Zero Waste: A Beginner's Guide
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Six Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic Use

Zero Waste: A Beginner’s Guide

I’m sure you know that plastic is bad for the environment, but the scale of the problem is less known – and it’s pretty staggering. I bet you didn’t know that, according to the World Economic Forum, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish.

Plastic is a very valuable resource that has been used for decades, but it can also be dangerous. You may be aware of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and, as mentioned above, how much plastic pollution there is in our ocean, but what we don’t think about as often are the dangers of using plastic products on land.

For example, many animals mistake plastic bags for food and die from starvation or suffocation. The use of plastics releases chemicals into our environment  and can cause problems with our bodies and minds. Also, we use a lot of plastic to package food and drinks which is another danger because when we throw this away it will stay on the planet for hundreds of years.

On top of all these dangers that plastics pose they also take up space in landfills across the world. Did you know that only nine percent of plastics are recycled? That means the other 91% will be sticking around for at least 450 years.

There are so many ways that we can reduce our plastic use and I have put together a list to help you get started! Let’s take a look.

Tip 1: Bring And Use Reusable Bags

Plastic bags are everywhere and they are often seen as an easier, more convenient option. But what we don’t realize is how much damage these bags can do to the environment, as it takes hundreds of years for them to naturally degrade.

Reusing plastic bags is infinitely better than only using them once, but your average plasti bags is probably not going to hold up well over time.

Reusable shopping bags are more durable than the average single-use bag and also don’t need any extra resources to produce them – so they’re much better for the environment!

Bringing reusable shopping bags with you when you go grocery shopping will help reduce your carbon footprint and it will also save money in the long run because there won’t be any need to buy new bags every time you go food shopping.

Tip 2: Say No To Straws And Plastic Utensils At Restaurants

While plastic straws are already on the way out in many places in the world, there are still many restaurants and cafes that will give you a straw with your drink or plastic cutlery with your takeout meal.

These small pieces of plastic can be very harmful to wildlife because they look like food but cannot be digested, so animals eat them and die from malnutrition or choking. Straws also often end up in our oceans where they harm wildlife and pollute our water.

There are plenty of alternatives to plastic straws that you can use, such as paper or metal ones. And while there’s no need for you to give up takeout, bring your own cutlery instead. They take very little space to carry around and you can just wrap them in a paper napkin when done, and wash them when you get home.

Tip 3: Bring Your Own Water Bottle (Everywhere You Go)

Water is crucial to our survival and it’s important that we drink enough of the stuff every day, but bottled water is terrible for the environment.

Plastic bottles are a common use of plastic that cause a lot of damage to the environment, but they’re also increasingly believed to be poisonous for us because the chemicals in plastics have been found to seep into our food and drinks over time.

Plastic bottles and containers take hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but they usually end up as litter because about 90% of them are not recycled.

Most places have access to clean tap water which you can easily fill up with your own reusable bottle at home. This will save money as well as reduce plastic pollution. Choosing reusable metal or glass bottles over single-use plastic ones is a great way to reduce your plastic use!

Tip 4: Skip Your Starbucks Take-Away

Most of us need our caffeine fix to get through the day and that is perfectly fine. But making your own coffee at home instead of taking a to-go cup with you will help reduce plastic waste significantly.

Coffee chains like Starbucks often give their customers disposable cups, lids and stirrers for takeout beverages which often come in plastic, at least in part. These items are often not recyclable, and even when they are it’s not necessarily easy to properly recycle them when you’re on the move, so they frequently end up as garbage after we use them once.

Tip 5: Go For Products Without Plastic Packaging

A lot, perhaps even most, of the stuff we find in the stores these days are wrapped in plastic. Manufacturers use plastics because it’s cheap, durable and lightweight, and while this approach is great for manufacturers, it’s terrible for the environment.

Even though we are supposed to be more environmentally aware than ever, you will always encounter a maddening amount of plastic when you’re grocery shopping. Single-wrapped fruits are even becoming more common for every year, as well as packages that contain multiple items that are single-wrapped in plastic even though they’re literally packaged together.

Think about it: when was the last time you bought frozen produce that wasn’t wrapped in plastic? There’s a good chance the answer is: never. And while some plastic packaging serves a better purpose than others, it’s plastic all the same.

When you’re shopping at the grocery store or other shops always try to choose products that are not wrapped in plastic. Opting for fresh produce instead of frozen is usually a bit more expensive, but it’s a good way to avoid plastic, while getting higher quality products at the same time.

Tip 6: Cut Down On Chewing Gum

Did you know that chewing gums often contains plastic? Yes, you read that right: it contains plastic and the reason for this is because polyethylene has started to replaced natural rubber as a base in chewing gum.

While chewing gum technically can be recycled, there’s no practical way of doing so. You can’t simply put it in a plastic recycling bin as it isn’t purely or even mostly plastic. That means that most of the chewing gum we enjoy eventually ends up in landfills or polluting the environment one way or another, even if we sort waste.

Make A Difference And Change Your Habits Today

It’s easy to think “but my individual actions won’t make any difference” but it really does matter when everybody makes an effort to cut down their plastic waste. It’s true that you alone cannot change the world overnight, but if every person made an effort to reduce their personal plastic consumption by as little as just one or two things it would help immensely.

And remember: the best time to start was yesterday, but the second best time is today!

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