If you’ve been keeping up with the issues of pollution and climate change, you may know one of the biggest contributors to these problems is single-use plastics.
But with so many products made from this material, how can we ever reduce single-use plastics?
Read on to learn more about single-use plastics and how to rid them from your daily routine!
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What are Single-Use Plastics?
To put it simply, single-use plastic is any plastic that is thrown away after one use. Some examples you might use on a daily basis include: plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, plastic bottles, plastic utensils, and plastic food wrappers.
Why Should I Stop Using Single-Use Plastics?
Due to the fact that single-use plastics are so common in our country and are used so frequently, they produce a lot of waste.
This waste is either disposed of improperly, thrown into landfills, or recycled. The problem is, even the plastics that are in landfills or recycled are contributing to pollution and climate change.
Specifically, plastic that ends up in a landfill can take hundreds of years to break down, releases toxic chemicals into the environment when exposed to heat, and can even be transported to nearby bodies of water via wind.
On top of this, of the plastic that is recycled, only about 10% is actually repurposed. Further, recycled plastic products still require the production of new plastic, so none of it is ever 100% reused.
When these single-use plastics sit in our oceans, they threaten the lives of marine animals. Similarly, when they sit in landfills, they threaten our lives by ramping up the speed of climate change.
How to Ditch Single-Use Plastic
Though removing single-use plastic from your life may seem like a daunting or near-impossible task, it might be easier than you think.
Believe it or not, there are so many alternatives to single-use plastic products available on the market today.
A common misconception with reusable alternatives to plastic is that it is more expensive to buy replacement products.
However, it is important to note that most reusable products only need to be purchased once or once every several years.
In other words, in the long run, you’ll actually save money by switching to reusable products. This also means fewer trips to the store!
Alright, so let’s talk about specific alternatives you can incorporate into your life today.
1. Replace Plastic Grocery Bags
Let’s start with some easy swaps. One of the most common single-use plastic products is grocery store bags.
Take a minute to think about how many plastic bags you have used in just the past year. If you go grocery shopping about once a week and each grocery store trip uses about six bags that’s 312 bags in just one year!
The good news is you can purchase reusable grocery bags in almost any grocery store. They’re usually only a couple of dollars at most and can be reused for years to come.
Additionally, many grocery stores offer a discount for using reusable bags, so you’ll save even more money.
Once you’ve made the switch you may be thinking: what do I do with all of the plastic bags I have piled up from before?
A quick tip to make the best use of your old plastic bags is to reuse them as small trash bags or to pick up after your dog on a walk.
2. Replace Plastic Produce Bags
Along with grocery bags, another common form of single-use plastic is produce bags. When buying produce, most people use the provided bags without thinking twice, however, did you know there’s an alternative?
You can purchase reusable produce bags often made out of a mesh fabric. They are fairly cheap and can even be washed in the washing machine with your clothes.
3. Try Reusable Zip-top Bags
Moving on, another common single-use plastic product is sandwich or snack bags. When taking food to go or storing it for later, it can be very convenient to grab a plastic bag and throw the food in there.
However, this can be pretty wasteful over time. To replace sandwich bags, you can purchase reusable zip-top bags.
These bags come in large sets (usually 10 or more) with different sizes and last for many years. Some brands can even be washed in the dishwasher.
4. Purchase a Reusable Straw
An additional single-use plastic product you may find yourself using frequently is plastic straws. Any time you get a drink to go, it will most likely come with a plastic straw.
Straws are harmful to the environment simply because they’re made of plastic, but also pose a threat to wildlife. Specifically, you may have heard of the dangers they create for sea turtles.
The sad truth is any animal can eat these products thinking they’re food and end up dead due to the chemicals and toxins.
An easy swap for plastic straws is reusable silicone, metal, or even glass straws. Reusable straws often come in large sets as well and can sometimes be washed in the dishwasher.
There are even silicone straws that come with containers small enough to fit in a purse or to attach to a keychain.
This way, you can bring your straw wherever you go and avoid the plastic straws you may be offered.
5. Purchase Reusable Bottles/Cups/Drink Containers
Something that often goes hand-in-hand with plastic straws, is plastic bottles, cups, and other drink containers.
It can be easy to grab a bottle of water on your way out of the house or when you’re out and about but it is harmful to the environment.
To avoid this problem, you can purchase a reusable water bottle made of stainless steel, glass, or durable, reusable plastic.
Some reusable water bottles are even insulated and keep your drink hot or cold!
These are a great alternative as they’ll save you money in the long run and are super convenient to have with you to stay hydrated.
Similarly, if you pick up coffee or other drinks frequently, you can invest in a reusable coffee mug with a lid or a tumbler.
Some shops will offer a discount for the use of these items as well.
6. Avoid Plastic Utensils
Much like straws and cups, when you pick up takeout from a restaurant you will most likely get plastic utensils along with your food.
If these are already provided, feel free to use them for your meal but keep them to be reused. Believe it or not, you can wash plastic utensils in the dishwasher and reuse them for awhile.
However, if you have the option to refuse the plastic utensils, opt for the reusable ones you have at home.
7. Try Plastic Wrap Alternatives
Plastic wrap is often something we don’t think of as wasteful, but it is a single-use plastic. Though it may seem as though there is no alternative, here are a few easy swaps.
You can use silicone lids to cover bowls, plates, or produce like onions and avocados. These are great for when you want to throw something in the fridge.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a wrap alternative, there are reusable wraps made from materials like beeswax that you can purchase.
These options will keep your food fresh and the environment happy.
8. Avoid Plastic Packaging
Lastly, you may be wondering: how do I avoid the plastic that is used to package other products? Well, you have a few options.
For food products that may be packaged in plastic, like rice, beans, or nuts, you can buy these items in bulk at the grocery store. This way, you can bring your own reusable containers like jars to ditch the plastic.
Buying in bulk is also often cheaper!
Other food products you may be able to make at home, in which case you can avoid the packaging all together. This also decreases your carbon footprint!
For cosmetics or other products packaged in plastic, you can often find brands that use cardboard or glass to package their products. These materials are a lot more environmentally friendly.
For products you can’t avoid that are made of or packaged in plastic, be sure to recycle these materials as much as possible.
Knowledge is Power
Though reducing your plastic use can seem overwhelming, after reading this post, you may have a clearer picture of how easily you can make this change.
Though ditching plastic is a great step toward slowing climate change, it is important to remember that it may not be feasible to completely eliminate this material from your life.
It is okay to use plastic occasionally and we must remember that every small effort makes a difference!
Having read this information, it is important that you share your knowledge and understanding with others who may be uninformed.
The more we all do to reduce our single-use plastic consumption, the healthier we will be and the healthier our planet will be!