Plastics are an inescapable part of modern life—used for life-saving medical technology, in transportation and construction, and a host of other applications, plastics make life easier, safer, and better. However the very qualities that make plastic so important—it’s inexpensive, durable, lightweight, and recyclable—ironically contribute to plastic over-use.
Do plastic grocery bags really need to exist? How about plastic silverware? Cheap plastic toys? The consumption of single-use plastics is nothing less than a global health crisis, polluting our oceans, poisoning our wildlife, and blighting our communities. Here are three ideas for kicking plastic to the curb.
1. Go beyond the canvas grocery bag. Say no to plastic cutlery, plastic straws, and plastic toothbrushes by replacing these everyday items with sustainable alternatives. This will require more planning on your part, but it’s a small shift towards less waste. Choose bamboo toothbrushes, paper straws, and reusable forks and knives. While consumer alternatives to common plastics are no panacea, NOT being part of the problem is a good step in the right direction and often leads to perspective-shifting conversations with friends and family.
2. Bottled water is not your friend. Don’t be seduced into compliance thinking that just because you recycle your bottle, it’s no harm, no foul. Not only is the corporate sale of bottled water a sketchy way to privatize natural resources, recycling is a waste-generating activity in and of itself. What’s more, most communities lack the infrastructure to do so effectively. At best, your recycled bottles will be down-cycled into other cheap products that will eventually end up in a landfill. Invest in reusable bottles, cups, and storage containers instead.
3. Assess the sustainability of your kitchen. Food storage is a big culprit in everyday plastic excess. From packing the kids’ lunches to storing leftovers and buying in bulk, weaning yourself off plastics in the kitchen will greatly reduce the waste your household produces on a weekly basis. Start small by eliminating pre-wrapped items from your shopping list, and consider using bee’s wrap as an alternative to plastic, wax paper, or aluminum foil.
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