You would be hard pushed to not know about the devastating effects plastic is having on our eco systems. Developed in 1907 and making waves by the 1930s to now being so engrained in our everyday life that our homes have become plastic temples. Plastic is the material we now love to hate. According to Sky Ocean Rescue, the average UK wedding creates approximately 18kg of plastic waste but how does it work our way into our weddings? And what are the simple swaps we can take to reduce our plastic foot print?
Plastic Free Wedding Packaging
Let’s start with packaging. Throw away, single use, non-recyclable plastic is prolific in the world of packaging. Yes it keeps items clean and safe but it is completely redundant as soon as that item is unwrapped. The biggest culprit is flowers; when ordered or collected from the wholesaler each bunch is wrapped in plastic. Currently this is unavoidable if you wish to use certain flowers but there are moves and petitions being raised to make all packaging bio degradable. An alternative is to think seasonal and local; there will be no plastic wrapping at all if your flowers are sourced from a local grower – the only plastic in sight would be the buckets which florists re-use time and time again. Avoid faux flowers, because unless you want your house filled with them, they are really difficult to sell on and they aren’t breaking down for years! What? I hear you say! You have been blasted previously about how damaging grown flowers are on the supply chain, fair trade and their carbon foot print. But let’s look at this from another way: flowers which are grown in the UK have a greatly reduced carbon foot print, many growers are attempting to be organic so fantastic for insects and bees. Read more about choosing ethical flowers here.
Photo source: Nicki Shea / Flowers from Flowers at 58
Plastic Free Wedding Props
Flowers aren’t the only victim of plastic wrapping; items that are bought from new, especially from a cheap source are pretty much guaranteed to be covered in plastic. For example if you are buying and hanging your own paper lanterns, each lantern will be individually wrapped. The alternative here is an easy one and actually the answer to a lot of your plastic problems, and that is to hire. Hire cutlery, crockery and glassware, hire your decorations, hire your garden games and pay for someone to come and install your paper lanterns. Hiring cuts down massively on waste, they are usually of a better quality than the cheap ones you would be buying and they are reused time and time again, they only time they will end up in landfill is when they are broken, so cherish those items that you hire.
Don’t be fooled by the cheap wedding section in those well-known bargain chain shops. B&M, The Range and Hobby Craft have aisles and aisles of cheap décor aimed at being used for your wedding. From plastic coated signs, to disposable tea lights, it’s enticing because it is cheap. Items like this can all be hired with a little bit of looking, I myself as a stylist with The White Emporium have a huge box of tea lights I offer out to my customers if they wish to hire for the cost of the replacement batteries. Items such as Mr & Mrs signs and table numbers are often backed with plastic so why not look to buy these items from an artisan business, who creates to order, that way you are supporting a small businesses and getting a more unique product.
Plastic Free Wedding Catering
Catering is another hugely plastic infested side of the wedding industry and again one that is slowly evolving with education and advances in biodegradable technology. We already know plastic straws are a no no; some venues only allow plastic cups outside so swap to a biodegradable version. Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer what steps they are taking to reduce their plastic consumption and ask them to swap to a non-plastic alternative – after all this is going to be a question asked of all of us soon. How will you be serving drinks? I banned all plastic bottles at my own wedding 5 years ago. We were married in a meadow without a water supply so instead of many small bottles of water we requested the extra-large containers and individually filled glass bottles that kept being reused and refilled; the bar only served soft drinks that arrived in glass bottles. (This was also from an aesthetics perspective!)
Modern weddings have seen a move away from the traditional favour and many people are thinking out of the box when it comes to guest gifts, with edible favours becoming more popular ensure they are wrapped in sugar paper or a biodegradable alternative and avoid individually wrapped chocolates. Check your place name tags and favour name tags don’t have a plastic coating.
The Big Clear Up
You have done all you can to reduce your plastic consumption on your wedding day only for all the rubbish and left over food to be bagged up into bin bags and thrown away. It is estimated that it can take up to 1000 years for a plastic bin bag to break down, and as a society we are combating the single use shopping bags but black bin bags are still prolific. Simply swap to biodegradable, however they are not so easily found in the supermarket but available online.
We are already making waves in some aspects, especially when it comes to confetti according to Etsy, there were 51,000 searches for biodegradable confetti between January 2018 and January 2019, which is a 28 per cent increase from the previous 12 months. Not only does it look nicer than the plastic stuff but your venue will be happier as it’s far less damaging.
Image Source Two-D Photography
I am not professing to be plastic free myself and after researching and writing this blog I am shocked at how unthinking my plastic use has become; the fact about bin bags is a terrifying one and will definitely change my waste disposal habits. The battle against plastic isn’t an easy one, in our lives where time is precious it requires us to stop, think and source an alternative. It is do-able and change is coming through education and the advances in alternative offerings, if we all make small swaps and steps towards reducing our plastic use then joined together this can have a huge impact.
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