How to Reduce Plastic Waste
Plastic. We all use it, and we use it everyday, multiple times a day. Have you ever pondered on how many times you throw away plastic in the trash instead of simply recycling it? Let’s say you throw away 3 plastic items a day, 365 days a year, that amounts to 1,095 pieces of plastic going into landfills, oceans, and forests just from yourself. Now, let’s put this example into a larger perspective. In 2019 the global census calculated 7,577,130,400 people living on planet earth. If each one of those people discarded 3 plastic items a day for a year, that would be 8,296,957,788,000 pieces of plastic waste going to our environment. These items have been piling and piling for over a hundred years and it takes 450 yeas to decompose! Companies, and people have been ignoring the affects of this problem for so long that it is now destroying entire ecosystems. Without these ecosystems, we eventually will not be able to survive. In fact, nothing will survive because without the chains of all ecosystems coming together plants and animals begin to die off, and soon there will be no resources left. Although the signs may not be visible from your front door, it’s time to come to an understanding that although many of us are not directly affected it is still happening and soon it will take everything that we have. So, the question is what can we do as a general population to reverse this problem? This article is just a skim on the surface on how to reduce plastic waste. But, it’s also a place to start for anyone ready to take charge of their lifestyle for the better of the earth.
Let’s break down the way we use plastic and how to eliminate it by going through daily routine and our living spaces.
The kitchen is probably the biggest problem area in most households and a great place to start understanding how to reduce plastic waste. The reason being is that almost all foods are packaged in plastic bags, containers, and jugs. We also use dish soaps, and cleaning products in the kitchen that are packaged in plastics, as well as plastic dish brushes, etc. So here are some alternatives to implement in this part of the home to reduce our footprint.
- First, ditch plastic grocery bags! These bags are one of the biggest problems when it comes to killing marine life, and we need marine animals to have healthy oceans! In this day and age almost every single grocery store sells reusable fabric bags for next to nothing in cost. And if you aren’t able to buy them on the spot, you can always find a seller online. Keep the bags in your kitchen, car, office, purse, or gym bag. There is literally no excuse to ever need to use a plastic grocery bag again. Make this your first and most important step to reducing. (Also, instead of putting your produce in those little bags with the twisty ties, check out some smaller reusable bags specifically designed for your fruit and vegetable shopping.)
- Replace plastic wrap and sandwich bags with beeswax wraps. Beeswax wraps are the perfect alternative to storing leftovers and using to pack a lunch box. They are easily cleaned, organic, will save you money, and they are 100% biodegradable in just under a month’s time!
- Buy in Bulk! I can’t stress enough how important this step is to make in the kitchen. When you buy in bulk you are not only eliminating the packaging that the items would normally come in for individual purchase, but you are also only buying what you need which reduces food waste and saves money. If your local grocery store doesn’t provide bulk foods, do some research to find “natural grocery stores” in your area. These places usually do what they can to reduce the carbon footprint and will have most of their selections in bulk. Here are some items that can be found in this manner.
- Loose Tea
- Laundry Detergents
- Dish detergents
- and so much more!
- Buy products in glass or biodegradable packaging. Simple enough, avoid the problem and directly buy items packaged in an eco-friendly manner.
- Purchase milk locally in returnable/reusable glass jugs. This may sound like an ancient idea, but this simple tradition is making it’s way back on the scene. Again, call around, ask around, services like this are not always in the public eye but are indeed available.
- Grow your own food. Skip all the steps of getting product to your kitchen and grow your own foods. This is probably the simplest and most effective way to reduce pollution.
- Store foods in glass. If you’re buying in bulk, don’t go out and buy plastic containers to store everything. Use old glass jars from your honey, jelly or coffee to store things. Or simply purchase glass jars or containers to organize.
Now that we have the biggest problem area in the house out of the way, let’s look at the second biggest, the bathroom. Just like the kitchen, this area stores lot’s of products that are packaged in plastic bottles, as well as made from the material. Here are some alternative solutions that can be implemented in the bathroom to help you continue your journey on how to reduce plastic waste.
- Stop buying plastic toothbrushes! One billion toothbrushes are thrown into landfills every year and they don’t biodegrade! They simply release chemicals into the air causing pollution, and they literally never go away. What an insane thought, it’s a wonder that these things are even legal to manufacture! There are so many alternatives, and one of the best is bamboo toothbrushes. Bamboo is a sustainable resource and takes only around 10 years to biodegrade in a landfill, but it’s recommended to throw in your backyard composter as it will disappear in as little as 6 months.
- Ditch bottled shampoos, and soaps. It’s truly incredible what companies are coming up with these days to reduce waste, and this is an impressive one. Instead of purchasing liquid soaps, these natural companies have come up with bar soaps. And I’m not just talking body soaps, I’m also talking shampoo bars, conditioner bars, shave cream bars, and so much more. These products are packed in next to nothing eco-friendly boxes and once the soap is gone there is no trace of it’s packaging either.
- Stop buying traditional toilet paper. Although this isn’t a plastic item, I do feel it’s important to make note that toilet paper is an incredibly wasteful product to not only produce but also that gets thrown into sewers, oceans, rivers, and landfills. What? Did you think flushing this paper just makes it magically disappear? Think again. A great alternative for this would be to purchase a bidet which cleanses you with water, or find a company that manufactures recycled zero-waste paper.
- For the ladies, think twice about using tampons and pads. Another item that billions of women use when their special gift arrives each month, and with it trillions of tampons and pads are left in landfills, oceans, rivers, streams, and sewers. Invest in the Diva Cup, (which truth be told is more comfortable and easier to use then tampons) or invest in some reusable, washable pads. The investment will save you hundreds of dollars a year, and the earth.
- Stop using single use cotton swabs. Single use products are the main culprits in the destruction of the earth, Q-tips are a great example of something we simply use once and throw away. The company “Last Object” is on a mission to reduce the amount of Q-tips consumers are using by inventing a reusable eco-friendly Q-tip called “The Last Swab”. If you are an avid ear cleaner, this is a seriously smart investment to make.
Let’s step out of the house and into our daily routine of traveling. Knowing how to reduce plastic waste is important no matter where you are, and these next tips will get you thinking outside the home.
- Travel with reusable mugs, cups, and straws. Whether you are hitting the fast food restaurant, or a coffee shop we all know that fast means- one use cups, straws, and packaging. Solving this issue is as easy as bring your own cups and metal straws, and request your drinks to be put into these containers. Some establishments even give discounts for BYOC (bringing your own cup.)
- Travel with reusable cutlery. You can find reusable utensils in customizable kits that can be thrown right in your car dash, purse or bag. You will never have to use flimsy, plastic, one use forks again.
Certainly learning how to reduce plastic waste in our lives can be a big jump and require some effort. But, the effort is worth the future of our planet and everything that lives on it. If we could all just make some simple choices in our everyday lives we can begin to create real change to our environments.