So you are thinking about living a plastic free life? Me too!!! I am still a relative newbie to the plastic free life and zero waste movement. So know how hard and overwhelming it can be to know how to get the ball rolling and being that it’s Plastic Free July I want to give you my advice on what you can do to start leading a plastic free life!
But first, the plastic stats!
Every piece of plastic ever produced still remains somewhere in the earth today. In the last half of the 20th century over 1 billion tonnes of plastic was produced. This figure has already doubled in the first ten years of this century (Scientific American).
Most of the commonly used disposable plastic items are a convenience and the numbers are staggering. In one week we go through 10 billion plastic bags worldwide, in the USA an average of 2.5 million plastic bottles are used every hour whilst over 500 million straws are used daily!
Although many plastic products can be recycled, actual rates of recycling are often low – particularly away from home at events, food halls and public places. In many countries plastic is destined for recycling in third world countries with substandard conditions for some of the world’s poorest people.
Increasingly people are becoming concerned about the impacts on food and beverages being stored and cooked in plastic. Common additives to plastic include BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates, both chemicals which have can harmful effects on humans. In 2013 the UN and the World Health organisation reported that evidence linking hormone-mimicking chemicals to human health problems has grown stronger over the past decade, becoming a “global threat” that should be addressed.
Marine debris is a major issue for the integrity of marine ecosystems. Impacts to wildlife include entanglement and ingestion. It is estimated that 80% of the oceans marine debris has come from the land. More than 270 of the world’s marine animal species are affected by marine debris, but the full extent of this impact is unknown. The CSIRO National coastal debris survey estimates that there are about 115,513, 626 bits of rubbish on Australia’s coastline. This averages about 5.2 pieces for every person in the country! 74% of all waste found is plastic.
Where to begin with a plastic free life?
You need to reduce single-use plastics first and foremost. The big four are plastic bottles, plastic bags, straws and disposable cups. Get rid of them and you have
already made a huge difference.
- Use Reusable water bottles and “keep cups” for your takeaway coffee.
- If you buy bottled water because you don’t like drinking tap water, invest in a water filter method.
- Say no when offered a straw or get reusable straws to carry in your bag.
- Always keep a reusable shopper bag in your handbag or car.
What are some other replacements for plastic products?
Here are some other plastic free alternatives that are handy for your plastic free journey.
Along with your reusable straws, always keep reusable utensils in your handbag to avoid having to eat with your hands when you stop in for fish and chips at the local takeaway who only offer plastic utensils!
Use instead of plastic wrap. Or better yet you can make your own! 100% cotton and infused with Australian beeswax. Beeswax is naturally antibacterial and does not only reduce the need for single use plastic in your home but keep food wrapped in them fresher for longer.
When you go grocery shopping take your reusable produce bags instead of having to use the plastic bags at the store or markets.
For most plastic products you can find a bamboo-made alternative. Toothbrushes, hair brushes, combs, clothes pegs, cotton buds, makeup brushes, dish scrubbers and brushes, bowls, plates and utensils, baby wipes etc, etc. Bamboo is considered a sustainable material as it can be harvested in a significantly shorter amount of time than most commercial plant species, and can be grown without needing to be covered in harmful pesticides or use as much water. Often recognised as the fastest growing plant in the world, some Bamboo species can grow up to one metre a day plus Bamboo is biodegradable!
Biodegradable Plastic Bags
Bin liners, doggy-do bags and food waste bags. If you need to use plastic, at least make it biodegradable!
Plastic Free Lifestyle Changes
Plastic free living is as simple as a life with plastic but it does require a bit of effort at the start of your journey. That is what makes plastic-filled life such an easy trap to fall into: it’s cheap, it’s convenient and it’s EVERYWHERE. But a plastic free life can be just as convenient and prolific, mayhap a bit more expensive, but is a little bit more in your hip pocket worth less in your moral bank?
Back to convenient and prolific, plastic free just requires a bit more planning and forming a habit. Remembering to take your shopper and produce bags with you when you go to the grocery store or markets. Remembering to take your keep cup and reusable utensils with you when you go out to a cafe. These following lifestyle changes will also make it easier for you to go plastic free!
Shopping at markets or buying bulk or wholesale
The big grocery store chains LOVE to use plastic. They package just about everything in plastic, from bread, crackers and deli items to just about all our fresh fruit and vegetables. So avoid the big grocery chain where you can and go to markets or buy in bulk instead. At the markets or buying in bulk/wholesale, you can generally pick up your food unpackaged so that you can use your own plastic free bags or containers.
Make your own food and household products yourself!
Not just making your own breakfast lunch and dinners but also making your own bread, jams, relishes, nut and seed milk, yoghurt, cheese and more. I bought a bread maker a few weeks ago and it takes 5-10 minutes to chuck the ingredients into the maker and another 5 minutes to cut it up and store it after it’s made. That one change right there is cutting down on 3 plastic bags a week in my house.
Making your own household products is also great for cutting down your plastic use. Cleaners, Disinfectants, fabric softener, washing liquids which can all be stored in glass containers and use old rags for cleaning as opposed to plastic wrapped cleaning cloths.
Even if you can not make all these changes in your life because you are time poor, do what you can. It all helps!
Grow your own fruit & vegetables
Once again if you are time poor or space poor just do what you can. Grow some herbs and a few veggies on your balcony. I started with some herbs on my deck and now it’s grown to tomatoes, lettuce, onions, spinach, potatoes, carrots, strawberries, limes and more herbs taking up a few square feet of space in my backyard. Buy them as a seed if you can to avoid the plastic planter containers they come in or re-use them for seedling starter containers down the track.
If you can’t reduce, try reusing, recycling or repurposing!
This one is pretty self-explanatory. As my good pal Rocky from the Paw Patrol would say “Don’t lose it, Reuse it!” (Gone are the days when I would have a witty movie quote to use, instead, I am stuck with the kid’s cartoon one-liners going through my head all day. Every day.)
Utilize Op-shops / Thrift Stores
Op-Shops are my new favourite way to shop. I am always finding glass and metal containers to use instead of plastic. They are great places to find things to repurpose in place of plastic items.
Kids are like little plastic vacuums. Pretty much everything you buy for kids is made from plastic! But there are ways around that. Use Modern Cloth Nappes as opposed to disposable. As I mentioned earlier, use bamboo-made products over plastic made. Such as wipes, cotton buds, brushes, even the humble bath stand has had a bamboo makeover. Buy wooden (unfinished wood is best) metal or organic cotton plush toys instead of your fisher price plastic toys that are covered in BPA. For gifts, if you can’t find a suitable toy, try buying books or an experience instead (think zoos, picnics or a day trip somewhere).
We can do it!
You are probably still feeling overwhelmed at everything you have to do towards leading a plastic free life. Baby steps my friends. I am still taking baby steps and even screw up from time to time. Like forgetting to take my shopper bags or produce bags with me when I go grocery shopping. Getting a coffee from Macca’s drive through and I still haven’t gotten around to getting/making some beeswax wraps as yet! It all takes time. Don’t ride yourself too hard. It’s all about getting into that habit I spoke of. Doing little bits here and there to reduce your plastic waste until you are ready to start taking on more to reduce your plastic footprint.
Just remember the most important thing about living a plastic free life is creating awareness! Not in a nagging, condescending way either. I generally don’t need to say a thing at all. The amount of people I get asking where I get my reusable shopper bags and produce bags from when I go shopping is amazing. The sidelong glances I get at my keep cup at the local cafe makes me smile. When someone does want my suggestion on what toy to get the kids or what household cleaner I use I, of course, give my plastic free option. Which always opens up the conversation as to why I go plastic free. Simple and not presumptuous.
I am convinced that knowledge is power – to overcome the past, to change our own situations, to fight new obstacles, to make better decisions. – Ben Carson
What are you doing to lead a plastic free life? Do you have any advice that I may not have thought of? Leave it in the comments below!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and that means I earn some commission if you purchase through my links. I only recommend products that I like and feel that you would find useful.