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The List: 8 Disposable Things to Stop Buying Right Now

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Skip these wasteful, often non-recyclable items — here’s what you can use instead.

I consider myself pretty dedicated to recycling and taking other measures to protect the environment. But I’ve come to realize that there are a few things I unthinkingly keep buying (and throwing in the trash, as many of them aren’t recyclable). I’m not alone — many people buy certain disposables because they assume there is no alternative, or perhaps the alternative is too inconvenient. But these days, I’m weaning myself from some of the most pervasive disposables. Take a look at the list below. Are you guilty of adding these to your shopping cart?

  1. Drinking straws: Straws may seem inconsequential, but they can add up. Did you know that there’s a manufacturer who produces 4 billion straws a year? There’s even a movement afoot for restaurants to drastically reduce their use of straws. If you don’t need a straw, don’t use one. If you do need a straw, such as for smoothies, keep reusable versions at home and in your purse or car.
  1. Razors: They may seem cheap and convenient, but disposable razors are not recyclable, so imagine how quickly they add up in the landfill! An electric razor is a greener option. If you do use disposables, see how long you can make them last.
  1. Toothbrushes: You can’t just throw your used toothbrushes in the curbside bin, but there are mail-in recycling programs that collect them. Consider instead an electric toothbrush. Yes, the heads still need replacing, but they comprise a lot less plastic than regular toothbrushes. Plus, they do a better job at cleaning your pearly whites!
  1. Printer cartridges: Keep those plastic printer cartridges out of the landfills by refilling them instead. You can find instructions online for most brands, and you’ll save money by not having to purchase brand new ones.
  1. Cupcake liners: If you have a nonstick muffin tin, you really don’t need the paper liners. It’s a good idea to grease the cups before pouring in the batter to make sure they’ll release easily.
  1. Coffee Filters and K-cups: I haven’t bought a coffee filter in years. Instead, I invest in a reusable filter for my drip coffeemaker, which needs only to be rinsed after each use. The other wasteful coffee product: K-cups and other single-serve pods. Try a French press coffee maker for another eco-friendly brewing method.
  1. Swim Diapers: If you’ve got a baby or a toddler, you probably go through dozens of disposable swim diapers during a summer at the beach or pool. Instead, at the beginning of the summer, invest in a reusable swim diaper or two, which are actually more effective than the disposables.
  1. Batteries: It seems like we’re always running to the store for emergency batteries when a favorite toy goes dead or a remote stops working. And I’ve got a big bag full of used-up batteries waiting to go to the special hazardous waste recycling facility in my neighborhood, since they can’t be thrown in the trash or the curbside bin. An investment in rechargeable batteries would probably go a long way in making my battery usage more convenient and less wasteful.

What disposables do you pledge to stop buying, and what will you do instead? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

  • Brad W. 25 days ago
    All right, I can understand a repeated article after a number of months but twice inside a week? Must really be trying to drive home this point! lol Don't get me wrong, I full-heartedly agree. "Disposable" is not a word in my vocabulary (so-to-speak).
  • Debra D. 1 month ago
    Re-useable straws? Those things can get nasty and you have to throw THEM away. Maybe it's better to not use any at all.
    • Cheryl P. 25 days ago
      using a straw just makes you put air in your stomach which isn't good for your stomach, causes stomach problems. just a FYI
    • Brad W. 1 month ago
      Only if one doesn't wash them. . . . There are brushes one can buy for that purpose that fit inside straws to clean them. But, even if they eventually do need to be disposed, they last MUCH longer that the flimsy "disposable" versions.
  • Randy F. 1 month ago
    Please don't bully my coffee filters! (#6)

    I can surely see of the disdain for the plastic K-Cup, but please leave unbleached coffee filters alone. They do need water to make BUT they are essentially compostable. Some are pre-perforated and with the residual coffee attached, it molds/ breaks down fairly easy. While I think conservation and being considerate to mother Earth is important I am concerned that some comments by 'authorities' will create animosity and undue/ unrealistic stigma.
    • Debra D. 1 month ago
      Yes. I put the used filters (with coffee) in the compost pile in my garden. They disappear quickly.
    • Randy F. 1 month ago
      P.S. those who tote reusable metal coffee filters are either non drinkers, French press toters, or are flavenoid challenged, because I have tried just about every contraption out there and nothing traps the bitter sludge like a fiber filter. There is a major difference!
  • Gurpreet N. 3 months ago
    I have few of brushes collected, and batteries aside going to drop them off to whole foods ,Walgreens and Walmart respectively...
  • Linda W. 9 months ago
    I was also happy to see that my local Home Depot store has a receptacle for recycling batteries and CFLs! You can't miss it, it's located right at the main entrance of the store!
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