Globally, we produce roughly 310 million tons of plastic each year. That is 83 pounds per person, and plastic production is expected to quadruple by 2050! The material is everywhere, from clothing to computers, furniture to sport fields, and almost all of it is petro-plastic, made from fossil fuels.*
A good portion of our plastic use goes towards single use items such as plastic bags, food packaging, and disposable utensils. But it’s not just plastic, it’s also single use paper products such as napkins, paper towels, and more. Each of these items has an environmental cost. Single-use items in particular have a huge environmental impact, firstly because as the name suggests, they are made to use only once, which means after their short lifespan, if not recycled, they generally end up in the trash.**
Most of us use single-use items due to convenience. If we were to curb these habits of convenience we could reduce our consumption and waste. Here are some single-use items to refuse…
- Plastic Water bottles: 40% of all bottled water in the world, is actually just bottled tap water! 40% of all bottled water in the world, is actually just bottled tap water! Get yourself a re-usable water bottle, and install a filter in your home if you feel your water is less than adequate.
- Single-serve Coffee Pods: Next to plastic bottles, single-serve coffee capsules are high up on the list of single-use items to purge from your life. The rise in the popularity of capsule style machines has seen our usage of capsules both at home and at work increase exponentially. Most coffee pods are not recyclable, and even the ones that are, need to be dismantled before they can be recycled (not so convenient anymore huh?). The more sustainable option is to stick to brewing coffee yourself. It’s a lot less money and a whole lot less waste.
- Paper Coffee Cups: Paper coffee cups are like the equally evil sibling of single-use coffee capsules. How many of us buy a takeaway coffee on the way to work every day? even if you only buy one takeaway coffee a week, that’s still 52 disposable cups gone to waste over a year. There’s no excuse these days not to carry a reusable coffee mug with you whenever you buy takeaway coffee. They’re not expensive, and may even save you money as many eco-conscious cafes now offer discounts to customers who bring their own reusable mugs.
- Disposable Utensils: Most commonly in the form of single-use plastics, disposable utensils are just so unnecessary in every shape and form. You can now buy biodegradable, wooden and other types of compostable utensils which are obviously a better choice than plastic ones, however, in most cases (unless its a big party or event) you don’t need to be using disposables at all! Keep a fork, knife and spoon from home wherever you need it, for example the office, your hand bag…or invest in an inexpensive reusable set of cutlery. Remember to ask your favorite restaurants not to include a disposable set with your take-out!
- Produce Bags: Produce bags from the supermarket are another single-use item that need to go. Although many people reuse their produce bags once at home, at some point they’re going to end up in the trash. There are various reusable produce bags for sale out there, some that even allow you to wash your produce inside the bag. Some supermarkets also have boxes (most do if you ask for one) which you can put your produce straight into and wash carefully once at home.
- Menstrual Products: Around 20 billion tampons and pads are being dumped into landfill each year. The polyethylene plastic in pads can take hundreds of years to decompose. In fact, conventional pads can contain the equivalent of about four plastic bags! There are more environmentally friendly alternatives, such as reusable pads and menstrual cups.
- Food Storage: Instead of using Ziplock bags and plastic wrap to store food, use reusable containers to keep leftovers fresh, and try beeswax food wrap can last 150 to 250 uses, or about a year. Disposal is easy—just toss it in the compost bin.
- Paper Towels/ Napkins: Yes, they are easy and convenient, but they are far from necessary. Use cloth rags, which can be washed and reused countless time. **