Environmental protection is on everyone’s mind at the moment. No wonder: about three-quarters of the up to 10 million tonnes of waste that is dumped into the seas each year is made of plastic. Here are 16 ways to avoid using plastic.
Waste is also exported to Asia in order to be disposed of in the sea. Not only in the oceans, but also in the countryside, plastic waste is often ruthlessly thrown away. This is captured by the wind and enters the world’s oceans through streams and rivers. Recycling is minimal, not even 10%.
We all contribute to this problem and it is high time to change our consumer behaviour in a sustainable way! You too have had enough of plastic madness? The best tips and tricks to avoid plastic are available today from me, because you too can change your way of life and contribute to the protection of nature and a more environmentally conscious society.
Why is there so much plastic waste?
Plastic is everywhere. In addition to numerous foods packed in plastic, there are en masse products that we use or consume every day, in which plastic is contained. Whether in the toothbrush, in the shower gel or the coffee machine – plastic meets us every day. It is simply impossible to imagine our everyday life. By the way, 1.5 million tons of plastic were produced in the 1950s, whereas today it is almost 300 million.
What are the consequences of plastic waste?
- More than 10 million tonnes of waste enter the oceans every year.
- Every year, about one million seabirds and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals die as a result of the large amount of waste. For example, dolphins and turtles get caught in fishing nets. Often they eat the plastic parts and die from them.
- Plastic is very difficult to degrade, it can take several hundred years. It decomposes further and further into smaller parts, resulting in so-called microplastics.
- Pollutants also enter human foods through the food chain, as the fish eat plastic and thus contain microplastics.
- Disposable bottles, cups, bags, etc. waste resources unnecessarily.
- Not only the seas, but also land and air are heavily polluted with microplastics, for example by mis-disposing of plastic in biowaste.
16 ways to avoid using plastic
Of course, there are countless other possibilities, but I’ll show you my most important tips and recommendations for ways to avoid using plastic.
- Use cloth bags, baskets, fruit nets, containers and cans:
A good alternative to plastic bags! I use a shopping basket for every visit to the supermarket. Alternatively, you can always put a jute bag or a fruit and vegetable net in your bag or car, so that you are equipped even for spontaneous purchases. This way you can save yourself, among other things, the bags for fruit and vegetables or even for the whole purchase. You can use the nets and bags again and again and wash them if necessary.
- Shop at the market, at the farmer’s or in organic supermarkets:
I prefer to buy my food directly from the farmer or at markets, because they are not packed there. Here I can be sure that they are actually fresh and free of chemicals. You can also have the products filled into cans or jars that you bring with you – the environmentally friendly version.
- Reuse plastic:
Plastic packaging does not need to be disposed of immediately. No, you can also use it again for other purposes! For example, you can use thin fruit and vegetable bags for the garbage bin in the bathroom. Empty shower gel or shampoo bottles can be refilled in the bulk shop.
- Do not use plastic bottles:
Use reusable deposit bottles and reusable packaging. But it’s best, if you completely forgo it. There are many alternatives to plastic packaging.
- Do not use plastic when buying food:
Cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas – fruit and vegetables are often packed in plastic, although this is completely unnecessary. Just like packing plastic in plastic. I recommend that you opt for unpackaged goods in order to protect the environment.
- Fresh cooking:
What tastes better than freshly cooked? Especially fresh vegetables contain many vitamins and fiber. I buy it without plastic packaging, instead I take a cloth bag or a fruit and vegetable net. At home, it’s washed up again anyway. Ready meals packed in plastic, we should try to avoid completely.
- Use natural products for personal care:
For our body hygiene, we use many products every day that contain plastic or are packaged in plastic. A bamboo toothbrush or compostable cotton swabs would be great alternatives.
- Use natural cosmetics:
A look at the list of ingredients will tell you if your scrubs, creams, shampoos, etc. are also affected. If you find ingredients such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyamide or nylon, your products contain microplastics. They are often used as binders or fillers. You can avoid this by buying natural cosmetics. This does not necessarily have to be more expensive, there are now also cheaper natural cosmetic lines to buy in various drugstores. It also gives me a good feeling to know that these products do not harm my body, but provide it with natural ingredients.
- Make toiletries yourself:
Whether soap, body lotion or lip care: you can also make all the toiletries yourself and that’s not even that hard! There are many recipes and ideas for this on the Internet. The ingredients for this are usually obtained in the pharmacy or drugstore. So you know exactly what is included and can care for your body on a natural basis.
- Use pieces of soap instead of liquid soap:
Even small changes can have a significant impact on plastic consumption. For example, you could replace your liquid soap with a piece of soap that is usually wrapped in paper.
- Take self-filled drinks on the way:
When I’m on the road, I always take some water or other drinks with me from home. I fill them in refillable drinking bottles, e.g. a thermal or glass bottle. So I can avoid buying disposable bottles.
- Do not use takeaway coffee cups
Do you drink a coffee to go every morning on the way to work? In the future, simply take it without a plastic lid, drink it in peace in the café, cook your own coffee at home or take a thermal cup or a ‘keep cup’ with you, which you can fill. As you can see, there are plenty of alternatives.
- Unpackaged shops:
Packaging-free shopping is currently in full swing. These stores are now booming throughout many countries, especially in large cities. It is best to bring your cloth bags, paper bags, shopping nets or glasses from home or buy them locally and use them again and again. You can take the loose vegetables and other foods or cosmetics from large jars, for example. Nothing stands in the way of environmentally conscious purchasing!
- Do not use unnecessary plastic:
Every year, 100 million tonnes of plastic are produced for things that are used for less than five minutes. Whether the bread bag for lunch or the plastic tableware: we often take plastic items without thinking, which are often thrown away after a single use. Replace them with glass, fabric or wood!
- Avoid “bioplastics”:
Not everything where “bio” is written on it is also organic: organic waste bags, which are supposedly compostable, are often not at all. In the rarest of cases, they are truly biodegradable. So i.e. do without it completely!
- Pay attention to proper waste separation:
Here every single one of us can help: proper waste separation. Collect plastic separately from the other materials! This is the only way to re-use it.
Ways to avoid using plastic: Small deeds = big impact
Many small changes are a big step in the right direction. Tell the plastic craze Ciao and Adieu! Everyone can do something: rethink their own lifestyle and pay attention to an environmentally conscious purchase for many everyday things such as food or toiletries. Often plastic can be easily replaced by materials such as glass, fabric, wood or metals. If everyone helps, we can ensure that the environment is spared and our planet is less polluted, which in turn has far-reaching positive effects on our future and that of future generations.
Author: Genevieve Dumas is a food, fashion and beauty stylist from New York, who has worked for a range of major magazines.