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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.

  • Rachael T. 1 month ago
    Important reminders for all of us - our daily habits can make a huge difference - for better or for worse; our favorite products, the exact brand and type of a toothbrush or a disposable razor we have come to rely on and choose over and over again, well...time to rethink things - I honestly hadn't realized or considered how unnecessary and environmentally harmful my reliance upon Daisy disposable razors over the years has been - I am switching to a similar model with replaceable cartridges by the same company. Thanks for sharing this information!
  • tommy b. 1 month ago
  • Joyce E. 1 month ago
    Good for you Lisa P. I love that you have a special wrap for your straw.
  • lisa p. 1 month ago
    I always make sure to tell my waitperson NOT to bring me a straw if I order a drink that typically comes with one. I carry a stainless steel iced-tea straw with the spoon at the bottom that works equally well for frozen drinks, hot drinks, water, tea Etc. I also make sure to tell them not to bring water unless we ask for it although that is now part of mandatory drought restrictions in my city. I keep my washable, re-usable straw in a special waterporoof, washable pocketed wrap that a friend made for me out of scraps of material she uses to make carrying cases for baby food utensils. I have a few of these wraps and always toss a clean sippy straw in my messenger bag when I go out. If you are automatically handed a straw in your take-out order, most merchants will not take them back since they are considered "used" at that point, so remember to tell them you don't need one.
  • Penny H. 1 month ago
    Staples and Best Buy both have reward programs where you can recycle printer cartridges by taking them to the store and getting a credit off your next cartridge purchase.
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