Maybe you’re not ready to part with plastic altogether, but there is some low-hanging fruit that can make a huge difference in reducing the amount of disposable plastic in your day to day life.
Although recycling can help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills, waterways and ecosystems, only a few types of plastics can be recycled by most municipal governments. The small percentage that does get recycled still requires a lot of energy and water which just isn’t a good option when it comes to single-use items. Plastic garbage that ends up in landfills and oceans take hundreds of years to degrade, and there’s increasing concern about the toxins they release into the environment.
In our modern lives, plastic surrounds us and cutting it out can seem daunting. Below are some super easy ways to reduce your plastic use:
1. Bring your own shopping bag
Somewhere between five billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Although close to free to shoppers, these bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most common forms of garbage. Bringing your own eco-friendly reusable bag is a good start. As one of the GCBR’s supported initiatives, we encourage the use of Rethink Bags to guide you in the right direction.
2. Stop buying bottled water
Unless there’s some kind of contamination crisis, plastic water bottles are an easy target for reducing waste. Instead, keep a refillable bottle handy.
3. Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop
Speaking of refillable, bringing your own thermos for to-go coffee is another way to reduce your plastic footprint. Disposable coffee cups might look like paper but they’re usually lined with polyethene, a type of plastic resin. Then there are lids, stirrers, and coffee vendors that still use polystyrene foam cups—which can all be avoided with your own mug.
4. Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags
Generally speaking, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic, plus paper products tend to biodegrade more easily without adding a lot of weight to the product the way glass or aluminium can. So, when you have the choice, pick pasta in the box instead of pasta in a bag, or detergent in the box instead of the bottle.
5. Say no to straws
Whether for home use or when you’re ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, plastic straws are often a single-use item that’s just not necessary.
6. Get the plastic off your face
Much of the plastic that’s polluting the oceans is microplastics, tiny chunks that are next to impossible to filter out. These plastics can come from bigger items breaking down, but they are also commonly added to consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. These little beads are intended to be exfoliators, but many wastewater treatment facilities aren’t able to stop them. There are many biodegradable alternatives, so avoid items with “polypropylene” or “polyethene” on the ingredients list or consider making your own.
7. Skip the disposable razor
Instead of tossing a plastic razor in the trash every month, consider switching to a razor that lets you replace just the blade.
8. Switch from disposable diapers to cloth
If you’ve got a young baby, you know how many diapers can end up in the trash each day.
9. Re-think your food storage
Plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of sandwich bags, why not pack a bento box or a cute tiffin for lunch? Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags or wrapping things in wrap, why not use jars or glass containers in the fridge? When it comes to take-aways, these types of containers be used instead of disposable ones—although it can definitely take a bit of courage and some explaining to help your local restaurants to understand.
10. Shop in bulk
For many households, the majority of plastic waste is generated in the kitchen. So one of the best ways to reduce the packaging waste madness is to bring your own bags and containers and stock up on bulk foods.
Together we can make a difference with just one small contribution to save our beautiful planet.