In this article we discuss how to reduce plastic waste at home. Understandably, in the modern world, this is easier said than done as plastic is all around us, either in the products we use or in the packaging products are housed inside.
Becoming completely plastic free is no easy feat, particularly when everyday essentials such as food and cleaning products, for example, are seemingly all sold wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging.
We provide five tips on how to begin your plastic free journey at home.
As mentioned, becoming completely plastic free is incredibly difficult and in some cases, seemingly impossible. If plastic is to be purchased, however, opting for plastics which are more easily recycled is an option.
Have you ever looked on a piece of plastic packaging and noticed numbers which are surrounded by the recycling symbol? This number represents the type of plastic the container is made of with each plastic being made up of a different molecule or set of molecules.
These numbers range from 1-7, with the most widely accepted numbers for recycling being 1 (PETE – Poly(ethylene terephthalate), used for water bottles and medicine containers etc.) and 2 (HDPE – High-density polyethylene, used for shampoo and conditioner bottles, milk bottles and plastic bags etc.).
It is said, the three worst kinds of plastic are numbers 3 (V – Poly(vinyl chloride) used for shower curtains and pipes etc.), 6 (PS – Polystyrene, used for Styrofoam insulation, plastic cutlery and plastic cups etc.) and number 7 (Other – which are made up of any combination of numbers 1 through to 6).
Aside from their lack of recycling capabilities (note – number 6 can be accepted for recycling but not in cases such as Styrofoam due to how easily contaminated by food it is for example), these plastics are considered the worst due to their levels of toxicity. We discuss here the impact plastics may be having on human health.
Although it is seen as more desirable or healthy to drink water from a bottle than from a tap (understandably, in some countries this is the case), in countries where tap water is safe to drink from, it is recommended to stay away from bottled water.
Studies suggest that drinking bottled water is no safer than tap water, with more than half of bottled water coming from the tap anyway. The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water as more than 90% of bottled water tested for microplastics were found to contain them.
In the study, one bottle of Nestlé Pure Life contained concentrations as high as 10,000 plastic pieces per litre of water and of 259 bottles tested across a number of brands, only 17 bottles were free of microplastics.
Regarding the plastic problem in general, plastic beverage bottles are one of the primary causes of plastic pollution across the globe.
Purchasing plastic free, re-useable bottles, will help to decrease and hopefully one day eradicate the 7.7 billion plastic bottles bought each year in the U.K. alone.
According to the National Geographic, 40 percent of packaging produced is single use – packaging that is used just once before being thrown away.
For household goods and everyday items such as cleaning products, make-up and shampoo, for example, consider swapping out brands which provide single-use products for those which provide the option to refill.
Aside from the benefits regarding lower plastic consumption, there are many added benefits to using products such as shampoo and conditioner bars instead of bottled products.
Bottled shampoos contain foaming agents such as Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (otherwise known as Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate or SLS) and Coco Glucoside. Organic shampoo bars, however, are made from natural ingredients and are often free from SLS, Parebens and Palm Oil etc. This isn’t to say that they do not provide the lather and effective cleaning that bottled shampoos provide and are becoming increasingly popular.
Most shampoos are over 80% water based, with conditioners reaching 95%. As shampoo bars are concentrated, in the long run you pay less for more; on average one shampoo bar will last three times longer than a bottle.
As part of the ‘throw-away’ society we have become, it is the norm to use certain household items once and throw them away, however, re-useable alternatives are available.
For example, essential household products include feminine hygiene products. On average, 9,600 tampons/sanitary towels are used in a lifetime, which are then thrown away along with their packaging; then think of the number of women on the planet who use single-use feminine hygiene products and yet another worrying figure arises. There are a number of alternatives now available which can be used instead, such as machine washable sanitary towels or re-useable tampon applicators.
Another example is single-use plastic straws. In America alone, it is said you could fill 125 school buses a day with the amount of single-use plastic straws that are used (around 500 million). Metal and bamboo straws are now popular alternatives to the plastic variety.
As can be seen in the recommendations provided, reducing plastic consumption in the home over time will become a change in lifestyle, other than simply swapping one product for another.
We are led to believe that convenience is of upmost importance, when the only people TRULY benefitting from this are the corporations who make excessive amounts of money from the notion of “use, throw away and buy again”, while the planet continues to suffer.
What tips or plastic free alternatives do you have for the home? Post your comments below.