Do you already take your own shopping bags to the supermarket and use a reusable water bottle and bamboo straw? If yes, that’s great! However, there are many more single-use plastics you may not have considered which you can easily swap with more sustainable alternatives.
Plastic pollution is one of the greatest environmental problems the world is facing today. Nine million tons of plastic waste gets into the world’s oceans each year. Not only does this have a serious impact on the environment, but it’s also hazardous to marine wildlife, and negatively affects our health and well-being.
Research has found that many chemicals used in plastic production can cause health problems for humans. Yet, the use of plastic is so embedded in our lives that it will take us time to get rid of them, but every small step helps. You can start by swapping the items listed below with their more environment-friendly alternatives.
13 single-use plastics you probably never thought about and their alternatives:
1 – Balloons
Balloons, along with plastic shopping bags and bottles, are among the top plastic pollutants. The excitement colorful balloons can bring can easily be replaced by flowers, paper flags and banners, and other eco-friendlier alternatives.
2 – Cable ties
Metal wire (the non-plastic-coated type) and string such as biodegradable jute twine are how we tied things in the past – why not go back to using them?
3 – Cotton swabs
The stick in cotton swabs is usually made from plastic and they are actually harmful as they push earwax deeper into the canal which can result in hearing problems and you may puncture your eardrum if you dig too deep. Use a tissue to dry and wipe the inside of your ears instead. If your ears are truly blocked, ask your doctor to clean them for you.
4 – Dental flossers
Plastic dental flossers contain more plastic than a 30 cm piece of dental floss on its own. Swap them for biodegradable dental floss, consider purchasing a non-disposable floss pick, or invest in a water flosser instead.
5 – Disposable gloves
Bad for the environment and costly, disposable plastic gloves can be replaced by reusable ones. By using the same set of gloves multiple times, you can reduce plastic waste.
6 – Disposable razors
An estimated 2 billion disposable razors end up in landfills each year. Opt for the traditional reusable razors with replaceable blades, an electric razor, or wax instead.
7 – Plastic ribbons and gift decorations
Plastic ribbons and gift decorations are among the most hazardous plastics for marine wildlife. Use more sustainable alternatives such as use raffia, jute string, or biodegradable twine to wrap and decorate gifts.
8 – Plastic toothbrushes
In the U.S. alone an estimated 850 million toothbrushes are thrown away and end up in landfills each year. Made from a combination of plastic, rubber, and nylon (not considering the plastic packaging), no part of a toothbrush is biodegradable. More sustainable toothbrushes made of bamboo are widely available in the market today.
9 – Plastic utensils
Most disposable forks, spoons, knives, and stirrers are made of plastics like polypropylene which can leach chemicals into your body, especially when they are heated or damaged from use. They all end up in landfills or our oceans. Use regular stainless-steel silverware instead (you can keep a set in your purse or at the office) or choose bamboo utensils, and cook using wooden utensils.
10 – Plastic wrap
Just as hazardous as plastic bags when it ends up in the ocean, the chemicals in plastic wrap have been linked to an assortment of medical conditions while heating food covered with plastic wrap in a microwave can cause toxic chemicals to leach into your food. Replace plastic wrap with beeswax or silicone wraps, or store food in glass food storage containers with lids.
11 – Single-serve pudding and yogurt containers
Single-serve containers generate more plastic waste than larger containers and almost always are more expensive as well. Buy large containers. If you like to take yogurt to work, you can simply put some in a small reusable container.
12 – Tape
Yet another form of plastic that ends up in our landfills and oceans, plastic tape is best avoided. Both clear sticky tape and PVC tape (PVC is a toxic plastic) can easily be replaced with masking tape which is made from paper. You can also try to use toxin-free glue, pins, staples, or string instead.
13 – Wet wipes
Although they look like tissues, disposable wet wipes are not biodegradable and are actually made of synthetic fibers (i.e. plastic) while the wet part contains chemicals that really should not be touching your skin. Instead, use essentials oils or white vinegar to make your own small spray bottle of natural anti-bacterial spray and keep this in your bag with some clean handkerchiefs.
When it comes to reducing plastic waste and protecting our health and environment, every effort counts no matter how small. You can start by focusing on swapping the items listed above.
Please let us know in the comments section below if you’ve found a more sustainable alternative to other single-use plastics.