8 Ways to Reduce your Plastic Useage Right Now
by Natasha Burton
When it comes to the environment, plastic is a major problem. Tens of millions of metric tons of plastic waste are created worldwide each year — and where does it go? Some of it gets recycled, but not as much as you would hope (2). Instead, most of it goes into landfills and eventually ends up in our oceans (1) where it can harm millions of marine and land animals each year. (3)
It’s up to us to change these sobering statistics by taking steps — no matter how small they may seem — towards reducing our single-use plastic consumption as much as we can so we can slowly help our environment heal. Adopt the following single-use plastic waste swaps and you can do your part to save the planet, literally.
1. Check Out Refillable Bath and Home Products
Think about all the products in your home that come in plastic containers: shampoo, conditioner, face wash, body wash, creams, sunscreen, cleaning sprays, laundry detergent — the list goes on. Companies with an eco-friendly focus are starting to shift away from disposable containers and on to refillable ones.
Cleanyst is a pioneer in this area: Our system allows you to mix your own home and body products using refillable containers, plant-based product concentrates and water from your own tap. Cutting down on all of those bottles is a great way to embark on your low-waste living journey (and it’s super fun to create your own products, too!).
2. Use Silicone Storage Bags
Ziploc bags used to be all the rage when it came to convenience, appearing in school lunches everywhere. Now, you can buy reusable silicone bags — like these by Stasher — that not only hold food and snacks but can also be used to reheat leftovers. They’re dishwasher safe, making cleanup easy.
3. Buy Compostable Diapers
Anyone with kids knows just how many diapers babies go through in the first few years of life. That’s a lot of plastic that definitely cannot be recycled. Since cloth diapers aren’t for everyone (*raises hand*), compostable alternatives are a great, guilt-free plastic-waste solution. Dyper offers bamboo-based diapers and a pick-up composting service. This means that busy parents don’t need to DIY the eco-friendly part and can focus more on their little ones.
4. Try Bamboo Toothbrushes
Each of us goes through at least a few toothbrushes a year, generating a lot of plastic waste in the process. Choose a bamboo toothbrush instead, which will biodegrade in a landfill. (At least in part — the bristles won’t.) These toothbrushes typically come in biodegradable paper boxes too, meaning that the packaging also cuts down on plastic waste.
5. Swap Paper Towels for Cloth
Yes, paper towels are made from paper. But the plastic wrapping they come in adds to the immense amount of non-recyclable waste in our environment. Use small dish towels or even cut up squares of fabric from old T-shirts that you can wash and reuse instead. Keep ‘em under the sink with a bin for clean ones and bin for dirty ones so you can easily toss those in the wash when needed.
6. Invest in Reusable Straws
People around the world use millions of plastic straws in a single day. This is a big problem for ocean animals, since straws are one of the top ten contributors of plastic marine debris (4). Instead of adding to this problem, make a small investment in reusable straws that you can use at home or easily bring with you on-the-go. Made of silicone, metal or glass, these straws stand the test of time — and they’re dishwasher-safe, so they’re not a big hassle to clean. They may also be better for health, given the emerging research on the cumulative effect of ingesting microplastics (5).
7. Choose Glass and Canned Beverages
Many of us know by now that we should carry our own refillable water bottles instead of buying bottled water packaged in plastic. But any plastic-contained beverage — whether it’s soda, iced tea or a sports drink —is problematic for our environment. When you can, choose a canned or glass beverage, since those containers are more often and easily recycled.
8. BYO Grocery Bags
Many grocery stores now ask customers to bring their own bags to the store, or else they’ll be charged a plastic bag fee. But there’s still a lot of plastic waste that comes from those one-use produce bags. Instead of putting your fruits and veggies in the baggies provided, bring your own reusable mesh bags as well — like this set of five — and you’ll help eliminate unnecessary waste. (Because many of us throw those bags out the moment we finish unloading groceries.)
Another related strategy is to avoid the plastic clamshell packages of lettuce at the grocery store, since these are usually not recyclable (2). Choose produce that doesn’t come in a package — then pop it in your handy reusable produce bag — even if that means you have to chop those leafy greens yourself.
Waste Less, Save More
These small steps are actionable ways to reduce plastic waste in our environment. Living a low-waste life is a huge commitment — and not easy since so much of our daily life revolves around plastic products. So, pick a few changes that fit your lifestyle and know that these shifts can have a big impact over time.
As you become more aware of the impact plastic has in all of our lives — and on the natural world — you may find yourself searching for new ways to continue with low waste living and reducing single-use plastic waste.
- The New York Times - The Immense, Eternal Footprint Humanity Leaves on Earth: Plastics
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver - Plastics
- National Geographic - The World’s Plastic Pollution Crisis Explained
- Our Last Straw - Facts & Figures
- Environmental Science & Technology: “Plastic and Human Health: A Micro Issue?”