Maybe you’re not ready to break up with plastic altogether, but there are some super simple ways that can make a big difference in reducing the amount of single use 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 municipal governments. 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 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 reusable shopping bag
The team here at Ecobags are crazy about this, 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 bag or asking for compostable bags is good environmental advice, such good advice that some governments implemented policies to encourage more people to do it. Disposable shopping bags have been banned in a number of countries, but not yet ‘clean green’ New Zealand, weird huh?
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 café
Speaking of refillable, bringing your own cup for take away 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. Encourage your café to incentivise customers by discounting 10 cents every time someone does this or to stock compostable cups and lids.
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. And if you are a business owner, you could choose to provide paper bags and compostable bags at checkout.
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. Or ask your local to use compostable straws instead.
6. Shop in bulk
For many households, most plastic waste is generated in the kitchen. One of the best ways to reduce the packaging waste madness is to bring your own tote bags, containers or jars and stock up on bulk foods. Bin Inn and EcoStore are great options for this.
It doesn’t take much to begin to reduce our plastic and the more we speak up about this to businesses, customers, friends and family the sooner change can be made.