10 Ways To Reduce The Plastic You Use

Recycling can help reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill, waterways and our ecosystems, but there are only a few types of plastics can actually be recycled. The fraction that does actually get recycled still requires a lot of energy and water to do so and this just isn’t a good proposition when it comes to single-use items. Plastic rubbish that does end up in landfills and our oceans take hundreds of years to degrade, if at all, and there’s increasing concern about the toxins they release into the environment as well. 

In todays society, plastic surrounds us, it is everywhere and cutting it out can seem daunting. Help is at Hand (& Hart) and below are some super easy ways to get started. Even if you only adopt one of these ideas this will be a step in the right direction. 

1. Stop buying bottled water

Please please please!! Unless there’s some kind of contamination crisis, plastic water bottles are an easy way in reducing waste. Instead, keep a refillable bottle handy, preferably not a plastic one. There are so many great options around these days from stainless steel to glass ones. 

2. BYO shopping bags

The usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags is extremely limited, yet according to the Environmental Protection Agency, up to one trillion plastic bags, yes you read that right, ONE TRILLION, are used each year around the world, how utterly insane is that?! Thankfully in Australia they have made a move to ban the use of single use plastic bags (come on NSW), but single use plastic bags are still used and these bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most ubiquitous forms of garbage. I personally have large canvas bags that I have used for years for my shopping. I have 2 bags (filled with other bags). 1 is kept in the boot of the car and the other by the front door so they are always handy when I need them and so I don't forget them!! 

In addition to bigger shopping bags, you can further reduce waste by bringing your own reusable produce bags or skipping them entirely. You really don't need to put bananas and apples in plastic bags. 

3. Re-think your food storage

Plastic bags, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of sandwich bags, why not pack a bento box, a cute tiffin or use a beeswax wrap for your lunch? Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags, wash them out. It is only single use if you use it once. Or why not try using the silicone ziplock bags that are becoming more popular. You could even reuse jars or glass containers? When it comes to carryout, these types of containers can be used instead of disposable ones—although it can definitely take a bit of courage and some explaining to help your local restaurants to understand, but it will get easier. 

4. Shop in bulk

For many households, the majority of plastic waste is generated in the kitchen. So one of the best ways to reduce the packaging waste madness is to bring your own bags and containers and stock up on bulk foods. There are some great shops now that offer bulk purchase. One of my favourites is The Source Bulk Foods Store. 

5. Bring your own cup to the coffee shop

Speaking of refillable, bringing your own cup for to-go coffee is another way to reduce your plastic footprint. Disposable coffee cups might look like paper but they’re usually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. In theory these materials can be recycled, but most places lack the infrastructure to do so. Then there are lids, stirrers, and coffee vendors that still use polystyrene foam cups—which can all be avoided with your own cup.

6. Say no to straws

Whether for home use or when you’re ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, plastic straws are often a single-use item that's just not necessary. If you do want or need a straw then please consider having your own to use. There are lots of options around these days from bamboo straws to stainless steel straws and more recently silicone straws. 

7. Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags

Generally speaking, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic, plus paper products tend to biodegrade more easily without adding a lot of weight to the product the way glass or aluminium cans do. So, when you have the choice, pick the pasta in the box instead of pasta in a plastic bag, or the detergent that is in the box instead of a plastic bottle. It is these choices that begin to trickle into the system and the companies that produce these items take note. 

8. Swap to a reusable razor

Ditch the plastic razor and instead of throwing plastic in the rubbish each month, consider switching to a reusable razor that lets your replace just the blade. Like the ones sold in our store. 

9. Switch from disposable nappies to cloth

If you’ve got a young baby or have had a child, you know how many nappies can end up in the rubbish each day. I am a big fan of cloth nappies. I used them myself when I had my daughter in the early 2000's. They have come even further since then in the style, fabrics and materials used etc to help them become more convenient. Although if it is your first child like it was for me when I used them, I figured, I didn't know any different and we generally get use to things pretty quickly. Yes I agree that the upfront cost is quite a bit more but in the long run the savings are significant. If you decide not to use cloth nappies and prefer the disposables, there are still some great options out there for more eco friendly disposable nappies. If you are considering them, this is a great article which may help. 

10. Make your period waste-free

There are a number of non-disposable options out there to cut down on period waste, from the Cup, to period pants and there has also been an increase of reusable pads. All these choices reduce an incredible amount of packaging that most pads and tampons are encased in. If you’re not in a situation where giving up tampons is an option, consider skipping brands with plastic applicators. Or using a mix of each one. 

We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.