Steps you can take to reduce plastics

    Plastic is everywhere.

    Plastics have been commercially produced for over 100 years.

    It would be difficult if not impossible to live our modern lives without plastic.

    Fortunately, no one is suggesting that we get rid of all plastic from our lives. But, we do need a way to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in our landfills and our oceans.

    It is the single use plastics, that are only in use for mere days or hours that do not biodegrade in our lifetimes, that we need to try to eliminate from our lives.

    These are the worst single use plastics for oceans and ocean wildlife:

    • Shopping bags
    • Utensils
    • Straws and stirrers
    • Fruit and vegetable bags
    • Balloons
    • Bottles and lids
    • Takeout food containers
    • Polystyrene and Styrofoam Containers
    • Disposable Coffee cups
    • Disposable Plastic Cups, Plates and Bowls

    Let’s take a closer look at some of these and how we can reduce the use of these items. When thinking of these items and their place in your life, keep in mind the 5Rs of Zero waste.






    Shopping bags- reusable shopping bags are an excellent alternative to plastic shopping bags. Some towns have now made laws against plastic shopping bags and instead are forced to use paper bags for purchases.

    Utensils- Plastic utensils are staples of take out deliveries and summer barbeques. But there are good alternatives that will reduce these plastics. First, you can request that your take out does not come with any utensils. The plastic utensils that you currently own do not need to be thrown out after a single use, but can be washed and reused. There are also many alternative and reusable materials that are being made into utensils, such as bamboo.

    Straws and stirrers- Plastic straws and stirrers are not necessities. They can be denied at restaurants and other locations. There are also paper and metal straws that are more environmentally friendly. 

    Fruit and Vegetable bags- These are staples of the produce sections of grocery stores. But there are reusable options available. And it is important to note that some places are able to recycle these types of plastic bags.

    Balloons- Balloons can be great fun, but there are also many, many other decorating options for every type of party. 

    Bottles and Lids- In my area I see shoppers fill their carts with bottled beverages every week. I can sympathize with people who want the occasional soda or juice, but there are so many better options for water. At home water filters, and reusable water bottles are some of the options available to reduce the amount of bottles and lids that end up in landfills.

    Takeout food containers- This can be a difficult one to avoid. You do not want to leave behind good food that you have already paid for, but that is not your only option. A lot of restaurants are conscious of the waste they produce and use containers that are biodegradable or fully recyclable. If they are not, you can always bring your own container from home and use that to take home any leftovers.

    Polystyrene and styrofoam containers- This type of plastic is used in a wide variety of forms and industries. It is not biodegradable and is not recyclable. It is best to avoid this type of plastic and refuse it where you can.

    Disposable Coffee cups- Although most coffee companies have moved away from styrofoam cups to paper cups, those paper cups are still not easy to recycle. In order for the paper to hold liquid, there is a film of plastic on the inside of the cup. This film needs to be separated from the paper before it can be recycled. That process is complex and expensive and as a result most of those paper cups end up in landfills. The best option is to use a reusable ceramic or metal mug.

    Disposable Plastic Cups, Plates and Bowls- You will come across these items in many places. It is best to educate yourself on what these items are made of, if they are recyclable in your area. Most times it is best to avoid them entirely and look at reusable options.

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