Alternatives To Single-Use Plastic
Avoiding plastic altogether can be a pretty tricky task. Seemingly everything available for sale nowadays comes wrapped in some sort of single-use plastic.
That said, as we all become more environmentally conscious, eco-friendly and compostable alternatives are becoming easier to find.
Swapping to re-useable items will not only save resources but also save you money. It's a no brainer!
The Best Single-Use Plastic Alternatives
When you're out shopping, these are some of the materials to look out for that are better for the planet than plastic.
Plastic in the kitchen seemed unavoidable until silicone came along. Food grade silicone is safe to use and can withstand both boiling and freezing temperatures.
Silicone food bags can replace your plastic zip-lock bags, and you can even use them for sous vide. Ice cube trays are another kitchen item that you can replace with silicone. If you're female, you can even replace your single-use period products with a medical-grade silicone menstrual cup.
Currently, recycling of silicone is limited, and it's not biodegradable so only buy something new if you're sure you will get a lot of use out of it. Silicone is very durable, so it should last you a long time.
Beeswax wraps made from a blend of organic cotton and beeswax work great as a replacement for single-use cling wrap and other plastic wraps.
The warmth of your hands softens the materials so you can cover your food. As the wrap cools down, it hardens and creates a seal to keep your food fresh.
You can wash the wraps and reuse them. When they've reached the end of their life, you can chuck them in your home compost bin.
Glass is one of the more obvious single-use plastic replacements, and for good reason. Although glass isn't biodegradable, it can be infinitely recycled, and due to its lost lasting properties, is easily reused.
You can often find sauces and spreads packaged in glass jars instead of plastic containers. Once you've finished with the sauce, make sure to re-purpose the jar into storage tubs, or get creative and make some mason style drinking glasses. Reusing the pot means you generate no waste and save valuable resources because you take away the need for something new to be made.
Stainless steel is another seriously durable alternative to consider. As well as being extremely hard wearing, stainless steel is super easy to clean and 100% recyclable.
Steel is well known as a replacement for plastic straws. But you can also replace lunchboxes, plastic scissors and even your plastic litter tray.
Did you know that Bamboo can grow up to 36" in 24 hours? It's one of the fastest-growing plants on this planet, and items made from bamboo are fully compostable. You can find bamboo alternatives for things such as drinking straws, disposable cutlery, toothbrushes and even toilet paper or dental floss!
Make sure to check they are 100% bamboo though, and not mixed with other less eco-friendly materials.
Wood is a renewable material and can be a very eco-friendly alternative to single-use plastic. Just make sure you check that the wood was grown in a sustainably managed forest.
These forests ensure the harvesting of wood doesn't damage any ecosystems, wildlife or humans. Use locally sourced timber if you can to reduce the product's carbon footprint.
Hangers, lighters and disposable cutlery are amongst the plastic items you can replace with wood. Matches not wood lighters!
Ceramics are thought to date back to as early as 9000 B.C. And they have certainly stood the test of time. When looking to replace your plastic items such as food containers with ceramic counterparts, make sure to check that the glaze used is non-toxic. There have been issues in the past with Lead contamination, but thankfully due to FDA regulations, these issues do not present themselves often.
Paper or Cardboard
Paper and cardboard products are compostable, so can be considered zero waste alternatives.
While paper isn't the strongest or most durable material, it can still be very useful. Paper can replace bubble wrap, Q-tips and plastic bags. If a paper bag won't be strong enough, then you can use a cardboard box.
Next time something you order online comes in a cardboard box, instead of throwing it away see if you can reuse it first. They're very handy to take to a zero-waste shop.
Natural fibres are most commonly used to replace plastic bags. But they can also be used to replace the plastics used in clothes. Organic cotton, hemp, jute, wool and cork are all examples of biodegradable materials that brands are using to make everything from flip flops to swimming costumes.
Natural fibres don't shed microplastics when you ash them so are more ocean-friendly than plastics.
Single-use makeup wipes are another thing you can get rid of by swapping to a washable organic cotton wipe.
Packaging is not always something you can control. But you can look out for brands who are trying to cut down on their plastic usage, instead opting for more sustainable options.
Lots of smaller eco-conscious clothing brands are using inventive plastic alternatives. For example, using offcuts from their production to create cute, reusable shipping bags. Bigger companies like Ikea are making an effort too. The retail giant came up with a way to replace styrofoam with mushrooms. The material will decompose in your compost within a week!
Many brands these days, including Amazon, offer reduced packaging options so always check for this before you press buy. If there's an option for no packaging that's even better.
Ways To Stop Using Single-Use Plastics
Now you know the materials to look out for, here are a few swaps you can make right away.
Buy a Reusable Bottle and Coffee Cup
Plastic water bottles are terrible for the environment. Imagine how many single-use plastic bottles you have bought in your life? Swapping to a reusable water bottle saves all this plastic from its inevitable fate of ending up in landfill.
Disposable coffee cups tend to be made with virgin pulp and lined with plastic. Always aim to use a reusable cup where possible. Bonus: most places will give you a discount for doing so. Win-win.
Say No To Plastic Bags
Getting rid of plastic bags is probably one of the easiest ways to live a more environmentally friendly life. Instead, opt for shopping bags you can use time and time again.
We like the ones that you can fold up and store in a small pouch. That way we can leave the shopping bag in our day bag, so we never forget it.
You can also replace the small single-use plastic bags supermarkets give you to carry loose food a reusable mesh bag.
Shop At Your Local Zero Waste Store
Zero waste is a movement focused on reducing plastic pollution and generating less waste. The principles are simple. You shouldn't buy anything that you'll then need to throw away later.
Zero waste shops have started springing up in most areas so you shouldn't be too far from one. Instead of using plastic packaging, the shops encourage you to bring your own containers from home. Cardboard boxes and glass jars are examples of alternatives you could use.
If you can't make it to a zero waste shop, the next best thing is to buy in bulk. This massively reduces the overall packaging required.
You may have noticed a theme throughout this article. The key to reducing your plastic waste is to use reusable alternatives that will last you a lot longer than their single-use counterparts.