Ever since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series aired in 2017, as a nation we’ve sat up and listened. How could we not after seeing the shocking images of an albatross feeding its young bits of plastic which they’d mistaken for food – and yet this was just a snapshot of what is happening around the world today.
It’s been widely reported that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish, by weight – so there really has never been a more urgent time to act.
If this all seems quite overwhelming, these titles aim to demystify the problem with useful tips for us to apply to our daily lives.
To be clear, plastic is a very durable product which can be highly valuable and there are many scenarios when it is being used well – what we’re referring to here is the misuse of single-use plastics – those unnecessary items made with plastic we use once and throw away.
Plastics that might make our life a little easier in the moment, but which take their toll on the planet as a whole.
For many of us the fight against plastic is one that’s at the forefront of our minds, whether that’s thinking twice before accepting a plastic straw or taking a reusable water bottle out with us. However, there’s so much we can all do on a regular basis.
Taking responsibility for our own single-use plastic consumption is a great place to start, and if we all did our bit it really would make a big difference.
The more of us that say no to plastics, the more companies will have to find innovative solutions. So let’s not leave it to someone else, let’s be the change we want to see. As David Attenborough rightly said: “We have a responsibility, every one of us.”
So without further ado, here’s our roundup of the best books to help you live a more plastic-free existence.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
‘Turning the Tide on Plastic: How Humanity (And You) Can Make Our Globe Clean Again’, Lucy Siegle, published by Orion, £8.99, Waterstones
A journalist and presenter of BBC’s The One Show, Lucy Siegle provides plenty of real life examples of encounters with unnecessary plastic in her life, and how to overcome it. The “daily plastics diary” she encourages everyone to keep really opened our eyes to just how much more we have to do. With plenty of product swaps, helpful links and detailed information on different types of plastics and how they can (and cannot) be recycled, this is a very useful resource.
‘How to Give Up Plastic: A Guide to Changing the World, One Plastic Bottle at a Time’, Will McCallum, published by Penguin Life, £8.99, Oxfam
As head of Oceans at Greenpeace UK, Will McCallum has been at the forefront of the anti-plastic battle for many years, regularly meeting with government and big companies to make positive changes. This book provides helpful tips for how to give up plastics in all areas of our lives – from the bathroom, to the kitchen and everywhere in between. With shocking stats, alongside interactive lists and exercises for you to fill in, you’ll most certainly have reduced your plastic footprint by the last page.
‘Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life’, Bea Johnson, published by Penguin £9.99, Foyles
Bea Johnson is to plastic-free living what Marie Kondo is to living an uncluttered life. While some of the advice is pretty out there – making your own makeup and using moss in place of toilet paper anyone? – more realistic tips include packing your kids lunches without using plastic, buying in bulk and cancelling junk mail. Sometimes the US references felt like they didn’t quite apply to a UK reader, but on the whole it showed just how much can be done in the fight against plastics, if you’re willing to give it a go.
‘How to Live Plastic Free: A Day in the Life of a Plastic Detox’, Luca Bonaccorsi and Marine Conservation Society, published by Headline Home, £10.65, WHSmith
One for the dedicated eco-warriors, this book provides tips for making your own toothpaste, creating your own cat litter from old newspapers and having plastic-free mealtimes. It’s easy to forget (or ignore) what plastic litter is doing to marine life if you don’t live by the sea, however this book makes the connection for us. As well as protecting our oceans, you might also find that you save money in the process – for example, by cutting out snacks and reaping the financial rewards of using a reusable coffee cup. Win, win.
F**k Plastic: 101 Ways to Free Yourself from Plastic and Save the World, various authors, published Seven Dials, £5.54, WHSmith
No one can claim to have all the answers when it comes to tackling the plastic problem, so this book has put the question to various authors, coming up with 101 ways you can do your bit. Interspersed with illustrations, it’s a book to dip in and out of (we kept our copy by the kettle) and would also make a good gift to the eco-curious. Inspiring without being judgemental, even if you think you’re pretty clued up about plastic, this book provides new ideas to try out.
‘No. More. Plastic. What You Can Do to Make a Difference’, Martin Dorey, published by Ebury Press, £5.99, Blackwells
Want to do your bit for the planet without completely overhauling your life? Martin Dorey, a writer, surfer and self-professed beach lover, has packed this pocket-sized book with two minute solutions that really make a difference when you add them up. Founder of the Beach Clean Network, Dorey came up with the idea for the book following the huge success of his #2minutebeachclean hashtag. If we all took just two minutes out of our day to collect as many plastics as we can, imagine how much cleaner the planet would be. A hassle-free initiative that even the most time poor can get behind.
‘Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution’, Michiel Roscam Abbing, published by Island Press, £17 (hardback), Amazon
Plastic Soup brings the problem of single-use plastics to life with shocking photography – a seahorse swimming along holding a cotton bud by its tail stayed with us long after we’d put the book down. An in-depth look at our complete reliance on single use plastics across all areas of our lives, the book shows just how widespread and deeply ingrained the problem is. At times the reading is quite bleak. However, we appreciated the hard-hitting facts and graphs which got the severity of the message across effectively. The book features a section on how plastic litter has influenced artworks, as well as some innovative solutions by people from around the world.
‘How To Go Plastic Free (Eco Tips for Busy People)’, Caroline Jones, published by Carlton Books, £9.02, Wordery
So you’ve read the stats and don’t need any more convincing that it’s time to act? Great! This book cuts to the chase with 100 real life tips to go plastic free – all without having to drastically change your busy lifestyle. Hurrah! The realistic advice includes short, sharp advice on cutting back on your plastic reliance slowly but surely, and forming new habits in the process. The book even goes so far as to include a homemade crisp recipe, so no more excuses to buy bags of plastic-coated salty snacks.
‘Save the World: There is No Planet B: Things You Can Do Right Now to Save Our Planet’, Louise Bradford, published by Summersdale, £6.19, Amazon
“The Plastic Problem”, as Louise Bradford dubs it, is just one chapter in a title that covers all the major issues our planet is currently facing. From water conservation to shopping more ethically, there are practical bullet point suggestions for ultimately living a more minimal life, and limiting your impact on the world as a result. In it she argues that we can’t wait for big corporations to clean up their acts. Instead, we all have a duty to do our bit to save the planet. If that sounds a little preachy, rest assured the book is clear that any effort is better than none, and that we can only do our best.
Verdict: Plastic-free living books
Before reading this selection, we’d considered ourselves pretty clued up when it came to single-use plastics. How wrong we were. Proving there is always more to learn, we found ourselves particularly recommending Lucy Siegle’s book Turning the Tide to anyone who would listen. Prepare to be surprised and inspired.
Stacey Smith is the founder of food and drink website Crummbs