5 Easy Steps to Reduce Plastic Use
We all have a part to play when reducing plastic waste and helping our planet recover from the damage we have already done. Plastic is everywhere, almost every aspect of our daily lives involves plastic somehow. The majority of the products we use are made of plastic or come in unnecessary plastic packaging-and that’s just not okay!
Imagine you are shopping the aisles of your local grocery or drug store. Much of this single-use packaging exists solely to be thrown out.
If you are at the grocery store, chances are nearly all food storage solutions are made of plastic. Packaging for non-perishable items such as produce bags, plastic cartons berries come in, and bagged chips are generally just bags that exist to eventually become plastic trash. fresher products and produce often use plastic wrap or plastic produce bags to be transported and prolong their shelf life.
These plastics are so pervasive that it can feel as though there is no alternative, but there is. Even small changes like investing in a reusable produce bag, reusable shopping bags, or reusable containers for your shopping can have long-lasting positive effects. If we work together, we can drastically reduce our plastic footprint as a society.
Before we dive deeper into how we can reduce our plastic consumption, let’s discuss why the overuse of this material is such a serious issue in the first place.
What’s the Problem with Single-Use Plastics?
All plastic is problematic for the wellbeing of our planet, but single-use plastics are hazardous. If we continue to use, dispose of, and contribute to the massive amounts of pre-existing plastic pollution on this planet, we are certainly in for a world of trouble.
Plastic Harms Marine Life
Large pieces of plastic pose a significant existential threat to the wellbeing of marine life, and as a result, our entire ecosystem.
So what about recyclable plastic? It is true that some plastic is classified and labeled as “recyclable” but what does that really look like? plastic is considered recyclable, it just means that it can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, not that it will ever actually biodegrade. Eventually, these tiny pieces become known as microplastics.
Micro isn’t so micro afterall. The technical parameter to be classified as a microplastic is within 5mm, the size of a pencil eraser. The microplastic and plastic waste ending up in the ocean causes inerasable damage to marine life and ecosystems.
Microplastics can often resemble food to marine life, meaning that these animals will usually eat this plastic thinking its a healthy lunch. Not only is this harmful for our friends in the sea, these problems come back onto land and back to humans.
Plastic Contaminates Seafood
Smaller fish and marine life such as shrimp, lobsters and other crustaceans eat these pieces of plastic and hold onto them for life. The toxins are emitted into their bodies which contaminates them and gets passed along to other ocean animals and humans who include seafood in their diets.
Larger marine life may swallow these pieces and then pass them without issue, but this puts the plastic right back into the ocean.
Plastic acts as a sponge for chemicals, these chemicals are then transferred to the bloodstream and tissue of the fish. Because of this, whoever is eating the fish is likely to get a dose of these harmful chemicals that were dumped into the ocean. But there is a lot more to say on that.
Plastic Releases Toxic Chemicals
Other than the toxic chemicals released into seafood and marine life, plastic can still do harm even if it does not end up in an innocent creature’s stomach or around its neck. Contrary to what was once believed, plastic in the ocean decomposes and releases harmful chemicals just from sun exposure, movement of waves, and marine life activity. These chemicals and greenhouse gases end up both in the water and the atmosphere, polluting from nearly every angle.
Plastic Is Forever
Plastic does decompose somewhat over many, many years, but it will never go away completely. The decomposition process of plastic is incredibly slow. Plastic bottles take an average of 450 years to decompose, meaning the bottle you recycled today may very well be here until 2471.
Whether it is polyethylene, one of the most commonly produced plastics in the world, polypropylene, synthetic fabrics like nylon, or any other plastic material, it has the potential to do tremendous damage throughout its lifetime.
How Can We Reduce Our Plastic Use?
Now that we know just some of the devastating effects that our constant plastic use can have on us, marine life, our oceans, and the planet as a whole, we can now delve into how to reduce our rampant plastic use.
The first step is always education, as understanding the scope of the problem plays an integral part in knowing how to stop it.
Now, without further ado, here are a handful of the most effective ways to cut down on how much plastic we use, and as a result, help the planet recover significantly.
Reduce Our Overall Consumption
The phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” gained its popularity for a reason. It perfectly encapsulates the mentality we should all have going forward in making sure the planet remains a liveable place for future generations. The “three R’s” apply to every part of the production, supply, and consumption chains. The first one that impacts every other stage, though, is to mindfully reduce.
Reducing our overall consumption requires us to critically rethink what we truly need and, perhaps even more importantly, what we do not need. Many people buy in bulk because they have a “just in case” mentality. As a result, they hoard an unnecessarily large amount of resources that causes manufacturers to have to produce more to keep up with the demand.
In reality, they might just accidentally be causing the possible disaster event that people buy in bulk to avoid. When we buy so much and use up resources without even being aware of the shortages we could cause, we are not only hurting the environment in the long term, but we are also hurting our fellow people in the short term.
We witnessed this first hand in Spring 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic ensued mass fear and uncertainty. Toilet paper was swept off the shelves of nearly every store, both online and brick and mortar, leaving many with no toilet paper and others with massive quantities. There was always plenty of tp for everyone but due to the mass frenzy, the supply chain quickly produced more.
Thinking mindfully and rationally in a situation that evokes panic and fear is admittedly really challenging, but it is key. If everyone had taken a moment to realize that we should be using our resources wisely and only buying what we actually need, everyone would have been much better off and with the right amount of toilet paper
While that might have (hopefully) been a unique situation, there are a lot of lessons that we can take from these events. Especially as ongoing global supply chain issues continue to prevail, we should all take a moment to reevaluate what we really need. If we cut down on overbuying, not only will we save money, we will help the planet as well.
The responsibility of reducing is not only held by individuals, it is also up to corporations to recognize that the massive amounts of packaging and plastic that currently accompany their products are unnecessary. We can help send this important message to manufacturers by being deliberate in where we spend our money. Look into zero-waste organizations that prioritize both people and the environment.
Recycle What We Can
After you have mindfully purchased and used a product, there will eventually come a time in which it can no longer be reused or repurposed. When that does occur, it is crucial that the product be recycled or composted.
Throwing things in the trash means that they will directly end up as pollution and waste. Buying products made out of biodegradable materials is one of the best ways to send a message to companies and make positive change with our dollars. Hopefully, these messages will be realized and internalized in time, resulting in more sustainable means of life and production.
Products like laundry detergent sometimes come in cardboard containers rather than plastic, and these containers can be easier to recycle. Cardboard is biodegradable, and it breaks down more quickly than plastic over time. Even more, cardboard is a byproduct from trees, which can be replanted. Plastic, on the other hand, comes from fossil fuels that often contribute to global warming.
In the meantime, though, you can know that you are actively doing your part to not contribute to the already immense amounts of waste and pollution damaging the planet.
Even better than recycling is composting. Composting is the golden standard of sustainable waste management practices. Getting an in-home compost bin, or ordering one from your waste management department is an easy way to start converting your food waste into rich fertilizer that will help your crops grow.
Sometimes products like laundry detergent come in cardboard containers instead of plastic, which can be easier to recycle.
Buy Reusable Products
Whether you can put items in the recycling bin or the compost bin, it is important that you confirm they are biodegradable before doing so.
With both of those stages of the process in mind, you should look through what you have and determine if it is still usable or if it could be upcycled and used for a new purpose.Upcycling is a great way to give an item a new life, and it can also be a new hobby or creative outlet.
If you truly have no use for a product anymore but are still functional, thrift stores and donation centers are a great option.. Even if an item might not have a place in your life anymore, it might be just what someone else has been looking for.
Reusing also applies to smaller items as well. For instance, utilizing reusable utensils rather than plastic cutlery, bringing your own mug to coffee shops, and investing in a reusable water bottle make all the difference.
Ditch Plastic Personal Care Items
There are some personal care items that are essential in our daily lives. Shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, conditioner, pads, tampons, exfoliators, sunscreen and face wash all come to mind. Even if the product itself does not contain plastic (which many of them actually do), the packaging and applicator are certainly plastic-based.
Luckily, there are so many personal care items that contain no plastic at all and are made with sustainability in mind. By doing your research to make sure. What you consume is up to your ethical and quality standard, you can start to watch as much of this plastic waste becomes a thing of the past.
Shop Zero Waste
Shopping zero waste is the gold standard in sustainable shopping. What does this really mean? It means that a company and product operate without producing any additional waste or pollution to the planet. By doing our research and prioritizing companies that genuinely care about the planet, we can help to usher in a clean wave of production.
For something to be zero waste, it has to have not created any additional waste during any stage of the production cycle. A zero-waste item is biodegradable, and a zero-waste company recognizes the immense importance of looking after the planet.
How Does Bite Reduce Plastic Waste?
Now we all know that plastic waste is an existential threat to the earth and all of the creatures who inhabit it. That being said, we still have to brush our teeth and take care of our bodies. Thankfully, Bite has figured out a way to tackle both issues in a way that will leave everyone minty fresh and smiling.
By the way, Bite has a lot more than just plastic-free Toothpaste Bits and compostable toothbrushes. We also have zero waste and sustainable deodorant, Mouthwash Bits, teeth whitening gel, and floss.
Our packaging is 100 percent zero waste and plastic-free and so are our products!
Many of the personal care items from Bite are sent to you in sleek glass jars. These jars perfectly encase our products, and can also be repurposed to hold whatever you would like them to. These jars look right at home in any bathroom, cabinet, or shelf.
At the same time, they would also be wonderfully complementary as a storage container in any kitchen, living room, dining room, or anywhere else in the house.
We use glass packaging to avoid any need for plastic. We know that beyond the product itself, its packaging is often the biggest contributor to plastic waste. We are sure to avoid contributing to all this waste both in our jars and in the rest of our packaging methods.
We exclusively use kraft envelopes with padding materials made of recycled newspapers to ensure that your shipment gets to you safe and sound. After you receive your order, this packaging can be composted.
For 95 percent of orders that need to be shipped in a box, we also have sustainability in mind. Our boxes are made of recyclable corrugated cardboard and sealed with a strip of paper tape. The entire box can be recycled and there is absolutely no plastic.
Our refills are sent to you in compostable materials, ready to be opened up and poured directly into your refillable jar. We carefully designed our jars and pouches to accommodate your bits, so it will be the perfect pour.
Reducing our plastic waste is essential for continued life on this planet. Making small and manageable changes such as investing in a reusable coffee cup, ditching the toothpaste tube and reevaluating our consumption and waste really do add up. We can all do our part in saving the planet and all of its inhabitants while still taking care of ourselves and our daily needs.
How Harmful Are Microplastics? — Science Learning Hub | Science Learning Hub
How Plastic in the Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood | NPR
Plastics in Oceans Decompose, Release Hazardous Chemicals, Surprising New Study Says | American Chemical Society