Learn how to reduce the use of plastic to help protect the environment and reduce your environmental footprint.
But, before we get to the tips for how you can reduce your use of plastic, it might be a good idea to understand more fully why reducing plastic usage is essential to the health of our planet.
Why Do We Need to Reduce Plastic Use?
There are many good reasons why reducing plastic usage is so vital to the quality of life on Earth.
Only Some Types of Plastic are Recycled
Although recycling can help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills and waterways, local municipalities usually only recycle particular types of plastic waste such as bottles and clear food trays.
Plastic Takes Many Years to Break Down
That means a lot of plastic goes to the landfill despite being deposited in the recycling bin. Plastic in landfill sites takes around 500 years to degrade and releases chemical toxins into the soil.
Recycling Uses Up Water and Energy Resources
Even recycled plastic has an environmental cost since the process uses up water and energy resources.
If you’re concerned about plastic pollution and the devastating impact of plastic on ocean habitats and marine life, it makes sense to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics.
Below, you’ll find 10 simple ways to cut down on plastic waste.
10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
You can use the following tips to cut down on your use of plastic, especially single-use plastic that gets thrown away right after it’s used.
1. Bring Your Own Bag for Shopping
Over five billion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Millions end up as litter, flapping from trees or clogging drains.
As the bags decompose, toxic bits of plastic pollute the soil or float out to sea to be swallowed by wildlife.
Fortunately, many governments are working toward banning the use of plastic shopping bags and other single-use plastics. This is a significant move to cut down on plastic waste.
You can buy sturdy reusable shopping bags or make use of any you already have around the house.
Keep a foldable one in your handbag or backpack so that it’s always handy. Take several with you when you go to the supermarket.
2. Chose Cardboard Over Plastic Packaging
Cardboard is generally easier to recycle and much more biodegradable than plastic. Some supermarket staples come in both types of packaging.
If you have the option, choose pasta in a box rather than a plastic bag. Buy boxed powdered laundry detergent rather than liquid detergent in a plastic bottle.
Better still, when it comes to doing laundry, use eco-friendly laundry detergent strips from a company such as Tru Earth, reducing plastic and pollutants.
Cardboard can also be used in composting, which is even better than recycling because it breaks down and doesn’t use up recycling resources.
3. Rethink Food Storage and Avoid Waste
If you rely on plastic wrap, plastic baggies, or plastic containers for storing leftovers or packed lunches, consider alternatives.
Glass baking or casserole dishes with snap-on lids are great for storing food in the fridge and can go straight to the oven or microwave for reheating. (Yes, the lids are plastic, but you can wash them and reuse them for years.)
Lightweight stainless-steel food containers with silicone lids are great for keeping sandwiches fresh till lunchtime.
You’ll also find that rethinking how you store food and go about organizing meals will help to cut down on food waste in general.
4. Rethink Drinks Using Plastic
Single-use beverage containers may be convenient, but they are an unnecessary source of waste plastic. Instead of buying water in plastic bottles, fill a reusable stainless-steel water bottle with tap water.
Instead of buying coffee in polystyrene foam cups or paper cups lined with polyethylene, carry a double-walled stainless-steel coffee mug in your handbag or backpack and ask the barista to fill it up.
5. Buy Local and Loose
Supermarket fruit and vegetables are often packed in plastic trays wrapped in clear plastic to protect them during shipping and extend their shelf-life.
If there’s a farmer’s market or farm shop in your area, consider purchasing your produce from them instead.
You can fill your own reusable bag with fresh, locally grown, seasonal treats. You’ll also be helping the planet by reducing the transport carbon footprint.
Some growers offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Box schemes, delivering a weekly selection of affordable and local produce direct to your door.
6. Cook Real Food
Processed frozen food and microwave meals tend to come in plastic trays. Home-cooked meals made with fresh ingredients are healthier and can be made without plastic waste.
Buy fresh meat wrapped in paper from a local butcher or supermarket butcher counter and serve it with local seasonal vegetables. Again, it also helps cut down on food waste.
If you don’t have time to bake your own bread, invest in a bread maker that you can program for overnight baking.
7. Use Homemade Cleaning Sprays
Commercial kitchen and bathroom cleaning products often come in plastic spray bottles, which are either recycled or trashed.
The next time you use up a branded cleaner, rinse out the spray bottle and refill it with your own homemade lemon and vinegar solution. It has a fresh, citrus scent and acts as a natural disinfectant.
Homemade Cleaner Recipe
Combine one cup of white vinegar (from a glass bottle) with one cup of tap water and half a cup of lemon juice. Use it like commercial sprays on kitchen and bathroom tiles, countertops, fixtures, and appliances.
8. Beware of Microplastics
Microplastics are tiny beads used as a scrubbing or emulsifying agent in cosmetics and cleaning products.
They flow down the bathroom or kitchen drain and often end up in the oceans where they can be absorbed or eaten by everything from zooplankton to whales.
They adversely affect the growth and reproduction of marine creatures. Check the ingredients list on your toothpaste, shampoo, facial scrub, body wash, dishwasher detergents, and laundry detergents.
If the word ‘polypropylene‘ or ‘polyethylene‘ appears, switch to a different brand.
9. Swap Your Personal Care Products
Go through your bathroom cabinet and you’ll probably find many disposable plastics that could be replaced with greener options.
If you use disposable razors, switch to a safety razor with replaceable blades. If your sanitary products contain plastic, switch to non-applicator tampons or a reusable menstrual cup.
Make sure your cotton swabs are attached to a paper stick rather than a plastic one. Use bar soap in paper packaging rather than shower gel in a plastic bottle.
10. Reuse Before You Recycle
Before you toss a plastic item into the recycle bin, consider whether it could be useful in the house or garden.
An old toothbrush is great for cleaning the grime that accumulates in cracks and crevices. Margarine tubs with snap-on lids can be used as storage containers for small items such as rubber bands or crayons.
Yogurt pots can be used as planters for seedlings. Food trays can be used as drainage trays for houseplants.
By paying attention to which plastic items you throw away or recycle on a weekly basis, you can probably find even more ways to cut down on your usage.
Even things like leftover candle jars can be reused for a ton of storage or decorative ideas around the house.
There are so many things you can do each week to reduce the amount of plastic you buy or allow into your home.
For example, if you buy cheese in plastic packaging every week, consider buying cheese wrapped in wax paper from the deli counter instead. If you buy beverages at fast-food restaurants, tell the server you don’t need a plastic straw or plastic lid.
Make use of these 10 ideas and anything else you can think of to reduce your plastic use and help save the environment for future generations.