2019 has been a big year when it comes to plastic. So many more of us are now finally trying to use less, recycle more and just generally think about the planet. And it’s high time. But there’s always at least one extra change you can make. A recent YouGov poll revealed that almost half of us (49%) admit we ‘could do more’ when it comes to recycling, so now’s the time to start.

"We believe that simple swaps, from plastic to paper and cardboard alternatives, could significantly reduce single-use plastic, says Alex Manisty, group head of strategy at DS Smith, a sustainable packaging company.

"While there is no silver bullet, sustainable packaging has a huge role to play – and unlike plastic – paper and cardboard are materials that are recyclable not just in theory but in practice, achieving recycling rates of 85% today across Europe."

So, how can you do more? Try making these easy eco swaps at home…

1. Keep food fresh without using cling film
You can use offcuts of fabric, covered in beeswax and coconut oil instead of cling film, to keep food fresh in the fridge. Or if that’s too much like hard work, you can buy your own beeswax wraps. You can find Ireland's Beeswax Wraps here.

2. Only use recyclable wrapping paper

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Most of us are aware you can’t recycle all wrapping paper, but we often throw it in with the paper waste and hope for the best.

Non-paper gift wrap, such as foil-based wrapping paper or bags, cannot be recycled. You can check if your wrap can be recycled by scrunching it; if it springs back when you scrunch it, it’s not recyclable.

Just buy lovely brown paper and decorate presents with ribbons or string, which can also be re-used. When you are recycling wrap, remember to remove any bits with labels or sellotape on them, too.

Is your wrapping paper recyclable? Only if it passes the scrunch test

3. Put your recycling in the right bin

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It sounds obvious, but so many people put items in the wrong recycling bins. This Christmas, more than 90% of us are set to shop online, which according to DS Smith, means that 25% more cardboard will make its way into residential collections. To make sure that all recyclable paper and cardboard is actually sent for recycling, residents need to make sure that it ends up in the correct recycling bin.

What goes in which bin? Recycling rules for Ireland

4. Bin the bubble wrap

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Bubble wrap and plastic-lined envelopes are extremely difficult to recycle, so use paper versions instead. They’ll protect any goodies you’re popping in the post and can then be recycled.

5. Use a good old hankie

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Tissues, paper towels and kitchen roll cannot be recycled once used – mainly for hygiene reasons. So why not go old school and swap these for a handkerchief or cloth, so you can wash them and re-use?

6. Treat yourself to a reusable coffee cup

If you frequent the likes of Starbucks or Costa for your morning caffeine fix, maybe it’s time to get yourself a reusable coffee up. Up to 200 million single-use coffee cups are thrown away every year in Ireland, according to a 2018 recycling report.

7. Don’t forget to recycle your pizza boxes

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Pizza boxes are 100% recyclable even when a little greasy, as long as there is no food left in them and they aren’t heavily stained. The best way of ensuring your pizza box can be recycled is to remove any crusts, leftover food, and soak up any excess oil.

According to MyWaste.ie, if the whole box is greasy and dirty it should be placed in the food waste recycle bin. Also, if the top of the box is clean it can be torn off and placed in the household recycle bin.

If you have a frozen pizza, this box will be 100% recyclable and should be placed in the recycle bin.

8. Think about the cards you buy

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Greetings cards can be recycled, as long as they’re not covered in glitter or other non-paper materials, so only buy ones you can actually recycle.

9. Shop with recyclability in mind

Look for the on-pack recycling information and avoid foods packaged in single-use plastics. Black plastic can’t be recycled, and companies like Marks & Spencer are doing something about this. Their priority is to remove or reduce plastic packaging, and as part of this, they’ve removed 1,700 tonnes of black plastic from products such as fruit and veg, meat and fish and their Mini Bites tubs, while also launching new, widely recyclable terracotta CPET trays to replace black plastic.

10. Use more eco-friendly ways to stay warm

If you feel the cold, it can be massively tempting to have the heating on more frequently, but if you want to use less energy, why not focus on just warming yourself up? Throw on an extra jumper, or cosy up in a super-efficient electric blanket – perfect for popping on the bed at nighttime, having on your lap if you work from home or snuggling up with on the sofa. 

11. Ditch fast fashion

The fashion industry is also the second most polluting industry (after oil) and produces nearly 20% of wastewater globally. 'Fast fashion' is defined as cheap, mass-produced clothing designed to cater to the latest trends, and it’s having a huge impact on the environment.

To combat this problem, pass up a shopping spree on the high street in favour of a trip to a charity shop, revamping what you already have, swapping with friends or attending a swap shop event.

Here's where you can shop sustainably in Ireland