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5 Single-Use Plastic Items To Stop Using Today!

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5 Single-Use Plastic Items To Stop Using Today!

Plastic. It has been around since 1869 and was originally created as a substitute for dwindling natural materials such as ivory or tortoiseshell. But sadly, it is now a threat to our natural world. It has evolved from a durable, reusable “miracle material,” designed to last forever, to a single-use disposable item. Everywhere you look, there are plastic containers, straws, bags, and packaging that gets used once and then discarded. The problem? The material “lasts forever.” As a result, plastic is polluting our oceans and earth. We need to reduce our dependence on single-serve plastic items. But how?

Here’s a list of alternatives to five plastic waste culprits that could easily be cut out (or at least used less) in our daily lives:

1. Plastic Drinking Straws

plastic waste - straws

FACT: Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day.

Say “no thanks” to plastic straws when ordering beverages. Take it a step further by enlisting the help of local restaurants, encouraging servers or managers to change their policy—by simply asking customers if they’d like a straw first before setting them on the table on in drinks saves them money as well. Tote your own reusable stainless steel, glass, or silicone drinking straw, which are a better choice for use at home, work, and when dining out to reduce trash. See our straw tip!

2. Bottled Water

plastic waste - bottled water

FACT: Around 1,500 plastic water bottles are discarded every second.

Buy water in glass bottles instead of plastic—they do exist!. Glass is recyclable and preserves the integrity and taste of water better than plastic. And it’s healthier for you. Drinking filtered tap water is the most affordable and least wasteful option. Pitcher, tabletop, and under-sink water filter systems are available. Use insulated stainless steel and BPA-free plastic bottles are both ideal choices.

3. Coffee Pods and Capsules

FACT: 10 billion pods are tossed into North American landfills each year.

Disposable coffee pods and capsules create unnecessary trash. These popular, single-serve pods are made of complex multi-layered plastic or aluminum and are not biodegradable or recyclable. If you own a single-serve coffee machine, simply use a refillable stainless steel or mesh pod. You’ll save money and reduce waste. A more convenient yet still-ecological option is to purchase single-use, 100%-biodegradable, disposable filter pods. They are sold in packs of 50 and often economically priced.

4. Polystyrene (Styrofoam™) Cups and Plastic Lids


FACT: It takes over 500 years for Styrofoam to break down.

Taking hot beverages to go often means using a Styrofoam cup and a plastic lid. The problem is, not only do these items produce lots of waste, but your body absorbs the chemicals at an alarmingly rapid rate. Studies have linked styrene to neurological damage, reproductive issues, and cancers

Bring a reusable beverage container when you purchase coffee to go.

5. Plastic Grocery Bags

FACT: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now three times the size of France.

Discarded plastic produce and grocery bags are one of the biggest culprits of pollution, clogging drains and hurting marine animals.

Simply buy fresh produce loose instead of using a separate plastic bag. Or purchase a washable mesh produce bag, a muslin or cotton cloth bag, or repurpose a mesh laundry bag. Instead of using disposable grocery bags, bring reusable fabric totes to market or use empty cardboard boxes to load your groceries and transport home. Another option is to keep a cooler in your car. Unload your groceries from the cart directly into the cooler. When plastic bags are the only option, save and recycle or reuse them.

This story on trimming plastic waste appears in the 2019 Farmers’ Almanac, pp. 26-28.

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1 Susan Higgins { 04.24.19 at 4:27 pm }

Excellent, TT! Every little bit helps.

2 TT { 04.22.19 at 9:56 pm }

I reuse all my plastic grocery bags. Mostly for the trash, as our garbage p/u people require all trash to be contained in plastic bags. So why buy plastic trash bags when I can use these ?

3 Dinah Leach { 04.22.19 at 3:46 pm }

We compost wet garbage but no type of meat or animal fat. To that we periodically add grass/weed cuttings and dead leaves. It all makes a wonderful compost.
The other trash gets burned except for metal or any plastic etc. and since we live in the country, burning is permitted all the time.

4 Susan Higgins { 04.24.19 at 4:29 pm }

Wow, Kristin, that’s wonderful! Take a picture of that tote bag and email it to us for sharing on social media:

5 Kristin Decker { 04.22.19 at 2:27 pm }

I take a tote bag with me when I walk to the grocery store to replace their plastic bags. I have used the same tote bag for groceries for the past 50+ years and I make many trips to the store since I have to carry the tote home loaded with the groceries I buy so it can’t be too heavy.

6 Kate Johnson { 04.22.19 at 12:35 pm }

I am happy to use recyclable bags for bringing groceries home. It is the other end of the stream that I am in a quandary about. I haven’t come up with a solution for getting rid of garbage (especially wet kitchen garbage and private bathroom garbage). Does anyone have any suggestions?

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