In recent years, much of the outcry around plastic has focused on single-use bags and straws,without as much focus on other plastic items like packaging materials and food containers.
Now, you might ask, are these really such a big issue? Can banning plastic bags and straws really help solve the waste problem?
After all, straws only make up an estimated less than 10% of the nine million tons of plastic pollution that gets into the world’s oceans annually.
But the truth is, every bit counts. And many experts argue that banning bags and straws help consumers start small when it comes to cutting back. So by focusing on eliminating these items, we can start to chip away at the larger issue of single-use plastics.
The reality is that while straw bans won’t nearly solve the whole problem, they’ll make a dent in it, while also helping educate billions of consumers.
Which brings us back to you and me.
As it turns out, we can do a lot.
8 Ways You Can Help Solve the Plastic Problem
Here are some ideas for helping solve the plastic problem by cutting back on single-use plastic:
#1 – Keep Reusable Shopping Bags in Your Car, and Use Less Single-Use Plastic
If you live in a place where grocery stores still give out plastic bags, it’s easy to fall back into using them — or to opt for paper, which has its own environmental problems.
To make it easier, keep a few reusable bags in your car so they’ll always be handy when you need to stock your fridge. The next time you’re asked, “Paper or plastic?,” you can say: “Neither! I brought my own bags.”
#2 – Reuse Your “Disposable” Bags
Whenever you do end up with plastic or paper bags, reuse them as much as possible. Take them to the store, collect recycling items in paper, or use old plastic bags for kitty litter or to line your trash bins.
In our home, if they aren’t too soiled, we rinse and air-dry our plastic, produce bags so we can reusethem when we go back to the store.
#3 – Carry Your Water Bottle Everywhere
Drinking water is wonderful, but it produces a lot of waste if you’re opting for bottled water.
Here’s a better option: Buy your own glass or stainless steel water bottle and bring it with you everywhere you go.
If you have a home filter (a lot of Food Revolution Network members love the AquaTru) you can bring clean water with you whenever you go out.
#4 – Use Glass Jars for Leftovers and Storage
Instead of plastic packaging, use glass jars and other containers to store your food.
If you start reusing glass jars from sauces and other store-bought items, you’ll have a big collection of containers in no time.
#5 – Buy in Bulk When You Can
Many stores have significant bulk buying departments, where you can stock up on flour, legumes, nuts, seeds, seasonings, dried fruit, and all kinds of other ingredients — often for a sizable discount.
Bring glass jars (pre-weighed so you don’t have to pay for the glass at checkout) or reused plastic bags from home and get exactly as much as you need.
#6 – Snag Some Stainless Steel Straws or Opt Out of Straws Altogether
Plastic straws are on the way out. If you’re a fan of drinking beverages through a straw (or if you need to drink through a straw for health reasons), you can buy some stainless steel ones to carry with you. A pack of four could last you a lifetime — and they come with a special brush for cleaning.
#7 – Skip the Fast Food
Eating fast food or takeout means creating a lot of waste. And it’s usually bad for you, too. Opt for cooking your own healthy food at home, instead. When you do decide to eat out, bring along areusable container for leftovers.
#8 – Bring Your Own Utensils
Instead of using plastic cutlery when you do eat out (or for your homemade lunch at work), buy a portable bamboo or stainless steel utensil kit.
It’s Time To Move Beyond Plastic
Historians may one day look back at our era as the time of plastics. From building materials to food storage, and from packaging to clothing, plastic has become an almost ubiquitous part of modern life. And there’s no doubt that in some cases, it can be very useful.
But disposable plastic is creating a nightmare for the planet. And storing food and water in plastic can wreak havoc on your health.
We now have the knowledge, and the resources, to move beyond disposable and food storage plastic in our everyday lives.
Our family used to love plastic food-storage containers, but recently we bit the bullet and threw out all but a few backup plastic containers. We ordered glass and stainless-steel ones, and I’m glad we did.
Now, we store most of our food in glass containers that come with clear snap-on plastic lids. For traveling, I prefer airtight, stainless-steel containers with snap-on lids that have a silicone seal (like the kind made by Onyx) because they’re lighter and more break-proof than glass. But unless you’re Superman and have X-ray vision, you can’t see through these, which is why I prefer glass at home because it helps to keep the fridge organized so you can see your food.
The hardest place for us to ditch plastic is in the freezer. We still use plastic bags for freezing berries and some other foods — although we are experimenting with using glass and snap-on plastic lids when we freeze our own, and so far that is promising.
Whatever systems and methods work for you, what matters most is that you take action. Because the future of your health, and your world, will be impacted by the choices you make today.