Plastic production is on the rise despite evidence regarding the dangerous chemical additives it may contain or the role of single-use plastic items in polluting our planet as plastics take up to 500 years to decompose. On average, a person living in Western Europe or North America consumes around 100 kilograms of plastic each year, only a fraction of which is recycled [1,2].
The imperative for reducing our consumption of plastic items becomes all the more urgent when one takes into account the increasing resource pressures our planet is facing: plastics are made of finite materials extracted from the earth.
15 tips for reducing our individual plastic footprint
#1 Stop using plastic carrier bags
Try using shopping bags made of cloth; you can find them in all imaginable shapes and designs!
#2 Say no to single-use plastic
Avoid using single-use items such as plastic cups, straws and cutlery. Get yourself a thermos or other glass container to use when getting a coffee or smoothie to go! You do not need to use single-use plastic items to enjoy your drink or meal.
#3 Minimize packaging
Avoid purchasing over-packaged goods wrapped in layers of plastic. For example, buy loose vegetables and fruit from your supermarket and if needed use brown paper bags rather than plastic ones!
#4 Don’t buy plastic bottles
Drink tap water when safe or carry your own reusable bottle. The average American uses about 167 water bottles of which only 38 are recycled . Besides, reusing plastic bottles is not good for your health.
#5 Prefer natural materials
Try to buy goods that are not packaged or made from plastics. For instance, minimize plastic packaging of your groceries by substituting condiments in plastic containers to those in glass jars, or in the case of larger items, opt for those that are primarily made from other materials, for instance garden furniture made of wood rather than plastic.
#6 Check for recycled plastic
When you have to buy something made from or packaged in plastic, try to pick something made from recycled or recyclable plastic. You can easily check this by looking at the product’s label.
#7 Make sure you pick the right kind of biodegradable plastic
If you are buying something made with bio-based plastic, make sure that it has been made in accordance with the highest verified sustainability criteria. This should also be marked on the product’s label.
Once you have bought a plastic item, try to re-use in your household – this will also be exciting for any younger members of the family interested in arts and crafts! For example, you can use plastic bottles or containers as planting pots.
After the plastic has really outlived its use, recycle it! Recycling plastic saves a lot of resources.
#10 Opt for clothing made from natural and not synthetic materials
This will not only be a signal to major clothing companies to eliminate plastic where possible but will also minimize the particles of microplastic that escape from synthetic materials to enter our environment.
#11 Do not throw it away
Repair or sell your electronic equipment rather than throwing it away. This way you could even make some money from selling your old PC!
#12 Say no to microbeads
Stop using cosmetic products containing plastic microbeads which find their way into our water and seas. Plastic ingredients are applied in a variety of products such as deodorants, shampoos, moisturizers, shaving creams and sunscreens.
A typical exfoliating shower gel can contain roughly as much microplastic in the cosmetic formulation as is used to make the plastic packaging it comes in !
#13 Cook your own food
Reduce the number of take outs and deliveries, as they use a lot of packaging and single-use items.
#14 Help to keep our environment clean
Join a beach or other plastic clean-up in your local area. A total of 12.2 million tonnes of plastic enters our marine environment each year, you can do something to help with that !
#15 Support those who help
Support organizations that work to reduce plastic pollution by donating money or signing petitions for measures to eliminate plastic pollution.