10 Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Consumption
We brush our teeth with it, buy our food with it, drink out of it and even wear it: from the moment we wake up until we go to bed, plastic is all around us. As I am typing this sentence, I use my keyboard - made of plastic.
Cheap to produce, mass production has made plastic a popular material. Its use has drastically grown since the 50s –and has continued to grow: in Europe alone, we produce approximately 60 million tons of plastic every year which makes about 25% of the global number. Worldwide, enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth 4 times. And since plastic is non-biodegradable and virtually non-recyclable, every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists on our planet. Recent documentaries like Plasticized, Plastic Ocean or Plastic Planet demonstrate how harmful plastic can be for the environment, animal life and human body.
The numbers are shocking: in 2016 Europeans have eaten about 11 000 tiny pieces of plastic through their seafood. As more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year an increasing number of fish, seabirds, cetaceans and sea turtles have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. Plastic waste in the sea is almost impossible to clean out and if this problem continues, the ocean will have more plastic than fish by 2050.
Given the way it is currently going, the situation is not about to change in the near future. Now it is on us to reduce our plastic consumption in any way possible. Here are some alternatives that seem to be small but have a huge impact on our future world:
1. REUSABLE BAGS VS. PLASTIC BAGS
The average European uses 500 plastic bags every year. Considering that a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade, it is almost unimaginable how much waste is generated.
The solution: take a cloth bag with you when going shopping and say no to offered bags at the cash desk.
2. REUSABLE BOTTLES VS. PLASTIC BOTTLES
Every minute 1 million plastic bottles are sold worldwide – pretty much all of them end up in landfills and stay there for the next 1000 years. They do not only pollute the planet but also contain questionable substances, which over time can be absorbed in the drink itself. The solution is to bring along and refill your reusable glass or metal bottle - saves time, money and the environment.
3. WOODEN TOOTHBRUSH VS. PLASTIC TOOTHBRUSH
Like every other piece of plastic, every single toothbrush that has ever been used is still on the planet. The solution: get a wooden, compostable toothbrush instead. They are already available in some stores but you can also easily find them online starting at a price of 3 Euros. Popular brands are Wowe, bamboo or bmbu.
4. CLASSIC RAZORS VS. DISPOSABLE RAZORS
Disposable razors may be the most wasteful product we use in the bathroom. Billions of them end up in landfills every year (2 billions in the US alone). The solution: a classic razor made of steel. The result is better (trust me) and it is cheaper in the long run as it lasts for a lifetime.
5. SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING VS. PLASTIC PACKAGING
Leaving the supermarket without at least one item that is not packaged in plastic is hard to imagine nowadays. Studies have shown, however, that plastic will (especially with repeated use and in combination with high temperatures) eventually degrade. Small amounts of chemicals (BPA) from plastic containers can thus end up in foods or drinks that are kept inside them. The levels of these might be low but high enough to cause brain defects, infertility, miscarriage, cancer and impotence. The solution: get loose fruits and vegetables and choose groceries packaged in glass jars or carton. But practically everything that is kept in plastic, such as cosmetics, can contain harmful chemicals that penetrate and harm the body. The solution: Buy natural soaps instead of bottled shower gel. Find out how you can replace cosmetic products with natural ones and try to mix your own (tooth paste or shampoo is super easy to make!). Shop from sustainable cosmetic brands such as Lush or Ringana that offer reusable, biodegradable packaging.
6. NATURAL WRAP VS. PLASTIC WRAP
Tupperware boxes are better than disposable plastic wrap but they still are made of plastic which is not good for you. The solution: pack your lunch in reusable glass tupperware and use compostable and natural food wrap made of bees wax – they do an amazing job in keeping your food fresh!
7. MENSTRUAL CUP VS. DISPOSABLE PERIOD PRODUCTS
Tampons and sanitary towels create insane amounts of waste: each month 432 millions of tampons are dumped worldwide. Sanitary towels are non-degradable and stay in landfills for about 800 years. The solution: the menstrual cup. It is super easy to use, saves time as it only has to be changed after many hours of use, saves money as you can get it from 8-25 Euros in drug stores or online, is more sustainable as it lasts up to 10 years and is healthier as it does not contain harmful chemicals. Read more: 10 Things I Learned From Using The Menstrual Cup.
8. NATURAL FIBRES VS. SYNTHETIC FIBRES
Clothing made from synthetic fibres such as viscose, polyester or nylon releases microscopique plastic fibres with each wash. Our skin absorbs chemicals through our clothes too. The solution: clothes made of natural fibres such as lines, soy, cotton, hemp or silk.
9. SUSTAINABLE TOYS VS. PLASTIC TOYS
The toy industry has the highest “plastic intensity” of any other sector in the consumer goods market: about 90% of toys on the market are made out of plastic. To make matters worse, almost half of the toys gifted to kids during the holiday season alone are broken by spring. Broken toys are challenging to dispose sustainably, as thrift stores and donation programs will not accept them. The solution: donate functional toys you do not need any more or reuse second hand toys. Buying toys made out of natural materials such as wood, wool or cotton is the best way to reduce your family’s environmental footprint. Here are some shops where you can purchase sustainable toys: Plantoys, Lanco, Hape.
10. SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS VS. DISPOSABLE UTENSILS
Look around you and do your research: what items are made out of plastic and can be easily replaced by another, more sustainable material? Refuse disposable plastics such as single-serving packaging, straws, plastic cups and lids at all costs. Get bamboo straws and carry reusable utensils in your purse. Bring your to-go mug with you to coffee shops, smoothie shops or restaurants. Avoid buying electronic devices or mobile phone covers made of plastic.
And spread the word: inform your family and friends and tell them why it is important to reduce plastic in our lives.
 Bogner, T. (Proudcer), & Boote, W. (Director). (2009). Plastic Planet. Austria. Watch here