New bans on plastic straws have taken hold in multiple cities and restaurant chains across the nation. Thanks to recent social media campaigns like #StrawsSuck, more and more people are realizing that straws are as damaging as they are wasteful. Though technically “disposable”, straws aren’t recyclable and usually end up in the ocean, where they hurt marine life and break down into harmful microplastics.
We’ve yet to see how widespread the ban will become (plastic straws, after all, are necessary for many disabled individuals). But regardless of its reach, the ban has helped many of us realize how often (and how carelessly) we contribute to plastic waste.
If you’ve made a personal commitment to stop using plastic straws, you might be thinking of other ways you can cut back on plastic. Here are a few easy and doable suggestions.
Stop Buying Bottled Water
If you have access to fresh water through the local tap, there’s no need to waste a bunch of plastic bottles just to stay hydrated. A sturdy canteen can be refilled as many times as you need and keeps liquids cooler for longer.
Use a To-Go Mug
Most single-use cups at coffee shops are lined with polyethylene. Polyethylene is a plastic resin that most waste-management facilities lack the means to recycle. As a result, most cups eventually end up in a landfill. Not to mention, those plastic lids aren’t recyclable. A reusable to-go mug is an easy solution to both.
Be Mindful of Packaging
Packaging contributes heavily to plastic waste, but you can be more mindful of the alternatives. Certain everyday products – like pasta, soap, and laundry detergent – come in cardboard boxes, which is much easier to recycle. Or, peruse the bulk section of the supermarket, where you can fill reusable containers with goods like rice and cereal.
Stop Using Disposable Cutlery
If you use disposable forks and spoons, you’re tossing away plastic every time you sit down to eat (in fact, France placed a ban on all single-use plastic cutlery and plates in 2016). Keep a metal set of utensils at work and use as needed. You can also carry a reusable spork on you for things like food trucks and takeout.
Invest in Reusable Shopping Bags
Canvas bags are an easy replacement for plastic shopping bags, which aren’t biodegradable and cause huge problems for the environment. Store a few reusable bags in your car or tuck a few into your purse for last-minute trips to the store.
Plastic lighters might be convenient, but they aren’t recyclable and tend to just sit in landfills once they’re tossed. For all your candle-lighting needs, it’s better to use matches instead.
Buy Your Veggies Loose
We’re so used to grabbing plastic baggies for produce that we don’t think twice about how it’s affecting the environment. Consider buying fruits and veggies loose, especially those with thicker skins (bananas and avocados for example). For other items, you can purchase eco-friendly muslin or mesh bags.
Give Up Gum
Did you know? Gum actually contains synthetic rubber, which isn’t biodegradable. Not to mention, it may also be toxic: the polyvinyl acetate used in gum may contain traces of vinyl acetate, a substance which has caused tumors in rats. But if chewing’s a hard-to-break habit for you, there’s eco-friendly gum that uses rubber made of tree sap.