You’ve probably heard quite a bit about single-use plastics recently, especially with the news that the United Kingdom has plans in the works to ban these types of disposables. The UK is onto something, which hopefully will make its way across the pond. After all, the statistics about plastic straws alone are sobering: Americans use around 500 million straws a day, most of which don’t end up getting recycled but do end up posing a threat to wildlife and our environment.
And while we as a nation have been working hard to cut down on our use of plastic bags, there’s still more work we can do on that front.
Do you want to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics, but don’t know where to start? You’re in luck! I’ve put together this little guide to some easy and inexpensive swaps you can make to cut down on your use of disposable plastics at home and while you’re out and about.
Straws are one of the most prevalent trash items found in the ocean, and they’re usually unnecessary, unless one has a medical condition. For sipping in the car, though, they do have their place. And for that situation, you can invest in a reusable straw that you keep in your car or your purse. I’m partial to a set that comes in a little pouch with its own cleaning brush, but if you don’t like the feel of metal, try silicone straws instead. And especially if you have kids, silicone straws are the way to go, since they are soft and flexible. Metal straws are dangerous for kids.
2. Plastic Wrap
Cling wrap and other plastic wrap is not recyclable, but it sure is helpful for keeping food fresh and contained. Wean yourself off the roll of Saran with reusable options, such as BioBags, which are compostable and made of plant-derived resin, or Bee’s Wrap, a flexible wrap made of organic cotton coated in beeswax.
3. Grocery Bags
The best reusable shopping bag is the one you have with you. For that reason, I like bags that fold up small enough to carry in a purse, clip onto a keychain, or stuff in a back pocket. Be sure to seek out shopping bags that are sturdily made and can be machine washed so that you’ll get years of use out of them.
4. Cotton Swabs
Plastic cotton swabs are on the UK’s list of single-use plastics to be banned. While cotton swabs that have paper sticks, such as Q-Tips, are biodegradable and can be composted, the ones with plastic sticks are not even recyclable. A far better option is a reusable earwax removal tool, such as the Utility Tip, a plastic tool that can be used over and over again, and then is completely recyclable when no longer needed. The Oto-Scoop is another effective and reusable option.
5. Feminine Products
Applicators and wrappers can quickly add up in the trashcan, although tampons themselves and cardboard applicators are actually compostable. A waste-reducing alternative during that time of the month is a menstrual cup, such as the silicone Divacup. It’s a way to cut down on the estimated 250-300 pounds of feminine hygiene-related waste that the average woman disposes of in her lifetime, little of which is recyclable.
6. Water Bottles
As with reusable shopping bags, a water bottle isn’t much use if it’s not with you when you need it. A flexible water bottle, such as the silicone Baiji Bottles, can be rolled up and kept in the car or in a backpack until the time comes for them to be filled.
7. Produce Bags
I try to avoid using produce bags unless I’m buying small items like green beans or berries, which need to be corralled in a sack. And although my supermarket uses biodegradable produce bags, I know these seemingly green bags actually need to be processed in an industrial composting facility in order to meet their biodegradable claim. A set of mesh produce bags is ideal for really cutting back on plastic use at the supermarket. I like organic cotton bags that even have the tare weight printed on the label so they can be used when buying bulk goods like dried beans.
I plan to gradually incorporate these substitutions into my life so that the process of shifting to a lifestyle without single-use plastic is manageable and painless. Won’t you join me?