Meet the Reusables - 8 Simple Ways to Live a Plastic Free Life
Author: Wholesome Hub Date Posted:10 July 2018
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You've heard of the Incredibles, well here come the Reusables! We can all do our bit by saying no to single use plastics. Check out our favourite plastic alternatives which are not only planet friendly but will help you unleash your inner eco hero powers
It’s hard to escape the message that plastics are clogging up our environment and having devastating effects. The price we pay for convenience has a much bigger price for the planet later down the line. Water bottles, straws, takeaway containers - it’s these single use plastics that are the worst offenders. Even if we diligently put them in a recycling bin, it’s questionable if they’ll ever be recycled.
Some authorities can’t recycle some plastics and with China’s announcement that they’ll no longer be accepting “foreign garbage” at their recycling plants, the mounting problem is mounting even further.
Plastics and our Seas
It’s also hard to avoid the problem of plastics in our oceans. Many of us have witnessed these floating plastics first hand as we’ve swum, surfed or sailed, and that’s without the issue of microplastics.
Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastics that end up in our waters as a result of larger plastics breaking down, from plastic-filled sanitary waste being flushed down our toilets or from plastic microbeads being rinsed away in the shower after using exfoliating beauty products. It’s feared these fragments are eaten by fish and that they could even be ending up further up the food chain, on our own plates.
By 2050, only a generation away, if we carry on as we are the seas will contain the same weight of plastics as it does fish and other wildlife.
Playing Our Part
But we can all play our part by saying no to plastics, particularly single use plastics, as much as possible. It would be hard to avoid them completely. The computer you might be reading this article on is probably made in part from plastic. The TV you might watch, the car you might drive, the trainers you might have run in this morning. They all contain some level of plastics.
So perhaps looking at the smaller consumables we use is a better place to start, and there’s no better place than our kitchens and bathrooms.
So here’s our round-up of our favourite alternatives to plastic…
1.Don’t Buy Bottles!
Reusable water bottles are everywhere, so there’s little excuse to not have one. We all need water to survive, and should all be carrying a bottle or having a glass near by, all the time. And if you find you don’t drink enough, splashing out on a fancy water bottle could be all you need to make you drink more!
If you’re in doubt about the impact you could have by not buying bottled water, these stats might reassure you. According to Cool Australia, the average Aussie buys the equivalent of 30, one litre bottles of water a year. Each one takes up to seven litres of water and one litre of oil to produce and more than 1,000 years to biodegrade.
If, like 70% of all water bottles in Australia, it’s not recycled and it goes to incineration, it’ll create plumes of toxic waste. And if that’s not enough, bottled water is so expensive compared to tap water, that it takes eight years to recoup the average cost of a bottle of water by refilling it with tap water.
So ditch the expensive and polluting bottled water, and fill up a reusable water bottle from the tap instead.
2. Carry a Coffee Cup
Second on our hit list is the coffee cup. After plastic water bottles, these are the single use items most demonised. And rightly so, as our insatiable appetite for coffee shows no sign of slowing down, the problem of disposing our coffee cups gets bigger.
Disposable coffee cups are generally made from paper, but they have a plastic inner liner that prevents the hot liquid leaking out of the cup. This combination of paper and plastic makes the cups very difficult to recycle. And of course, the lids are made from plastic.
It’s thought that Australians alone work their way through one billion coffee cups a year. That’s a lot of productivity, but also a lot of waste. Around 90% of these cups end up in landfill.
Recyclable vs Biodegradable vs Compostable Coffee Cups
It’s worth noting here, the difference between recyclable, biodegradable and compostable. In terms of coffee cups, recyclable means that it can be separated into its constituent parts (paper and plastics) and turned into something else. Only some local councils can do this, otherwise they’re sent to landfill.
Biodegradable means the cup will break down in the soil, usually due to having an oil based plastic lining that breaks down when starved of oxygen, such as on a rubbish tip.
Compostable means that a cup can biodegrade and also be suitable for use in compost as a fertilizer.
Sadly, the infrastructure to deal with any of these just isn’t there right now, although there are companies working hard to change this. So until then, we need to make the change!
Switching to a reusable coffee cup is easy and there are plenty to choose from – our personal favourites are Keep Cup and Joco. Whatever your coffee, from a super sized latte to a single espresso, there’s a cup for you. They don't leak or scald your hands and although they’re robust enough to withstand a few knocks they’re also light enough to carry around without being annoying.
Baristas love them as they fit their machines perfectly, and they’ll often give you money off for using them too. So what’s not to like?!
3. Say No to Straws
How many times do you order a drink at the bar, and the bartender sticks a plastic straw in it? It seems like it’s almost impossible to order a smoothie or a cocktail without one. Since when did we adults become so reliant on them to drink our drinks with?
It’s tricky to remember, but try asking for your drink to come without one when you’re ordering. Thankfully, the message is getting across with many establishments kicking this single use plastic to the kerb. And with organisations such as The Last Straw, we will hopefully see this become a growing trend.
And if you really need one? Mint leaves in a Mojito can be a bit annoying without a straw to push them aside, we must admit. Or maybe your kids really like using one? All hope is not lost…
Try a stainless steel straw instead! They’re easy to clean with their special cleaning brushes and will last forever. Most are even suitable for the dishwasher too.
4. Give Cling Film the Flick
If you’re wrapping sandwiches in cling film, stop! Aside from the potential health risks of wrapping foods in plastics that contain BPA, using cling film only adds to the plastic tide.
Eating food on the go, be that on the train, at your desk or on the night bus home after a night on the tiles, generally involves some kind of plastic packaging. There isn’t too much we can do about takeaway food, aside from avoiding it. We can’t very easily get a late night burger and fries without something to hold it in.
But we can make mindful choices with the food we make at home. Packed lunches, picnics and gym snacks can all be wrapped in reusable food wraps. And they’re certainly better looking than cling film!
Food wraps come in all colours, shapes and sizes and don’t just have to be used for sandwiches. Use them to cover your leftovers or fresh food that’s been opened. Or, use them to keep cut herbs fresh or to stop that half an avocado from going brown. (If such a thing as half an avocado even exists, it certainly doesn't in my house…)
5. Choose Loose Produce
So much of the food we buy comes in plastic. And so much of it is unnecessary. It’s baffling why a bunch of bananas comes wrapped in a plastic bag. Even when buying loose produce in the supermarket, we’re encouraged to bag it all up in plastic.
But in a style reminiscent of how our older relatives might have shopped, we can now take our own reusable produce bags to the shops and fill them up! Choose from produce bags made from eco-friendly materials such as cotton mesh or recycled plastic carrier bags or water bottles.
And you’re not just saving on plastic bags, you’re saving on food waste too. Because the real beauty is that you can fill them up, bring them home from the supermarket and put them straight into your fridge. Most are made from a breathable material which allows air to circulate around your fruit and veg, helping to prevent it all going mushy.
If you buy your bread fresh from the bakers, or you bake your own, you can keep that in a reusable and breathable bag too.
And then when you’re done, simply give the bread or produce bag a wash, and use it again and again!
6. Always Carry a Shopping Bag!
We never know when the moment might take us to buy something new. Or we might get a call on the way home from work to pick up some milk and bread. So we should always be prepared with a reusable shopping bag.
This one is pretty standard nowadays. So well done you! But be warned, the two largest supermarket chains in the country, Woolworths and Coles, are both phasing out single use carrier bags. So if you haven’t got a reusable one by July ‘18, you might be in trouble.
Be it a jute, hemp or cotton bag with your favourite phrase or cat meme on it, or a purpose made, fold up shopper, it doesn’t matter. Pop one in your work bag, hand bag, gym bag, car or pocket for when that emergency shop need hits, and you can fill up, guilt-free.
7. Double Up, Treble Up or More…
So far, our plastic reducing crusade has been food and drink based. But what about our beauty regime? How many bottles of shampoos, conditioners, body washes, moisturisers and more do we have in our bathrooms?
And they’re all made of plastic, right? And did you know to stand a chance of being recycled we need to rinse them thoroughly until no residue or bubbles remain, and separate the lid from the bottle?
And that’s only in an area that can handle plastic recycling.
So why not use a product that can do more than one thing? Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soaps can be used for a multitude of purposes including washing your hair, face, hands and body. It can even be used for washing the dishes, and shampooing the dog! And each bottle is made from 100% recycled materials so even the plastic is doubling up.
8. Don’t Forget the Laundry!
Amazingly, Dr. Bronner’s soaps can also be used to do the laundry. But how about something that doesn’t come in any plastic at all?
Soap nuts are an amazing alternative to laundry liquids, tabs and powders are are completely natural. This means that as well as avoiding plastic, your washing machine won’t be rinsing artificial chemicals and toxins into the environment. Soap nuts contain saponin, a natural soap that is just as effective at getting clothes clean. They come in a sturdy cotton bag, and are odourless. If you like a scent to your laundry, add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to the final stages of the wash cycle.
Over to You!
These are just some of our ideas for reducing our use of plastics. Others are choosing wooden toys for our little ones, carrying our own cutlery so we don't have to use plastic knives and forks and using plastic free and washable sanitary products.
Making relatively small changes can make a lot of difference. Use your purchasing power to tell manufacturers you want to see less plastic and use your influence to encourage friends and family to do the same. Our planet is relying on all of us to say no to plastic, and the sooner, the better!
Looking for some eco friendly options? Check out our full range of reusable bread bags, reusable coffee cups, reusable food wraps, reusable produce bags, reusable shopping bags, reusable straws and reusable water bottles.