If you use social media, you’ve probably heard of a movement gaining momentum right now called Plastic Free July (#PlasticFreeJuly). It’s a global, grassroots initiative encouraging people to reduce the plastic they use.
It’s a troubling statistic, but Canada recycles less than 11% of its plastic waste. The rest of it is burned or dumped in landfills and often ends up in the environment, where it can harm ecosystems, kill wildlife and leach toxic chemicals.
Plastic is difficult and expensive to collect, sort and recycle. China used to be the main importer of plastic waste, but it has now banned the practice. Here in Nova Scotia, municipalities like Halifax have resorted to burning the film plastic collected from curbside recycling because there’s no buyer for it.
Nova Scotians use 300 to 500 million plastic bags every year. Hoping to curb the plastic problem, some local groups are calling for a ban on plastic bags, a move the provincial government is also exploring. Nationally, a declaration called Towards a Zero Plastic Waste Canada is also challenging Canadians to have no plastic waste by 2025.
While that may sound like a difficult goal, it’s easier than you think to reduce the amount of plastic you use in your daily life. It’s all about changing your daily habits and making more sustainable choices.
Some grocery stores in Nova Scotia have already stopped packing groceries in plastic bags. But rolls of single-use plastic bags still line the produce isle.
Instead of packing your fruit and veggies in these single-use bags, pack them loose in your reusable grocery bags. To prevent cross-contamination, designate one bag for your veggies and fruit, and one bag for your meat and fish. Wash the bags regularly and keep them in your car or your bike bag, so they’re always with you.
In the deli, opt for paper-wrapped meat cuts. For dry foods, buy in bulk using your own reusable containers or opt for cardboard-boxed items.
Carry liquids consciously
Instead of buying bottled water, opt for a refillable water bottle. Invest in a reusable coffee cup or thermos, too. They might look like paper, but to-go coffee cups are lined with plastic resin, and most have plastic lids, too.
Also on the coffee front: steer clear of single-use coffee pods. More than 1.5 billion of them end up in Canadian landfills each year, whether they’re labelled recyclable (or compostable) or not.
Mind the wrap
Instead of storing food in plastic containers or plastic zipper bags, use glass containers or jars. Store leftovers that need reheating in glass casserole dishes that can go in the microwave. Waxed or parchment paper secured with an elastic or string is a great alternative to plastic wrap. There are also lots of options for reusable food wraps and bags.
The last straw
Plastic straws have been a flashpoint in the discussion on plastic. Several restaurant and coffee chains are phasing out their use. However, disability advocates say the move has not included input from disabled customers. Many people with disabilities rely on plastic straws to consume drinks and food, and the plastic alternatives are not adequate for their needs.
If you are able to use something other than plastic, there are paper, stainless steel or glass options.
Study the packaging
You can also reduce the amount of plastic packaging in your bathroom and laundry room by making different choices. Choose a bar of soap instead of liquid body wash. Try a solid shampoo. Swap out liquid laundry detergent that comes in a plastic jug for powdered detergent that comes in a cardboard box. Pick cotton swabs with paper sticks (which you can compost) over swabs with plastic sticks.
With a little effort, it’s possible to reduce the amount of plastic in your life and break habits you’ve had for years.