What Is Single-use Plastic?
Put simply, single-use plastics are goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel-based chemicals and are meant to be disposed of immediately after use. Single-use plastic pollution is one of the most significant problems our world is currently facing. Single-use plastics are a massive part of our day-to-day lives, but their impact on our planet is catastrophic. Despite greater global awareness of the importance of recycling, more than 90% of global plastic waste still ends up in landfills. Many people are now looking for alternatives to ditch single-use plastic and are embracing eco-friendly alternatives to reduce their waste and overall environmental impact.
Examples Of Single-Use Plastics
The single-use plastics that make their way into the environment most frequently are:
- Drinking bottles
- Bottle caps
- Food wrappers
- Grocery bags
- Take-away containers
- Straws and stirrers
Why Are Single-Use Plastics Bad For The Environment?
Single-use plastics are not designed to be recycled and are not biodegradable. Instead of breaking down organically, plastic breaks into tiny pieces called microplastics. This process of breaking down can take around 1000 years. It means that as of 2022, any plastic produced is still on earth. During the long decomposing process, the chemicals from the plastics can pollute the soil and water. Plastic waste washes up on beaches and can harm endangered animals.
Single-use vs. Reusable Items
If you are looking at the cost of single-use vs. reusable items, it is helpful to consider the disposal costs. When single-use items are predominant, the disposable prices are higher because of the volume of waste. However, a significant amount of energy is needed to produce reusable items compared to single-use items. For this reason, to make the purchases worthwhile environmentally, it is better to encourage people to reuse as much as possible.
5 Replacements To Everyday Single-Use Plastics
1. Stainless steel
Stainless steel is tough, easy to clean, and a great option for reusable food and beverage storage. You can replace single-use cups, kitchen storage, lunch boxes, and more with this durable metal.
One of the best alternatives to plastic is glass. Glass has always been the safest and most viable option for packaging and use of food and liquid. Since many food items come packaged in glass, upcycling glass jars into food storage is a cost-free way to give your food packaging new life. Glass can be recycled multiple times so they do not have to end up in landfills.
For example, jars from jam, honey, pickles, nut butter and so much more can be added to your no-waste toolkit for shopping from bulk bins. Glass bottles and jars are typically 100 percent recyclable, and the glass in them can be reused endlessly without any loss in quality and purity.
A renewable resource, wood, can replace plastic in household items like cleaning brushes, kitchen utensils and cutting boards.
- Bamboo: This fast-growing renewable resource can replace plastic in items like tableware and drinking straws. It is lightweight, durable and compostable.
- Pottery and Other Ceramics: Pottery and other fired ceramics offer a stable, waterproof alternative that is good for food storage and tableware. Look for non-toxic glazes.
4. Bamboo toothbrushes
Considering that a person is supposed to replace their toothbrush every three to four months, it’s disheartening to think how much plastic waste we add to landfills from toothbrushes alone. Plant-based toothbrushes have been around for several years, and all components, even the boxes and packaging, are made from bamboo or compostable castor bean nylon.
5. Reusable Shopping Bags
Rather than having a collection of single-use plastic bags that are not only inconvenient but also harmful to the environment, try using a reusable shopping bag. Some of the main benefits of using reusable shopping bags instead of plastic ones are:
- Saving money: Many stores are beginning to impose an extra charge for plastic bags. By bringing a reusable bag from home, you are saving money each time you go shopping.
- Saving resources: Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and they use crude oil and natural gas to manufacture. By using a reusable bag, you are not only reducing the amount of non-renewable resources necessary to produce plastic bags, but you are also reducing the amount of money your community spends on clean-ups each year.
- Durability & reliability: Unlike the flimsy plastic bag you receive from retailers, reusable bags are more durable and can carry more at a time.
If you would like to know more about single-use plastics, you can read more in our previous blog post: “Breaking Up With Our Plastic Addiction: Why And How?”