Tips and reasons to reduce the use of plastic

Our food is packed there, beauty products are stored there, and many items are made from it – plastic is everywhere. The fact that plastic is part of so many aspects of our daily lives can seem impossible to avoid. But the truth is, with eco-movements like zero waste and plastic-free living gaining traction, there are more options than ever to reduce plastic products in your life. Add that to these seven reasons to reduce plastics and you’ll see why now is the time to switch to a lifestyle that uses less plastic.

Plastic pollution endangers wildlife

There is currently enough plastic in the ocean to circle the Earth 400 times and that number is only growing. A report in the journal Science estimates that 5 to 13 metric tons of plastic ends up in our oceans every year. Marine animals are increasingly becoming entangled in plastic waste and starving to death. Others mistake plastic for food. When animals mistake plastic for food, it fills their stomachs so they think they are full, leading to death from stomach rupture, obstruction or malnutrition.

Plastic takes a long time to decompose

Our World in Data reports that plastic can take up to 1000 years to degrade. A plastic bottle and diapers take 450 years or more, while a plastic straw takes around 200 years. And the plastic bags? From 10 to 1000 years, depending on the type of plastic and the burial conditions.

Plastic is not biodegradable

This means that even when plastic breaks down, it doesn’t disappear – it just breaks into small pieces called microplastics. These microplastics pose a danger to marine life, our health and our groundwater.

Plastic contaminates our food

The average person consumes about one microplastic credit card per week, and many scientists believe this exposes us to harmful chemicals. Plastic is consumed by the animals we eat that have previously ingested plastic, food and drink wrapped in plastic, microwaveable plastic containers, etc.

Plastic contains endocrine disruptors

Many plastics contain endocrine disruptors, which are chemicals that mimic the body’s natural hormones, and high exposure to these is linked to a high risk of cancer, menstrual problems and fertility issues. A study by Environmental Health Perspectives tested 450 plastic household items from common retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods and more than 70% of them were found to contain chemicals that mimic estrogen. While another study on the toxicity of plastics published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology showed similar results, nearly 75% of tests on plastics revealed some form of toxicity.

Plastic is not infinitely recyclable

Despite what many think, recycling is not the definitive answer to our plastic problem. Unlike other recyclable materials like glass and aluminum, the ability to reuse plastics to create a circular economy is difficult. It can only be recycled a certain number of times before its quality degrades beyond use and ends up in a landfill. Additionally, keep in mind that this also depends on the plastic going through the recycling stream multiple times, which is highly unlikely – only 9% of plastic is recycled.

There are alternatives to plastic

There are better materials that are widely available. These sustainable alternatives can help eliminate single-use plastic, are healthier for the environment and better for our health.

Beeswax wrap can replace plastic wrap

Beeswax is a reusable food wrap made from fabric, beeswax, oil and pine resin. It works much like plastic wrap where it will easily stick to itself, as well as containers. You can buy this type of packaging from small businesses or large retailers. However, it can also be done at home.

Glass containers can replace plastic containers

Glass containers will outlast their plastic counterparts and won’t let toxic chemicals or microplastics into your food. Don’t want to buy new? Recycle glass jars of items like pasta sauce to store leftovers.

Cotton bags replace plastic bags

Grab a few bags of cotton produce for your next grocery store. This way you can avoid all unnecessary plastic product bags that are only used for a short time before being thrown away. Alternatively, you can buy your products in bulk and wash them once at home.

Bamboo toothbrushes can replace plastic toothbrushes

Try a bamboo toothbrush the next time your toothbrush needs changing. Once it has reached the end of its life in the bathroom, you can remove the hairs and put the wooden part in the compost.

Shampoo bars can replace plastic shampoo bottles

It gets your hair just as clean but without all the plastic wrap. To use, simply lather the solid shampoo in your hands and apply it to your hair as you would regular shampoo. Conditioning bars are also available.

Washable pads can replace menstrual pads

Did you know that it’s not just the packaging of sanitary pads that is plastic, but the pad itself contains plastic? For a plastic-free period, try switching to washable cloth towels. They have no packaging, come in fun designs, and can save you money over time. Plus, they don’t have annoying creases and are much more breathable in hot weather.

Safety razors can replace disposable razors

Ditch the disposable razors full of plastic and try a safety razor. Their metal body can last a lifetime and their metal blades are recyclable when collected in a container. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s worth learning how to use a safety razor as it provides a closer shave, is a cheaper shaving alternative, and is a plastic-free option.

Use tea towels instead of sponges

Most sponges contain plastic. Next time you’re scrubbing your dishes, grab a dish towel instead. If you need more scrubbing power, you can consider compostable scrubbers made from coconut shells.

Use a French press instead of coffee pods

Our landfills are littered with billions of coffee pods and the situation is only getting worse. Switching to a French press can reduce the number of coffee pods going to landfill. Or, if you’re still looking for a more contemporary method, try a coffee maker with a reusable cloth filter to avoid pods.

There are plenty of reasons to start eliminating plastic from your life and plenty of alternatives to help you do so. Remember, you don’t have to tackle everything in a day, but every change you make to eliminate the use of plastic helps fight our plastic crisis.

Bryce K. Locke