Imagine five bags of waste plastic dumped on every single foot of shoreline around the world. That’s how much plastic is dumped in our oceans each year—a mind-boggling 8 million tons! And what’s even more worrying is that scientists believe that amount is set to double in the next ten years. Our planet is slowly drowning in a sea of plastic, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By making a few lifestyle changes, each one of us can choose to make inroads into this mountain of plastic waste, helping to make the world a cleaner place.
1. Use a bag for life
It’s simple to carry a small foldable shopping bag around with you; they fit into the tiniest of bags. This means that when you drop into your local grocery store for a carton of milk and end up buying a basketful, you’ll have a bag ready to take your groceries home. Collect bags and boxes as well, and keep them handy in the trunk of the car for larger shopping trips.
2. Choose cardboard over plastic
Whenever you can, choose cardboard over plastic containers. For example, buy laundry powder in a box instead of liquid in a plastic bottle. It may be slightly less convenient to measure into the dispenser rather than throw a plastic bubble into the washing machine, but that tiny extra effort is definitely worth it.
3. Resist plastic food wrapping
When choosing your fruit and vegetables in the store, select loose produce over pre-wrapped packs. Fruit or veg is often put into plastic trays and then shrink-wrapped, but what’s the first thing you do when you get it home? You ditch the plastic wrapping, of course! Either put the items lose in your trolley, or take a small cardboard box with you.
4. Use alternative materials for storage containers
We’ve become used to the idea of using plastic storage containers, but our grandparents managed their storage needs without using plastic. Opt for glass jars when storing dry cooking ingredients like pasta, flour rolled oats and spices, and use metal tins for storing items like cakes. Cardboard boxes and paper bags are also useful.
5. Change where you shop
Many stores now offer alternatives to wrapping food in plastic, and it’s often the smaller independent stores leading the way. Reward them by giving them your customers so they can thrive. Most will provide ecologically friendly packaging, but you could take your own containers with you. Buying in bulk is a good way to utilize these stores—why not link up with friends and buy together?
6. Take your own reusable resources
Having a daily coffee in a polystyrene cup with a disposable lid adds up to a lot of plastic over the year. Take your own reusable mug with you, and ask the barista to fill it instead. Buy a reusable water bottle and you won’t be contributing to the estimated 50 billion bottles used in the US each year—you’ll be saving money (as tap water is far cheaper), and you’ll be keeping the planet cleaner. In addition, make your own packed lunch and transport it in an eco-friendly container rather than buying plastic-wrapped sandwiches.
7. Use cloth diapers
An average baby needs 10-12 diapers a day, so it’s not hard to see how all that plastic backing can soon clog up landfill sites. Modern cloth diapers are designed to give maximum performance and feel good against your baby’s skin, so many parents are now turning to them as a realistic alternative to disposables.
8. Ditch the disposables
We’ve become so used to the ‘disposable society’ that sometimes it’s hard to remember there’s an alternative. Look for ways to buy products that last, rather than items that can be replaced. Use a razor that allows new blades to be inserted, use real clothes instead of paper towels, and choose a refillable pen rather than a plastic disposable one.
9. Reuse and recycle
Finally, make the most of your existing resources instead of throwing them out. Use old plastic take-out containers for freezer storage, glass jars for organizing craft or DIY essentials, or plastic drinks bottles for propagating plant cuttings. This approach will keep unwanted plastic from being dumped, and you’ll be doing your bit to help the planet.