Five easy swaps to remove single use plastic from your life

Five easy swaps to remove single use plastic from your life

When I became more serious about zero waste living, it was easy to get overwhelmed, and wonder where on earth to start. There seemed to be so many single use plastic products that created waste. Where to start to make any difference?

A little research online came up with similar ‘first steps’ from many different sources. These five swaps are a good place for people to start, and quickly get used to new habits that are easy to live with.

Five easy swaps for single use plastic items

Here are some starting points for replacing plastic items:

1. Swap cling film for reusable containers, beeswax wraps, or other reusable/recyclable wraps

For keeping sandwiches for packed lunches fresh, I use one of the following:

  • Cloth napkins to wrap sandwiches, then put them in a plastic reusable box such as Sistema boxes. It’s still plastic boxes, but they can be used over and over again.
  • I also use brown paper lunch bags for sandwiches for the kids. The bags come home in their lunchboxes, and then go into the compost bin.
  • I’ve tried beeswax wraps for sandwiches, but to be honest, we have just ended up using the two ideas above instead. I do use Honeywrap Beeswax food wraps for wrapping cheese in the fridge, to keep it fresh.
  • For covering leftovers in the fridge, we usually use a lidded bowl or just put a plate over the top of the bowl.

2. Carry a reusable drink bottle

People buy nearly a million plastic drinks bottles every minute around the world, according to National Geographic in December 2018. And less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled globally.

You can do something to reduce this, by using a drink bottle you can refill over again.

I’ve ended up with a collection of reusuable drink bottles in the cupboard. The ones I’d recommend are:

  • ECOtanka – these stainless steel bottles are very hard wearing, plus you can get replacement lids if you need to.
  • Kathmandu – we have some kids bottles that have lasted for years.
  • Tupperware – I know they are plastic., but they are reusable. They are very good quality, the plastic has stood up to repeated use for a few years now.

3. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car

Ahead of the single-use plastic bag ban in New Zealand in July 2019, the main supermarkets phased out plastic bags six months early. Using reusable bags was becoming the norm.

In fact, people got on board with this change early. A survey in September 2018 showed that more than 80 per cent of shoppers used reusable bags already. Source: Herald Article about the plastic bag ban

So, it seems people in NZ take their reusable bags with them to the shops.

Keep the bags in the car, or near your coat / bag / wallet in the house, so you remember them on your way out.

The next step to reduce single use plastic at the shops is to use your own reusable produce bags for fruit, veges, and food from the bulk bins. I recommend bags by The Rubbish Whisperer – great quality and lovely colours!

Reusable produce bags instead of single use plastic bags
Reusable produce bags from The Rubbish Whisper, in primary colours

4. Use a reusable ‘keep cup’ or travel mug.

When you go for a takeaway coffee at a cafe, ask them to make it in a reusable cup.

It could be the old school travel mug, like this one from Kmart – it doesn’t have to be a fancy new style ‘keep cup’.

A cup made from recycled takeaway coffee cups is the rCup. I bought my husband one of these cups, it is a lovely design, and has an interesting texture.

As long as you stop another takeaway cup from being used once and thrown away, it’ll be worth your effort. New Zealanders go through 295 million cups of takeaway coffee a year. That’s a lot of rubbish going to landfills.

5. Use a reusable straw, or refuse a plastic straw

Plastic straws seem such a small thing to worry about. Would it really make a difference if people refused them or used an alternative? And what about people with disabilities who may need a straw to drink more easily?

Single use plastic straws add a small amount to the plastic pollution worldwide, compared with other plastic products. The point with refusing straws is that they are good starting point for people, almost a ‘gateway’ swap on your path to reducing waste.

Many bars and restaurants are now asking customers if they would like a plastic straw, rather than automatically adding one to your drink. If you don’t need to use a straw, you could try going without, and see how you feel about drinking without one.

If you do prefer using a straw, try a reusable one rather than a single use plastic straw. There are metal, paper, bamboo, or straw straws! CaliWoods have a great range of straws on their website.

Avoid single use plastic items
We can all make a difference by making a swap from single use to reusable items

If you are starting out on your path to reducing single use plastic, give these swaps a go over the next month.

For more easy swaps, download this handy guide:

Do you have other tips for ways to avoid single use plastic items?

Please comment below.

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