Plastic takes more than 1,000 years to decompose (if it ever decomposes) in a landfill. That’s why it’s important to try to reduce single-use plastic items in our daily lives. The average American produces +4 pounds of trash a day, that’s more than 1,361 pounds per year. Much of that trash can’t be recycled, so the solution to reducing waste isn’t to recycle more, it’s to cut down on single-use plastics in our day-to-day lives. We’ve created a handy list below of 11 ways to use fewer single use plastics. Do you have more that we’ve missed? Comment and let us know!
Bring Your Reusable Bags
Each plastic shopping bag will take more than 1,000 years to decompose, if they will ever decompose. Now think about how many you use in a single grocery store trip. That adds up to a lot of trash that will be around for a long time! Most people see why taking a reusable bag to the store is great, but how do you remember to take them?! One solution is to always keep them in your car, that way you always have them with you! Keeping reusable bags that fold up very small is in your purse or work bag is also a great option to make sure you always have one with you. Another method is to tell yourself you’ll just have to buy what you can carry if you forget your reusable bag. The cashier might look at you funny, but carrying a handful of groceries to the car can save several plastic bags from ending up in the landfill! Also don’t forget your bags for shopping trips too, not just the grocery store! Anytime you might need a bag, try to have one handy!
Take Your Own Container to Bring Home Leftovers From a Restaurant
If you’re going out to dinner, carrying a storage container for your leftovers is a great way to cut down on styrofoam waste. Styrofoam is just like plastic and won’t decompose for more than 1,000 years, if ever in a landfill. That’s why it’s a great way to cut down on your plastic waste by bringing your own doggie bag to a restaurant! Now that the leftovers are in a storage container they’re already packed for tomorrow’s lunch too!
Use a Reusable Straw
There has been a lot of innovation recently with straw technology, from metal to paper straws, there are more options now. Keeping a foldable reusable straw in your bag can help you cut down on plastic straws.
Carry Reusable Silverware
Carrying a set of reusable silverware in your bag is a great way to stop using plastic utensils! They even come in cute kits now, so you can have a spoon, fork, knife and/or chopsticks right there in your bag, ready to use at the food trucks, or at that family picnic.
Use Beeswax Wrap Instead of Plastic Wrap!
Beeswax wrap is a great alternative to plastic wrap because it’s reusable for up to a year (with proper care). And after it’s all used up it can be cut into small strips and used for firestarter or put it into your compost. The beeswax also has antibacterial properties, so the food you store just might last a little longer too!
Use Reusable Silicone Bags Instead of Zip-top Bags
Zip-top bags are really handy for storing snacks and leftovers, but there are now great options made from silicone that can last beyond that single-use. Silicone bags are definitely more expensive, but they will last for a long time and can reduce the 500 zip-top bags that the average American family uses each year (that’s a lot of trash!).
Bring Your Own Water Bottle or Hydration Pack
Carrying your own refillable water bottle can save a lot of plastic each year. Americans send more than 38 billion water bottles to landfills every year! There are a lot of options now on the market, from reusable glass, plastic, metal, or even collapsible bottles, there are options! If you’re flying you can take an empty bottle with you and refill it once you’re past the security screening. And if you’re going on a longer trip, like a camping trip or canoe trip, you could take a hydration backpack, like a CamelBak. Doing this let’s you take large jugs of water you can refill instead of single-use plastic bottles.
Take Your Own Mug to the Coffee Shop
If you’re getting coffee to go at your favorite coffee shop try bringing your own mug. Even if they have a paper cup, the lining of the cup is likely made from plastic to keep the cup water-tight. This means it’s not recyclable at all, EVEN THOUGH it’s made from paper. This is another reason why taking your own travel mug can help put one less (or a dozen less? depending on your coffee habit!) piece of plastic in the landfill every week.
Take Your Own Containers to Fill with Bulk Items at the Store
Buying in bulk is a great way to reduce single use plastics. You can take your own cloth bags or glass/plastic containers to the store and fill them up. So you don’t have to pay for the weight of the bag/container, be sure to weigh it empty and mark this on the container as the “Tare weight”. When checking out you can ask the cashier to remove the tare weight of the container from the total so you don’t pay extra!
Use Reusable Bags for Produce
Plastic produce bags are one thing that seems hard to give up, but there are now many options for storing your produce without single-use plastic! There are mesh cotton or plastic bags that can keep your produce fresh, just be sure to tell the cashier the tare weight of the bag so you don’t pay extra!
Make Your Own Snack Bars, Snack Packs
Food packaging accounts for a lot of the waste we produce, and one way to reduce it is to make your own, no packaging needed! Making your own snack bars and wrapping them in beeswax wraps or storing them in storage containers is a great way to reduce. Do you like those pre-made snack packs of assorted nuts and cheeses you see in stores? You could make your own! Take a day to prep your week’s snacks in storage containers and then you can just grab them from the fridge, just like the store bought!
Reusing Containers Instead of Purchasing New Ones
If all of these ideas seems too expensive, one of the best ways to reduce plastic is to REUSE containers. Got an order of takeout in a plastic container? Wash it and reuse it for storage! What about a tomato sauce jar? You can reuse that instead of buying glass storage containers! Reusing what has already made it into your home is actually a vital part of reducing the amount of waste that comes to the landfill.