6 Ways to Reduce Our Dependency on Plastic
While an effort has been made to recycle plastic in the past few decades, the gap between plastic generation and plastic recovery still shows no sign of closing. The following infographic provides a reminder of simple changes you could make to reduce plastic waste.
According to a study on the production, use, and fate of plastic, the gap between the level of plastic generation and plastic recycling has grown significantly in the past few decades. This gap is projected to grow even further unless significant changes are introduced to change the amount of plastic consumed across the world.
Plastic can have a heavy toll on the environment and the animals that inhabit it. Keep in mind that it’s not just the issue of degradation and the time it takes for plastic to degrade naturally. It’s also an issue of the material needed to create plastic in the first place. Most of the plastic used today is made from non-renewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas. Extracting these resources can also be highly damaging to the environment.
Fortunately, there are simple changes you can introduce to your lifestyle to start reducing your dependency on plastic. The best way to reduce any form of waste is to use less to begin with. If that’s not an option then consider alternatives, such as the six highlighted below, that are more environmentally friendly.
How to Reduce Plastic Waste
1. Stop Using Plastic Bags
The movement to discourage the use of plastic bags has been around for quite some time. Yet, there are still many consumers who are accumulating hundreds of plastic shopping bags at home. If you are one of those who hoard plastic bags then it’s time for change. Get a reusable shopping tote bag and take that with you anytime you go grocery shopping.
2. Stop Buying Water Bottles
A lot of people have a fear of drinking tap water but they really shouldn’t. Did you know that testing for tap water is held to a stricter standard than testing for water bottles? The EPA’s set of regulations for tap water is stricter than the FDA’s set of regulations for bottled water.
In some areas, tap water might taste funny but a likely reason for that is due to hardness of the water. Those who have a hard time consuming hard water can easily resolve this issue by getting a water softener for their faucet. Start drinking tap water in reusable bottles or cup instead of buying plastic water bottles.
3. Stop Getting Plastic Utensils
I’ve been encouraged by the number of food establishments I have come across lately that ask whether you need plastic utensils as part of a food delivery. If you like to order food delivery to the office then consider bringing your own utensils. These can be metal utensils or eco-friendly utensils that can be easily washed and re-used.
4. Stop Using Coffee Capsules
Do you like to brew coffee using a coffee capsule machine? While these appliances are very convenient, the leftover coffee capsule/pod can be bad for the environment, especially as most capsules aren’t considered recyclable or biodegradable
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should give up your capsule machine. Instead, you can minimize the negative impact by using a refillable coffee capsule.
5. Stop Using Disposable Diapers
According to this article, US families use 27.4 billion single-use plastic diapers every year. This is extremely problematic as 1) a lot of plastic is needed to manufacture the diapers and 2) a lot of trash is also being generated. Instead of single-use diapers, consider using cloth diapers instead. In addition to reducing waste, cloth diapers will help you save more money over the long-term, and they also contain fewer chemicals than traditional diapers.
6. Start Composting
Composting is a great way to recycle organic waste such as leftover food scraps and yard trimmings. Check out our composting tool to learn the types of material you can compost. A backyard isn’t needed to make compost. You can also get a compost bin that’ll easily slide under most kitchen cabinets.
Break Free From Plastic Movements
It’s always good to read about what some organizations and business entities have done in order to discourage the dependency on plastic. To get you inspired, we picked out a couple of stories from the ZeroWaste subreddit.
Seattle Bans Plastic Straws & Utensils
The city announced that they will enact a ban starting 2018 that will require any businesses selling food or drinks to offer compostable or recyclable straws. The ban on plastic straws is part of a 2008 ordinance that phases out a number of plastic products from the city’s food and beverage industry. Many retailers in Seattle already support these waste reduction initiatives via the Strawless in Seattle campaign.
Zero-Waste Store in Ottawa
NU Grocery is the first grocery store in Ottawa that eliminates packaging waste. The idea is to have customers store the products in their own containers and then charge the cost based on the weight of the filled container.
Plastic Bag Ban in Kenya
Did you know that Kenya has one of the harshest plastic bag laws around the world? Anyone who is found to produce, sell, or carry plastic bags could face a penalty of up to $38,000. The plastic bag ban was finally enforced this year after a long delay.
Think about whether changes like above could also be applied to your community.
Using Existing Plastic Waste
If you have a lot of plastic bottles, bags, or other wastes at home then consider re-purposing them. For example, you can create a homemade fly trap by filling a plastic bottle with a mixed solution of dish soap and sugar water.
You can also create a cockroach trap by filling an empty bottle with a bit of red wine. Smear some oil around the inside of the bottle to make the cockroach slip inside.