Plastic, plastic, everywhere. Every year, Americans use enough plastic water bottles to circle the Earth 350 times, yet only 9 percent of plastic waste is recycled in the United States. Whoa. What isn’t recycled ends up in landfills and eventually in the ocean. If we don’t stem the tide of plastic pollution -- and soon -- we could end up with more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.
Beyond being plain awful for the environment, single-use plastics can also take up a lot of space in our homes. But there’s good news: by making just a few simple changes, you can drastically reduce your plastic footprint and declutter at the same time. Here are 13 easy-to-implement strategies to help you break up with plastic:
There’s no need to buy cases of space-hogging bottled water. Unless you have a serious contamination crisis on your hands, going cold turkey on bottled water is one of the best ways to cut your single-use plastic waste. This makes you wonder why an astounding 60 percent of bottled water is swigged at home!
If you don’t like the taste of tap water, the Brita Monterey pitcher is the way to go. It’s equipped with a Longlast™ filter that reduces the odors and impurities that make tap water taste funky as well as contaminants like lead, benzene, and mercury, leaving you with nothing but pure, delicious water. With just two Longlast™ filters, in one year you can save 1,800 disposable 16-ounce bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans.
While it’s possible to recycle plastic bags, most recycling plants lack the infrastructure to do so. Many stores are beginning to go bag-free or introduce a fee for plastic bags. Get ahead of the game and invest in reusable shopping bags and produce bags to keep in your car. These totes can be whipped out at a moment’s notice.
The next time you’re feeling festive or have a mind to get crafty, pause before reaching for the glitter in your cosmetics cabinet. You guessed it -- glitter is made of plastic, and its small size means it can be ingested by plankton and shellfish and ultimately end up in our own food chain. Yuck!
There are plastic-free, biodegradable alternatives out there, so you can still get your sparkle on guilt-free.
Much like the kitchen, your bathroom is a plastic hotspot. From face washes laced with microplastic beads to cotton swabs and bottles of shampoo, plastics are present in almost every step of your personal hygiene and beauty routine.
To curb your single-use plastic consumption, test-drive ‘naked’ toiletries, such as bar soaps and shampoos; choose makeup and skincare brands that use plastic-free packaging or work on a refill model, like Kjaer Weiss; and switch to a refillable razor instead of using a disposable plastic one. Hydration is key for great-looking skin, but don’t rely on bottled water to get your recommended 64 ounces. Reach for a glass of H2O filtered with a Brita Longlast™ filter instead.
Americans use 7 billion plastic tampon applicators every year, and many of them end up in the ocean.
Manage your monthlies without compromising on sustainability by investing in a silicone menstrual cup, trying a reusable tampon applicator, or simply switching to non-applicator tampons. A bonus? All claim less space in your toiletry closet.
More supermarkets are making moves to reduce their plastic footprint, but there are still a mind-boggling number of fresh products -- including fruits and veggies -- that come wrapped in plastic packaging.
Your best line of defense is to choose unpackaged options where possible. Not only will this help you reduce the number of single-use plastics you buy, it will save you a few bucks, too -- loose items are often cheaper than their packaged counterparts. Farmers markets are a great place to pick up a variety of unpackaged perishables.
Be wary of delivery services: they might be convenient, especially if you don’t have a car to tow your haul, but most orders come with an excess of plastic packaging.
If you like the convenience of having your eats dropped on your doorstep and you’re into eating seasonally, consider signing up for a community-supported agriculture box instead. It takes a bit of creativity in the kitchen, but you’re guaranteed quality, nutrient-dense produce without all the unwanted extras -- in this case, plastics.
Take a second to peek inside of your kitchen cupboards or pantry. What do you see? There are likely dozens of plastic bags, bottles, and containers lining the shelves, most of which are destined for the bin after you’ve taken the last bite. In the US, containers and packaging comprise more than 23 percent of the materials found in landfills.
Buying items such as pasta, beans, lentils, spices, and cooking oils in bulk is one of the easiest ways to use less plastic and reduce packaging waste. At bulk stores, natural food stores, and some grocery stores, you pay for goods by weight, and many allow you to bring your own containers or cloth bags.
This approach can also work for cleaning products. Many bulk and natural food stores allow you to buy ingredients to make your own cleaning concoctions, such as baking soda and vinegar. Alternatively, you can find refill stations for your favorite brands.
Even your morning caffeine fix is part of the problem. Buy loose-leaf tea instead of tea bags sealed with plastic, or choose plastic-free brands when available. Plastic coffee capsules can be replaced with a standard pot or craft brewer (think Aeropress, Chemex, or a French press) that uses compostable filters or nothing at all to brew up the perfect cup. Whole-grain coffee and loose-leaf tea can often be purchased in bulk or in plastic-free packets, and purists will tell you they even taste better than standard coffee and tea, especially when they are used with water filtered with a Brita Longlast™ filter to achieve a deliciously balanced cup.
An unlikely ally in your campaign to slash plastic waste is toilet paper. It typically comes blanketed in plastic wrap, but there are plastic-free alternatives out there. Who Gives A Crap is one brand working to bring plastic-free, tree-free toilet paper to the mainstream. Its rolls of bamboo and recycled-content toilet paper are individually wrapped in colorful, thin kraft paper and shipped in recycled-content cardboard boxes. No plastic needed.
Plastic baggies, cling wrap, and storage containers -- hard pass.
Instead of encasing your sandwich or snacks in layers of plastic, use reusable silicone pouches to pack up freshly cut fruit, stash your sandwich, or marinate salmon overnight. (A bonus? These pouches can go in the freezer, microwave, and even the oven.) Beeswax wrap, which is natural and reusable, is a great alternative to standard plastic wrap, with its zero-waste appeal and breathable material that helps keep food fresher longer.
Plastic straws make up 4 percent of plastic trash by piece. While it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the ocean plastic problem goes, using fewer straws or eliminating them entirely can go a long way.
Replace disposable straws with reusable alternatives to slurp your smoothie or iced latte sans guilt.
Who would have thought that something as mundane as laundry could have serious consequences for the planet? With each wash, synthetic clothing sheds plastic microfibers, which end up making their way from your washing machine into rivers and oceans and eventually into the stomachs of marine wildlife. Around 35 percent of the microplastics that enter the ocean come from synthetic textiles (polyester, acrylic, nylon, etc.). It’s a big problem.
Purchasing a washing bag specially designed to trap microfibers and prevent shedding can help stem the tide of microplastic pollution.
Forsaking takeout is tough, even if it’s for the benefit of the planet. But hear us out. Most to-go meals are served with a heaping side of plastic. Instead of ordering takeout, make dinner at home (a novel idea) or opt for a table at a restaurant to keep disposable boxes and plastic cutlery at bay. Can’t resist takeout? Ask if you can use your own containers instead of the disposable ones supplied, or only order from places you know package their meals in recyclable containers.