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11 easy ways to reduce your plastic waste today

Posted by Margaret Badore via treehugger.com on

Maybe you’re not ready to break up with plastic altogether, but there are some low-hanging fruit that can make a big difference in reducing the amount of disposable plastic in your life.

Although recycling can help reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfills, waterways and ecosystems, only a few types of plastics can be recycled by most councils. The fraction that does get recycled still requires a lot of energy and water which just isn’t a good proposition when it comes to single-use items. Plastic rubbish 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.

But in our modern lives, plastic surrounds us and cutting it out can seem daunting. Below are some super easy ways to get started.

1. Bring your own shopping bag

The usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags is extremely limited, yet according to one estimate, somewhere between five billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Although free to shoppers, these bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most ubiquitous forms of rubbish. Bringing your own reusable shopping bag is common but good environmental advice, such good advice that some governments implemented policies to encourage more people to do it. To go a step further and ditch all that plastic from your fruit & veg shop check out these reusable produce bags.

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 reusable cup to the coffee shop

Speaking of refillable, bringing your own reusable cup 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 polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. In theory these materials can be recycled, but most places lack the infrastructure to do so. 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 aluminum 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. Even better would be to check for companies that source their cardboard sustainably or have a strong stance on deforestation.

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. There are many stainless steel options available these days too.

6. Get the plastic off your face

body washes that contain plastic© 5 Gyres

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 “polyethylene” 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 your replace just the blade or even a recyclable razor.

8. Switch from disposable nappies to cloth

If you’ve got a young baby, you know how many nappies can end up in the rubbish each day. There are some pretty amazing cloth options out there that are a really easy to use.

9. Make your period waste-free

There are a number of non-disposable options out there to cut down on period waste, from the Lunette Cup, to the Lotus Cup to reusable pads. All these choices reduce incredible amount of packaging that most pads and tampons are encased in. If you’re not in a situation where giving up tampons is an option, consider skipping brands with plastic applicators or better still go organic.

10. Re-think your food storage

Plastic bags, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of sandwich bag, why not use Honeywraps for lunch? There are some pretty cute options available these days. Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags or wrapping things in cling film, why not use silicone clingfilm or try putting a plate over the top? Revisit yoghurt pottles and babyfood pouches by investing in some of these fab reusable Kai Carrier pouches.

11. 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. Check out these reusable wholefood bags which are perfect for stocking up at the bulk bins.