Plastic Free July: How to avoid single-use plastics on holiday in Cornwall

This month in Cornwall, we’re celebrating Plastic Free July, the annual global campaign that asks people to consider using less plastic throughout the month to help keep our streets cleaner and our oceans healthier. So, whether that’s swapping disposable cutlery, bottles and coffee cups for reusable items, avoiding plastic packaging in the supermarket or renting bodyboards instead of buying polystyrene ones, every little swap you do makes a difference. Last year, 140 million people across 190 countries took part, collectively reducing landfill waste by 1.2 billion kg — not bad for a movement that started ten years ago with just 40 participants.

It’s easy to let standards slip on holiday but, if anything, we should be increasing our efforts to avoid single-use plastics when we’re away from home — reports suggest that we use up to 40% more single-use plastics during peak holiday times. If you’re planning a holiday in Cornwall, there are lots of ways you can help keep your consumption of single-use plastic down. Here are a few ideas and initiatives to help you on your way.

Seek out local produce

Cornwall produces some of the best food and drink in the world, from the freshest fish and seafood and award-winning cheeses, to locally produced wine, cider and beer. We think that supporting local producers helps you connect with the landscape and gives you a more enriching holiday experience, but buying local also means less packaging — by avoiding shop-bought produce, which invariably comes wrapped in plastic, visiting farm shops, markets and speciality food shops means you can keep your consumption of plastics to a minimum. Our Shop Local guide is a region by region introduction to some of the best places in Cornwall to get your hands on delicious, local produce, including farm shops, refill shops, delis, fishmongers and farmers’ markets.

Turn the tide on polystyrene

Cornwall is blessed with 250 miles of coastline and 350 beaches, but it also bears the brunt of coastal tourism’s ugly side — plastic waste. Each summer, about 16,000 polystyrene bodyboards — many of which are picked up at the supermarket for a few pounds — are abandoned on Cornwall’s beaches, which, if not collected, can break down and end up in our oceans.

Before you set off on your holiday, it’s worth checking with your holiday cottage to see if they provide free beach toys for guests’ use — many do. If they don’t, consider hiring boards locally — you’ll find that all major beaches have surf and bodyboard rental nearby. The ‘Surf Wood for Good’ campaign by Dick Pearce & Friends provides FREE wooden bellyboard hire at various spots along Cornwall’s coast, including Port Isaac, Newquay, Mawgan Porth, St Ives and Poldhu. Check out their handy interactive map to find your nearest rental point.

Plastic Free Communities

Plastic Free Communities is a network of communities in the UK tackling single-use plastic, organised by the ocean conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage. They have created hundreds of Plastic Free Communities throughout the UK, with dozens of groups in Cornwall having been awarded plastic free community status. It’s worth looking on their individual Facebook pages to see what events they’re planning and when the next beach clean event is happening — many of them organise regular local beach cleans in various locations, including Falmouth, Newquay, Penzance, Padstow and Fowey. You can search for your local Plastic Free Community in Cornwall and find out ways to get involved.

Don’t forget to pack your reusables

Swimmers? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Shopping bags? These days, it’s just as important to take your reusables with you on holiday. Shopping bags, water bottles, coffee cups and thermos flasks should definitely make it onto your packing list, and it’s also worth taking a few tupperware containers (just in case your holiday home doesn’t supply them) so you can prepare picnics at your holiday cottage and avoid shop bought, plastic-wrapped takeaway food.

Water refills on the go

Every day in the UK, a staggering 16 million plastic bottles are sent to landfill, the incinerator, or enter the environment, including our oceans. Don’t be tempted to reach for a plastic bottle of water, instead top up your reusable bottle on the go with the Refill app by City to Sea, an award-winning campaigning organisation. Their app allows people to access a global network of stations offering free water refills — from cafes and bars to restaurants to water fountains, including hundreds across Cornwall. So far, they’ve calculated that they have reduced the number of plastic bottles entering circulation by 100 million.

Beach cleans

Another way of helping Cornwall turn the tide on plastic pollution is to get involved in a beach clean. Throughout the summer, there are dozens of beach cleans happening up and down the county, with organisations such as the National Trust, the Marine Conservation Society and Surfers Against Sewage organising regular cleans of the county’s favourite spots. If you can’t find one happening near you, there’s nothing to stop you creating your own beach clean — Surfers Against Sewage have a beach cleaning step-by-step guide to get you started. Of course it doesn’t have to be an organised event. Make sure you’re always carrying a bag in your rucksack for a bit of spontaneous litter picking — a single wrapper or packet collected off the beach is one less piece in our oceans.

The ‘holiday wardrobe’ problem

Ok, so this last one doesn’t relate directly to plastic pollution in Cornwall, but the facts are too staggering to not mention. It’s estimated that a 132 million pieces of holiday clothing — the majority of which are made of nylon and polyester — are bought each year in the UK and go unworn, with 85% of this ending up in landfill or incinerators. The fast fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, more than the aviation and shipping industries combined. Washing clothes produced from man-made fibre alone causes 500,000 tons of microplastics to enter the oceans each year, equivalent to 50 BILLION plastic bottles. Bizarrely, we spend more on pre-holiday purchases than we do when we actually get to our holiday destination. So next time you’re planning your holiday, ask yourself if you really need that new swimsuit or dress. Chances are you may never wear it.

See how we are inspiring better holidays by helping visitors to connect with Cornwall in a more responsible way for a more meaningful holiday experience.