Whether you’re an avid environmentalist, or you love swimming in or surfing our oceans, or perhaps like a bush walk and enjoy taking photos of wildflowers or (insert any number of things) reduced plastic waste is really important. Why?
There are numerous reasons. Plastic is one of the biggest pollution concerns worldwide. Yes, you can put many empty plastic items in your kerbside recycling bin, however, plastic can only be recycled a very small number of times. Then it ends up in landfill and our oceans, and over thousands of years transforms into microplastics, leaching into our water and food.
Marine life is particularly vulnerable to plastics ending up in our oceans. Many get entangled in plastic objects and others eat some items mistaking them for food.
Plastic production requires an enormous amount of energy and resources, causing carbon emissions contributing to global warming. Reducing our plastic use is the most efficient way to fight the myriad of problems caused by plastic waste. There are many ways you can do this in and around your home, some pretty simple switches and others that take a bit of getting used to. However small switches can lead to big changes so check out some following suggestions for inspo.
Ditch the cling wrap
This one can be tricky. We’ve all used cling wrap for so many things for so long it’s hard to imagine life without it.
My tip is get it out of your house as you’ll then be forced to look for other options. When it’s within reach it’s easy to just grab it. Finding alternatives is easier that you think.
Upend an empty plate on top plates or bowls to cover before putting in the fridge. Or some things can be transferred to a clean and empty glass jar with a lid that you’ve saved. Pack lunch items in containers instead of wrapping. And there are all kinds of wax wraps and bowl covers on the market to choose from as well.
There’s no need to buy rolls of plastic bin liners. I’ve not quite got to not using a bin liner yet, but I know people have mastered this which is great.
You can use old bags you’ve kept or line your bins with newspaper. There are also compostable and biodegradable bin liners on the market. Be sure to look for biodegradable, not degradable, to ensure they will completely break down.
Next time those black/grey plastic kitchen utensils need replacing, look for a metal option. They’ll last so much longer as well!
Are you a tea lover?
Many tea bags are coated in plastic, which of course never breaks down, and also leaches into your cup of tea.
Look for bags made of paper only or use loose leaf tea for a plastic free cuppa.
Think of how many shampoo and conditioner bottles you go through!
There are heaps of solid shampoo and conditioner bars on the market and it does take a bit of trial and error, to see what suits you best. However, so does traditional shampoo and conditioner.
If you can’t get used to the idea of using a bar instead of liquid, there are also concentrate bars that you can break up and whisk with boiling water, to make a liquid and fill your reusable bottles. There are also bulk stores offering refillable shampoo and conditioner liquids.
Next time those hair ties all snap and break, look for some sustainably produced ones. They last so much longer and aren’t made with any plastic like most are. With a daughter with long hair I’ve worked out this is more cost effective in the long run as well.
Similarly when next needing to replace brushes or combs look for bamboo options. They all need replacing eventually and less plastic being thrown away the better.
Make the switch to bamboo or cornstarch toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste or toothpaste tablets.
There are many toothpaste tablets on the market, some with fluoride and developed by dentists. Many bulk stores also have toothpaste to refill your own containers.
Bamboo toothbrushes are everywhere but it’s also worth looking at cornstarch ones if you don’t like the feel of bamboo.
Don’t believe everything you hear about natural deodorants. It’s about finding what works for you, just like it is with mainstream deodorants and antiperspirants.
A lot of natural deodorants come in recyclable metal tins or tubes as well as glass jars. There are also refillable options as well.
Many shower and bath sponges are largely made of plastic. Konjac sponges are great for the shower. When wet they fluff up like a sponge and you only need a small amount of product to foam up well. And they’re plant based and 100% biodegradable.
Refill household products
Think about every time you put an empty spray and wipe or laundry detergent bottle in the recycling bin. They add up to a lot.
There are many refill options available for all your household cleaning and laundry products from bulk stores, to market stalls as well as delivery services. If you live in Perth, check out, The Inspired Eco Warrior. We deliver all your necessary household products as eco refills.
A lot of sponges are made from plastics or contain microplastics. You can cut up old cloth to make dish and cleaning cloths. There are also washable, reusable cloths on the market that are compostable at the end of their life.
4. General household
Never throw out what you’ve already got if still in good working order but next time you need to replace pegs think about a plastic free alternative.
There are wooden pegs readily available everywhere, but I love 316 marine grade stainless steel pegs. I love these because they’ll last a lifetime (won’t rust being marine grade) and this grade of stainless steel also doesn’t get too hot in our burning summers.
I like the convenience of daily portions of food for my cats and that they don’t stink out the fridge, however, have opted for small tins instead of plastic pouches to reduce plastic waste.
Plastic crockery and cutlery for entertaining
It’s convenient to grab the throw away plates etc when having a party or entertaining, however, this produces a lot of waste.
There are ‘party libraries’ around Perth where you can borrow staples for your next shindig. Or op shops have piles you can choose from to make up a ‘party set’ for when you’re entertaining.
Always use up what you already have but next time you go to buy wrapping paper for gifts look for recyclable paper that isn’t plastic lined. Most gift wrapping paper is lined with plastic and can’t be put in the recycling bin.
Also reuse gift bags you’re given or wrap gifts in tea towels or other cloth that can be part of the gift. There are also beautifully handmade reusable gift bags around.
5. Grocery shopping
Buy in alternatives to plastic packaging
There are many options not wrapped in soft plastics that although can be recycled via Redcycle, produce so much plastic waste. Look for paper, cardboard, glass, metal etc packaging instead.
Fruit and veg
Don’t reach for the rolls of plastic bags in the fruit and veg aisles of the supermarket. Keep some reusable bags on hand with whatever you always take grocery shopping, so you don’t forget them. If you get stuck look for a paper bag where the loose mushrooms are and use those. Or just put items loose in your trolley.
Many butchers will accept your containers to package your meat in. The plastic trays meat is packaged in at the supermarket can’t be recycled even when washed. If your household eats meat this is a great way to reduce plastic waste, and you’ll support a local business too. Many butcher departments of supermarkets accept your own containers as well.
It’s not just flour and rice you can grab from bulk stores but also peanut butter, oils, vinegars and sauces as well as coffee beans and tea leaves and lollies, chocolates and snacks. To name a few!
You can take your own containers and weigh and label with the weight on your way in. Or there are glass jars and paper bags you can use.
You can even start with buying some items like this from large mainstream supermarkets, such as nuts and legumes (just bring your own paper or cloth bags as these places often only have plastic bags).
If you’re anything like our household you go through a lot of bread. Baking your own is a great plastic free option, however, many of us don’t have the time.
Look for bakeries that use paper instead of plastic bread bags, or where you can take your own reusable bag. Then you don’t get the plastic bag clips either.
7. Out and about
Might seem like an obvious one, but it can be easy to get caught out without one and reach for a bought bottle instead.
I have about four of them on rotation, so if they need a wash etc there are still options to take with me.
Takeaway coffee cup
Do you use a reusable takeaway coffee cup? I keep them everywhere so there’s no excuse not to use one. Soon coffee won’t be able to be sold in single use cups in WA, so start getting used to having your reusable handy.
BYO takeaway containers
Have your own containers on hand when ordering takeaway. Most places will accept your containers nowadays. Keep one at work so when those times arise when you feel like buying lunch, you’ve got your container ready to go.
If ordering a delivery service remember to make sure you’ve requested no utensils etc. And reuse the plastic containers deliveries come in.
Avoid individually wrapped snacks
These can be very convenient; however, all try buying snacks in larger packs to be portioned out into reusable containers. Or have a go at making homemade snacks.
These options will save you money as well.
Our household goes through a lot of sunscreen over summer. And I wear it everyday.
There are a variety of brands that come in aluminium tube or tin packaging, being completely plastic free. Many of these are also non toxic and reef friendly as well.
We don’t do all of these things all the time. But we do a combination of a lot of these things a lot of the time. See if you can make some small switches that work for your household and reduce your plastic waste.