Should you avoid all plastic?


June 26, 2019


Plastics are a durable and flexible material that plays many roles in our lives – in manufacturing, healthcare, transport and many more.

Syringes and straws, for example, are essential in healthcare, preventing infections and improving quality of life. They are also used in construction as long-lasting materials for building bridges and park benches. However, when disposed of carelessly, plastic can harm the environment and wildlife.

Quitting plastic altogether isn’t the solution. Making better, #realisticplastic choices is. Our Plastic Waste Hierarchy is a handy guide for realistic plastic use, focusing on how to make sustainable choices in selecting and disposing of plastics in our lives.

plastic waste hierarchy

Avoid and reduce

There are certain kinds of plastics that most of us can do without. Plastic straws and disposable coffee cups, while unrecyclable in most cases, are essential in healthcare and medicine. These are often unrecyclable, so if you don’t need them, don’t use them. When it comes to single-use plastics, the less you can use, the better.

Donate, reuse or upcycle

Did you know that one tonne of recycled plastic saves 16.3 barrels of oil?

Durable, long lasting plastics such as kitchen utensils, white goods, and electronics are often still working perfectly when we decide to replace them. In these cases, consider donating or upcycling them to extend their lifespan.

Many throwaway plastics in our lives can be avoided if we used reusable containers for shopping and food instead. When making a decision about whether to consume a material with plastic in it, think about its applications and whether you can maximise its lifespan for repeated usage. The longer and more it can be used, the better.


If you choose to purchase single-use plastics, choose plastics you know can be easily recycled. Rigid or ‘unscrunchable’ plastics like milk jugs, shampoo bottles and stiff biscuit trays can be recycled in most kerbside bins.

Just remember to take the lids off and make sure they’re empty and dry before you place them in your recycling bin.

Soft plastics like plastic bags, bubble wrap and cereal bags cannot be recycled in your kerbside bin. Although they are accepted at most major supermarkets with soft plastic collection points, it’s always better to go back to steps one and two in the hierarchy – avoid them if possible, and go with reusable bags, paper bags or boxes instead.


Plastics like bandages, adhesives and blister packs may be convenient but they can’t be recycled in most cases. Try to avoid them but if you can’t they go in general waste when you’re done.

Using the waste hierarchy can help optimise the use of plastic and help make #realisticplastic choices.

Download our handy Plastic Waste Recovery Hierarchy PDF guide here.

plastic waste hierarchy

Contact us to learn more about how we make a sustainable future possible by recovering resources at every opportunity.