Take a look around the room you’re in right now. I’m guessing you’ll find plastic everywhere. Americans are on a roll, creating more plastic waste than ever. The largest amount of plastics is found in containers and packaging (water bottles and shampoo bottles), but you can also find plastic in just about everything else including furniture, appliances, diapers, cups, phones, utensils, and clothing.
What’s most shocking is that very little of the plastic produced is recycled. Discarded plastic ends up in landfills, waterways and on our streets. A 2014 study estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic trash enters the sea from land every year.
Thankfully there are a few things you can do to help reduce your plastic waste.
1. Think before you buy.
Before making an impulse purchase ask yourself a question: “Do I really need this?” If you’re unsure, think about alternative ways to get the product, such as borrowing it from someone else.
2. Shop at the farmers market.
The produce, meat, and other products available at the farmers market generally don’t have any plastic packaging. Bring your own bags with you so you’ll have a plastic free experience.
3. Say no to plastic straws.
The next time you’re out at a restaurant let your server know that you don’t need a straw. If you’re a straw lover think about purchasing a glass, reusable straw to bring along.
4. Use a reusable water bottle.
Making the switch to a reusable water bottle is such a simple way to cut back on your plastic consumption. Get into the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go.
5. Bring your own bags.
It’s time to forgo plastic bags and start bringing your own reusable bags to the store. Over 1 trillion plastic bags are used and discarded every year worldwide. Birds and sea animals are dying of starvation each year after ingesting discarded plastic bags.
6. Skip the microbeads.
Microbeads are tiny particles of plastic, barely visible to the naked eye, which are added to many personal care products for texture. Make sure to read the labels before you purchase personal care products! The microbeads used in personal care products are mainly made of polyethylene (PE). Don’t use products with PE. Also be on the lookout for products containing these ingredients: polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon.
7. Buy in bulk.
Buying from the bulk bins at the grocery store is a great way to save money on your food bill, and it’s also a great way to avoid wasteful plastic packaging. Make sure you bring your own reusable bags to transport your bulk food home.
8. Convert to glass food storage containers.
It’s time to make the switch from disposable plastic food storage containers to glass containers. Not only will you reduce the amount of plastic waste heading into landfills and oceans, but you’ll prevent toxins from leaching into your stored food.
9. Ditch the disposables.
Americans discard about 33.6 million tons of plastic each year, with only 6.5 percent recycled. A good portion of the plastic ends up in landfills where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, and potentially leak pollutants into the soil and water. Making a simple switch to reusable napkins, utensils, cups and plates will have a big impact on the amount of plastic waste.
10. Shoot for a waste free lunch box.
Children’s lunches create more than 3.5 billion pounds of garbage each year, which amounts to a crazy 18,760 pounds of trash annually from an average sized elementary school. That’s a lot of waste. Make the switch to a reusable lunch box with a reusable water bottle and reusable snack/sandwich bags.