The Three ‘R’s for Single-Use Plastic

The first thing that springs to mind when you hear ‘three Rs’ is Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These three words are associated with environmental issues as we try to reduce the amount of waste we produce, reuse materials and recycle products to avoid making new ones. This has worked over the years as a way of helping people to remember some important considerations  concerning waste and recycling. The three Rs have become part of everyday life and are ultimately helping the environment.

Time for some new R’s specifically aimed at single-use plastic

GG RRR small
  • REMOVE plastic bottles from the environment
  • REFUSE to use single-use plastic drinks bottles, coffee cups and straws
  • REFILL a reusable plastic drinks bottle rather than by single-use bottles

When it comes to single-use plastic bottles, and single-use plastic more generally, it is urgent that we’ve got to start using less of it in the first place.


Well, a plastic drinks bottle (like a bottle of water or fizzy pop) may only be used for about 10 -15 minutes before it is no longer needed – it has served its use. The energy and oil used in the manufacturing process of the bottle is significant. In a world where the effects of climate change due to global warming is prevalent all around us, cutting back any unnecessary waste of energy and oil is critical if we are to have a chance of reversing the changing climate before we reach a tipping point.

And worse still, many billions of these bottles get discarded into our land and water-based environments and cause havoc, harm and suffering to millions of mammals and birds every year.

And even worse than that, because these plastics don’t biodegrade EVER, but instead take decades or more to degrade down into smaller plastic pieces (or microplastics) that get into food chains and biomagnify within the predators. As humans are at the top of many food chains, particularly marine food chains, the toxic chemicals within and on these microplastics make their way into our bodies. The consequences of this are emerging with research indicating that human systems such as reproduction can be affected.

So whilst reducing, reusing and recycling materials is important, we think there’s a need for three new Rs specific to our campaign against single-use plastic bottles:

The 3 R’s for single-use plastic


OK, there are a lot of plastic bottles littering our environments: beaches, roadsides, rivers, parks, forests – you name it, where ever there are people, there will be litter. The problem with plastic littler is it doesn’t biodegrade, so if no-one picks it up, it will remain there forever.

If the majority of people that care about this pick up the plastic bottles of the minority that don’t care, the number of plastic bottles blighting the natural world will reduce.



plastic on shelves
Our supermarkets have shelves stacked full of plastic bottles waiting for customers …which they get. At lunchtime, people regularly nip into the supermarket or a shop to get a snack and a drink. Often, without thinking about it, they grab a plastic bottle of water, juice or fizzy drink. After consuming it, they then want to bin it; the time that they actually use it is about 10 – 15 minutes.

Plastic is recyclable and needs to be recycled where possible but this relies on people putting their plastic bottles in recycling bins. The problem is, a large percentage of plastic bottles sold daily are not put in the recycling bin but put in the general waste instead. They are then taken to landfill sites where they will not decompose; plastic lasts for thousands of years. Some plastic bottles are dumped, littering our streets and countryside. Some end up in our rivers and float out to sea.

So, what can we do about this? Well, it’s all to do with supply and demand; if we demand less, the manufacturers will produce less! If we refuse to buy single-use plastic bottles, fewer will reach our supermarkets.

So cut the demand for unnecessary single-use plastic bottles by stopping buying them.


Single-use plastic bottles have a longer life if they are reused, but there are possible health risks associated with reusing a plastic bottle that wasn’t manufactured for multiple use..

So instead of trying to reuse (by refilling) a single-use plastic bottle, a better idea is to buy a durable drinks bottle that can used again and again. There is a wide variety of them on the market and although they are more expensive than single-use plastic bottles the first time you buy one, they will work out cheaper in the long run. Rather than buying a plastic bottle every day, people should refill their bottle with tap water or their preferred choice of drink. Some reuseable bottles have filters in them which will remove chemicals and make water taste nicer.

Want to help us?

As we try to do our bit towards the UN’s Global Goals, we are embarking on a challenge to try and clear-up 200,000 plastic bottles from the environment (that’s one bottle representing each death of a ocean mammal killed by plastic pollution each year).

It’s going to be a long old effort if we try to do it alone, as a family, so we are hoping others will get involved and help us out, and in turn, do their bit towards the Global Goals too.

Why not join in and help us reach this target – there are details here.

If you want to learn a bit more about the Global Goals from a child’s perspective, try this.