It’s no exaggeration to say that nowadays we are drowning in plastic. The rise of single-use plastic is having a devastating effect on the environment, be it plastic bags, food packaging or disposable plastic cups.
While global commitments take time to gain traction, there is plenty we can do as individuals that will make a lasting impact. Even small changes can collectively dramatically reduce the volume of plastic we are leaving behind for our children and grandchildren.
Here, in the Outer Hebrides, many businesses are signing up to reduce plastic consumption. And we as consumers, whether residents or visitors, can step up to the plate and become more environmentally-friendly.
One such method that’s being rolled out in the islands is refilling. Instead of wastefully throwing away containers, retailers now offer the option to refill with your own or reusable packaging that’s much kinder to the environment.
So if you would like to reduce your harm to the planet, several businesses throughout the islands can help you do just that.
Among the businesses taking on the environmental challenge is the Barra Refillery at Buth Bharraigh, a social enterprise.
The refillery model is a more sustainable way to shop by reducing plastic waste and unnecessary packing. Plus, you only need to purchase the amount you actually need, thereby cutting food waste into the bargain.
The Barra Refillery, located in the former Co-op building in Castlebay, now stocks almost 300 refillable products, spanning wholefoods, household, personal care and a range of other items.
The summer opening hours until September 30 are Monday to Friday, 10 am to 7 pm. On the weekend, the refillery is open from 10 am to 4 pm and 6 pm to 7 pm on Saturdays, and from 12 noon to 4 pm and 6 pm to 7 pm on Sundays. Weekend evening opening is subject to the Oban ferry arrival times.
But you don’t need to go to Buth Bharraigh to refill. You can order online instead and pick it up later.
Another business pledging to improve sustainability is North Uist Distillery at Nunton Steadings in Benbecula.
The award-winning gin maker now features a refillery at their distillery, so you never need to run out of G&Ts again.
All you have to do is take your empty Downpour Dry Gin bottle along and get a refill and four tonics at the discounted price of £35. And now, the Pink Grapefruit and Sloe and Bramble gins are also available in the distillery’s distinctive rain-patterned Downpour bottles and can be refilled as well. The neck of the bottle was purposely designed for easy refilling.
The Isle of Harris, too, has two Tarbert businesses committed to refilling their products.
The Isle of Harris Distillery is another award-winning gin-maker that has been making waves on the Scottish food and drink scene in recent years.
Their innovative approach extends to what they call their Refill Project, a move that was prompted by growing customer demand to keep their eye-catching Isle of Harris gin bottles.
While the glass bottle is fully recyclable, it’s clear many customers have fallen in love with the beautiful design. And it’s turned into a win for the environment.
To help customers, the Isle of Harris Distillery introduced a 500 ml aluminium refill bottle, which you can purchase through the company’s online store and then recycle.
Meanwhile, Essence of Harris has not one but two refill stations for customers. One is located in the company’s headquarters on Pier Road, Tarbert, while the other is at their outlet in Princes Square, Glasgow. Alternatively, you can order environmentally-friendly packaged refills at their online store.
The business creates a range of scented soy wax candles, reed diffusers, as well as bath and body products.
Stornoway-based Sandwick Bay Candles is living up to their green credentials with refills for their new line of hand care and household products, which are available in-store or delivered to the customer.
Since being established in 2016, the company has strived for minimal environmental impact, from sourcing 100% soy wax and cotton wicks to eco-friendly packaging. Refills were a logical next step, so their Sandwick Bay Living shop on South Beach, Stornoway, was designed around a refill station to enable customers to reuse bottles instead of putting them in the recycling.
Using 200 litres barrels, customers can refill Sandwick Bay bottles, reusable top-up pouches, or bring their own container.
However, if it’s inconvenient to visit their bricks-and-mortar shop, you can order one and two-litre refillable pouches online to refill their products at home. When the pouch is empty, they even include a pre-paid envelope for customers to return the pouch.
The impetus for refilling to reduce waste and environmental damage will only get stronger in the wake of shocking figures about single-use plastic.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation study, Rethinking the Future of Plastics, tonne for tonne, there will be more waste plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. Yet, despite this and other dire warnings, the United Nations predicts that plastic production will continue to grow in the years ahead.