5 Simple Ways to Use Less Plastic

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.

BYOB

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.

Do you think you could go plastic-free for a month? Tell us about how you are using less plastic in your daily life in the comment section below.

Comments

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Submitted By: George Robertson

Do I give up injections from the Doctor or Hospital? Lots of plastic used for the needles, prescription bottles, inhalers etc.

Submitted By: Jean Chard

I wish the pharmacy would reuse my pill bottle as I ask them to. A lot of wasted plastic. How could you go plastic free in today’s world? Even the laptop I’m using right now is made largely of plastic. Straws can be available for disabled customers. No one else needs them. and most of us aren’t disabled. But we manged to live without plastic less than a hundred years ago. I’m sure we could figure out a way today.

Submitted By: Doctors Nova Scotia

There is a lot of plastic used in medicine. But this post is exploring lifestyle choices and swaps that you can make at home to use less plastic. It’s not suggesting you avoid medical items made of plastic that you need in order to maintain your health.

Submitted By: Mary Davidson

Everything put in refrigerator can be there without plastic wrap. Leftovers can be covered with a upside down plate or, if necessary, a bowl. Bread wrappers are great also for fresh food, sandwiches for example.
Can remember how my mum did it, she got along fine.

Submitted By: Laine Parnell

I have small, mesh bags that i use for veg and fruit when shopping. they are washable and sturdy. much better than the flimsy plastic on the store rolls. 2 years of hard use, and still going strong. i have switched to bar soap, much cheaper than liquid. i compost, garden, dry clothes on the line and use rain barrels. the thing that drives me crazy is municipalities insistence on plastic bags for garbage and for recycling. we should be using bins that get emptied into a truck, not buying plastic bags forever and ever.

Submitted By: Heather Doyle

It seems to me that the responsibility predominately lies with the manufacturers. The focus put on householders to rethink use of plastic is necessary, and yet it is like placing a bandaid on a gaping wound. It ignores the core issue and allows corporations to continue making huge profits on the production of plastic. It’s essential to encourage the consumers and householders to be more conscious how they use plastic. We all need to do just that! However, without corporations, who package their products in plastic, being forced to package differently, this issue isn’t going to be solved. Have you ever taken notice of the size of the plastic bottles for vitamins, pain relivers, cold medications, etc.? Most issues we battle with in our so called “progressive” society stem from greed. This one is no exception. And yes, I already employ the steps offered in this article and encourage others to do the same.