such as plates and cutlery made from this material, make our lives easier, but seriously harm the planet. These types of products have viable alternatives.
    • If you go shopping, remember to take a cloth bag. Consumers go to the supermarket at least once a week to stock food. Using reusable bags for shopping, whether it is made of cloth, string or wicker improves the health of our planet.  
    • Buy more bulk food (if possible) and fewer packaged products
    • Replace plastic Tupperware for glass or steel containers
    • When hanging out washing use wooden pegs instead of plastic ones
    • Avoid using cosmetics that use micro-plastics, buy a biodegradable brush and wear natural fabrics
    • Choose to reuse and give some of the packaging a new purpose – If you have no choice but to buy a plastic bottle or a plastic container at the supermarket, reuse it instead of throwing it away. A bottle can be filled up as many times as you like and containers can be used to store other food.

Reducing plastic production

The UN Environment forecasts that plastic production will grow by 40 per cent in the next decade with fossil fuel companies investing billions of dollars to build new generation plastic-making factories in countries such as United States. Companies that use plastics clearly have an important role to play in changing unsustainable habits.

Plastic packaging is responsible for a high proportion of waste which most often ends up damaging our environment. Many companies however, are changing the way their products are packaged with pressure from increasingly environmentally conscious consumers.

Here are ways production companies can help reduce plastic waste:

  • Direct elimination – the simplest way to prevent packaging waste is to consider whether the packaging is needed at all. Businesses can phase out the use of unnecessary plastic films such as those that cover greeting cards, bed linen, clear plastic packaging and wrapping for vegetables and fruits.
  • Innovative elimination – In instances where businesses/manufacturers require plastic packaging or plastic products, they can opt for sustainable products effectively reducing the amount to plastic being utilized. For example, the use of organic materials rather than plastic. The use of organic materials for packaging ensures that it is able to decompose much quicker than plastic.
  • Refills – where packaging can’t be eliminated, it can be reused. For instance, manufacturers can suggest refills for items such as cooking oil.
  • If packaging itself cannot be reused, at least the material it is made from can be. Manufacturers can institute recycling initiatives to help reduce plastic waste.

For any consumer issues or more information on our campaign against plastics, consumers are encouraged to contact the Consumer Council of Fiji on toll-free number 155 or email Alternatively, complaints can be lodged via the Consumer Council of Fiji Mobile App available for download on Google Play Store.