6 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Plastic

By Rachel Slifka on 6 July 2018 0 comments

We all know plastic is bad for the environment, but exactly how terrible is it? According to the organization Plastic Oceans, the world population is producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year. Half of which is for single use. And to make matters worse, every year more than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean.

Ouch.

Even if you're not ready to ban plastic entirely, there are many easy life changes you can make to help save our planet. They might seem like small steps, but they go a long way in helping to reduce plastic waste and protecting sea life. Here are six easy ways to cut back on plastic. (See also: 8 Things We Keep Buying That Are Killing the Planet)

1. Ban plastic bags

Many cities are banning plastic bags entirely, and for good reason. According to the EPA, Americans use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps each year. Most of these bags are used one time and then promptly thrown out, creating an incredible amount of waste.

Fortunately, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. You can bring your own reusable, canvas tote bags to the grocery store. Most grocery stores sell canvas bags for just a dollar or two, and you can use them for years before they need to be replaced. (See also: 10 Things You Already Own That Can Be Turned Into a Tote Bag)

2. Shop secondhand

Items such as toys, electronics, and even clothes require enormous amounts of plastic to package and distribute. Often, these items are used for a few years and then no longer needed and improperly disposed of. You can reduce plastic waste by purchasing many of these items secondhand.

To find the best deals on these items, scour stores such as Goodwill, eBay, and local consignment shops. You can also shop online using digital thrift store apps like Poshmark, Tradesy, ThredUp, OfferUp, and even Facebook Marketplace. By purchasing used items, you're helping the environment, and you can save some money as well. (See also: 8 Things You Should Always Buy Used)

3. Rethink your groceries

Everyone needs to buy groceries, but food often requires a lot of plastic packaging. Particularly, single-serve and pre-cut foods, such as individual yogurts, cheeses, fruit, veggies, and other snacks, use more packaging than if you bought these same ingredients in bulk and divided them up into snack-size portions yourself.

You can combat the excessive packaging dilemma by purchasing unpackaged produce, buying in bulk, and looking for plastic packaging alternatives, such as glass jars. (See also: 10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Buy in Bulk)

4. Transition to reusable products

The age of convenience creates a lot of extra waste. Think about how many to-go coffee cups, plastic straws, and disposable cutlery are thrown out at the end of each week. In fact, according to the National Park Service, over 500 million straws are used each day. That's enough to fill 125 school buses each day!

You can help to lessen the blow by switching to reusable products. For instance, you can switch to a reusable water bottle instead of drinking individual bottles of water. Stainless steel, silicone, and glass straws are becoming quite trendy — or you could skip the straw entirely.

For coffee, purchase a travel mug. Not only does a reusable mug help the environment, but it can keep your coffee warmer for longer. As an additional bonus, many coffee shops will give you a small discount if you bring in your own reusable mug. (See also: The 5 Best Reusable Straws)

5. Switch your toothpaste

Who knew your toothpaste could contain plastic? Disturbingly enough, microbeads are simply small pieces of plastic, and they're commonly found in toothpaste, body wash, and facial cleansers.

Every time you use a product containing microbeads, plastic is being washed down the drain. Fortunately, the Food and Drug Administration created new regulations that prohibit the use of microbeads in such products. Some products are already banned under the FDA's timeline, but certain products are not set to be pulled from the market entirely until 2019.

To be safe, check each product to ensure it does not contain microbeads. If you have some old cosmetics lying around, don't forget to check those, too.

6. Recycle

No matter how conscious you are at avoiding plastic, no one is perfect. Sometimes, it is simply unavoidable. That being said, the worst thing you can do is simply throw out your plastic. By recycling, you can prevent plastic from ending up in landfills, where they can take hundreds of years to decompose.

Every city has different recycling requirements, so look up your city regulations before recycling. Sites like Recycle By City, or your town's website, guide you through city requirements, so you can ensure you are recycling properly. (See also: 18 Clever Ways to Reuse Your Plastic Shopping Bags)

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