Last month, we went over the plastic problem and how it affects us, the marine life and environment at large. It’s made of fossil fuels, leaves a huge carbon footprint, pollutes the oceans, kills our marine animals, finds its way into our food, and will probably still be here for hundreds of years. We also discussed how businesses and governments are taking initiatives to tackle this problem through policy reform. Now, let’s go over what you can do as an individual to reduce your plastic consumption in your day-to-day life.
We consume many plastic bags whether it’s from malls or supermarkets. Plastic bags take from 500 – 1000 years to decompose in landfills with Egypt consuming on average 12 billion plastic bags a year, so consider switching to tote bags or even your old backpacks. If you tend to forget to bring them along while you shop, try leaving them in your car or folding a bag or two in your handbag so that they’re always around!
Plastic bottles can take from 70 to 450 years to decompose, and so consider switching to reusable bottles and carry them with you. There are three alternatives of reusable bottles: Reusable Plastic bottles are better than single-use plastic, but can leak harmful chemicals into the water; Aluminum bottles are also a slightly better substitute; however, they’re lined with epoxy resin which can interact with water and have long-term harmful effect; Stainless steel bottles are probably the safest and most eco-friendly substitute. While shopping for a reusable bottle make sure that it is labeled as BPA Free, as reassurance that the product is safe to drink out of. BPA stands for bisphenol A, which is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 60s; a lot of research has pointed out that BPA-exposed food & beverages have possible health effects on the brain. You can find the plastic bottle alternatives at any supermarket or home appliance stores.
Coffee Cups take up to 30 years to decompose. The UK alone uses and throws around 2.5 billion coffee cups, which is “enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times” – according to a report by the House of Commons, 2018. You can always reduce plastic consumption by asking to have your drink served in a ceramic/glass container. However, if you like to take your coffee on your way, either you can ask for “no cup (lid), no straw” or you can go the extra mile and carry your travel mug. You can purchase travel mugs either from coffee shops or supermarkets.
Plastic straws take up to 200 years to decompose. You can say no to straws and drink your beverage the old-fashioned way or you can buy alternatives to plastic straws with materials such as stainless steel, bamboo, or paper. You can find them either at supermarkets, party stores, or online stores.
Beverages often have aluminum or plastic packaging. It’s important to note that aluminum cans take about 80 to 100 years to decompose, while plastic bottles take an average of 450 years! Try switching to glass bottles as they can be reused and are recycled easier, and try eating fruits or making your juice at home! It’s much healthier anyway.
Most facial scrubs, toothpaste, and other personal care products contain micro plastic beads that wastewater facilities can’t filter, so they end up polluting our oceans and rivers. Moreover, recent studies have shown that over use of facial scrubs that contain micro plastics can also damage our skin. Try avoiding products that contain “Polyethylene” and “Polypropylene” as ingredients, which are the chemicals used to create these micro plastics.
Bar soaps vs liquid soap? Definitely bar soaps as they are rinsed, making it more sanitary. Another switch you can make is your deodorant! You can either make your own deodorant (which is as easy as combining two ingredients together – baking soda and coconut oil. You can add an optional essential oil for fragrance, Lavender is a MINT favorite) or you can buy crystal deodorant from the spice shop (which is an alternative deodorant made of natural mineral salt called potassium alum).
Plastic wrapping and cutlery
According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, an NGO dedicated to educating the public regarding the growing rates of plastic pollution, “More than 100 million pieces of plastics are used by Americans every day.” Most of this aforementioned consumption of single-use plastic are cutlery. Instead of using disposable plates, forks, and wrapping your lunch in plastic bags, consider purchasing lunch boxes or jars and reuse your cutlery. Meal prepping and packing up your lunch helps reduce your waste and helps you save money on the long run! You can find these lunch boxes with their own cutlery easily at supermarkets.
Smoking is a terrible habit, but if you’re going to do it, try switching to refillable lighters or buy matches instead of buying single-use plastic lighters. Plastic lighters don’t decompose as they are made of plastic and metal, so when they end up in the landfill, they just remain there.
Most, if not all, frozen food is wrapped in plastic. Try avoiding frozen food by purchasing fresh food at your local shop! That way you reduce your waste, support your community and eat better, healthier food.
These are some of the tips we have for you! But there are many more if you want to live a zero-waste life. Try leading your life following the 5 Rs: in that order, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. Refuse new plastics, reduce your consumption, reuse (or repair) your current belongings, recycle whatever waste you have, and rot by setting up a worm bin and turn your waste into fertilizer. More importantly, don’t set difficult targets for yourself, make small, attainable changes at first as any change is a positive change!
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