Tips to Reduce Plastic Waste
Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Your food and hygiene products are packaged with it; your car, phone and computer are made from it; you carry your shopping with it; you decorate your home with it; and, in some cases, like gum, you even eat it! While most plastics claim to be recyclable, the reality is that they are only 'downcycled'. A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton — it can only be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber.
How big is our plastic problem? Of the 300 million tonnes of plastic waste generated each year globally, only 10% is recycling. This plastic waste ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, a swirling vortex of garbage the size of a continent where plastic outnumbers plankton. For more on this, please see our earlier blog – Why Plastic Is Evil.
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate. It's a lot easier than you think to lessen your plastic footprint. Let's look at just twelve ways you can easily give up or replace items with an eco-alternative:
About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take more than 1,000 years to degrade! Next time you go to the store, take along a reusable bag* and when you get home, store your goods in a non-plastic produce bag.
*Avoid bags made from nylon or polyester because they're also made from plastic; opt for cotton or hessian ones instead.
2] Bottles & Cups
Every second 1,500 water bottles are thrown into a landfill. One recycled plastic bottle alone would save enough energy to power a 60-watt light bulb for 3 hours. By simply refilling a reusable bottle (BPA-free or glass), you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans. But don’t stop there! Why not take a reusable cup along to your local coffee shop when getting a takeaway brew. This will drastically cut down on the amount of plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups you consume.
Buy laundry detergent and dishwashing liquid in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bottles. Cardboard is more easily recycled and re-made into a larger array of products than plastic.
4] Bulk Bins
Nowadays many supermarkets sell food staples like rice, pasta, beans, nuts, cereal and grains in bulk and opting to fill a reusable bag or container with these items will save both money and unnecessary packaging.
Whenever possible, choose to buy food sold in glass jars as you can easily reuse them at home to store food. Likewise, if you have plastic containers leftover (e.g., yoghurt, peanut butter), don’t throw them out, only wash them and use them as food storage.
Say goodbye to disposable chopsticks, knives, spoons, forks and sporks! If you often forget to pack cutlery in your lunch, you know your canteen only has plasticware, or you want a disposable option for a picnic, take your own along (many come in a hygienic carry case). Better yet, try this edible option.
7] DIY Containers
Whether you're picking up takeout, bringing home your restaurant leftovers or hitting the salad bar at work, be prepared with your own reusable container(s). When you place your order, ask if you can get the food placed in your own container; most cafes and restaurants will have no problem with this.
Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber. However, eventually, scientists created synthetic rubber* – polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate – and this took pride of place in global gum production.
*Polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumours in lab rats.
If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or smoke a cigarette, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds' stomachs. If you can't bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.
Somewhere around 450 billion disposable diapers are discarded each year globally. Plus, it takes about 80,000 pounds of plastic and more than 200,000 trees a year to manufacture disposable diapers for American babies alone! By simply switching to cloth diapers, you'll not only reduce your child's carbon footprint, but you'll also save money.
One dining out, inform waitstaff that you don't need a straw and make sure to specify this when ordering takeaway. If you're hooked on them, switch to using a reusable stainless steel or glass one.
If your lunchbox is full of disposable sandwich bags and single-use cling (saran) wrap, it's time to make a change. Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in plastic bags, saran wrap, aluminium foil, wax paper, etc, put them in reusable containers or sustainable food wraps, like the ones made by us :-)