Recycling plastic is a good thing. However, stopping the cycle — and the plastic waste — before it starts is even better.
Disposable items have become a major part of everyday life. So much so, that we often don’t stop to think how much we’re spending on them, or how much they’re contributing to landfills. Luckily, many of them can be easily replaced by much longer lasting, and inexpensive, versions that are not built for one-time-use but for reusing. Some of the following items you can make yourself, and others you may need to purchase but don’t worry - we looked into it and found the best solutions out there for you:
1. Plastic straws
They are a massive nuisance on our beaches and are a common death trap for marine life (especially turtles). 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches and every day, around 8 million pieces of plastic makes their way into our oceans. Plastic free alternatives: Stainless steel straws, bamboo straws, pasta straws and rice straws (yes, they’re a thing!). For those that like the flexibility of plastic straws, there are other eco-friendly alternatives including paper straws, reusable silicone straws and compostable plant-based straws. Or best of all - and when possible, choose to go straw-free! For example, Humble Brush Bamboo Straw.
2. Plastic Cotton Buds
Did you know that 1.5 billion cotton buds are produced every day, with the average person disposing of 415 a year? Sadly, many of these cotton buds end up in our oceans. Once the cotton tips dissolve, all that’s left is essentially a small, rigid plastic stick which is easily ingested by birds, fish and other marine wildlife. Instead, you can choose fluid ear washes, bamboo cotton buds, organic cotton makeup pads or a reusable silicon swab. You can use them both for swabbing your ears and for makeup. For example, LastRound reusable makeup remover pads.
3. Take-away coffee cups
The billions of (mostly unrecyclable) coffee cups that we dispose of each year have been well documented. Half a trillion disposable cups are manufactured annually around the world; that’s over 70 disposable cups for every person on the planet. Very little recycled paper is used to make disposable cups due to health risk concerns. Considering the massive environmental impact they have and how easy a swap it is, there is no excuse to not bring your own reusable. And if you are buying a takeaway coffee and can’t use your reusable cup, say no to the lid! For example, Otis Thermo To-G0-Mug.
4. Plastic water bottles
There is literally zero upside to buying your water in plastic. The expense, the waste, the resources required to make the bottle, the chemicals etc. Have you ever thought about the fact that bottled water companies don't produce water but plastic bottles? Having this in mind, makes it easier to choose a reusable option. Just buy a reusable water bottle and be done with it. It will quickly become your little sidekick and most treasured daily carry item. For example, Relode Metal Water Bottle.
5. Plastic cutlery
Eating out and getting takeaway often comes with more than just food. Plastic cutlery and plastic bags often come in the mix. Next time you order takeaway, make a special request to opt out and say no to the additional plastic. Switch to reusable bamboo utensils, a travel cutlery set that you can take with you wherever you go or bring your own from home! Chopsticks are also a great alternative to have in your bag if you’re planning on getting takeaway. Check this Bamboo Cutlery Set!
6. Plastic containers
Globally, over 78 million metric tonnes of plastic packaging is produced every year and it’s projected that plastic production will increase by 40% by 2030. The packaging industry is the largest converter of virgin plastics, and many of these are only used once for food packaging, shopping bags and beverage bottles. Choose Nature-friendly takeaway! Most food outlets will happily put the food directly into your own reusable container if you ask. Some options for containers include glass containers, stainless steel lunch boxes and mason jars. You can also shop at bulk food stores and bring your own containers to fill. If you’re eating out, why not ask your favourite outlets to switch to compostable and eco-friendly alternatives? As for buying your own, check these Mepal reusable food containers!
If you’re using paper napkins for every meal, then that’s a lot of napkins winding up in the trash. Instead, make or buy cloth napkins! You could even monogram or otherwise customize napkins for the different members of your family. For example, Hildebrandt Sustainable Napkins.