Single-use plastic is piling up. Here’s how you can help staunch the flow.
By 2017, China had had enough. No more, it announced, would it be “the world’s garbage dump,” recycling about half of the earth’s plastics and paper, according to The New York Times. The U.S. had been sending 1.42 million tons of scrap plastic to China each year, making it the sixth-largest American export to China, the Times reports. By Jan. 1, China had banned 24 types of solid waste coming in from foreign countries. The cut-off has been a clarion call for radically reducing single-use plastic, across the world. The Church of England, for example, even encouraged its followers to give up plastic for Lent. For this week’s Healthy Habit, here are 10 ways to do our part and cut down on the use of single-use plastic:
- Bulk up. Go big, instead of smaller and multiple. Refill a shampoo bottle from an economy size one. Buy cereals and other dry goods from a bin, instead of purchasing a box, which has a plastic liner inside it.
- Brush up. Swap plastic toothbrushes for bamboo versions, or use one with replaceable heads. Choose dish brushes and hairbrushes with wooden handles and ideally, bristles that can be composted.
- Suds sensibly. Buying bar soap, loose, is more eco-friendly than packaged liquid soaps and body washes.
- BYOB. It’s a little hard to get in the habit at first, but think ahead. Cart in your own reusable utensils, chopsticks or cloth napkins. Going for take-out? Bring a stainless-steel tiffin.
- Avoid frozen foods. According to the Green Education Foundation, those frozen food packages look like cardboard but are actually coated with plastic.
- Squeak! Give animal companions toys made of rope, cloth, or rubber.
- Invest in a garment bag. If you use the dry cleaner a lot, get a garment bag and have them place clean clothing in there, rather than wrapping each item in a plastic sack.
- Clean green. Look for cleaning products, such as detergents, sold in cardboard.
- Replace gradually. As products reach the end of their life cycle, take the opportunity to seek out a more eco-friendly version. For example, Beth Terry, the author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and You Can Too, wore out her plastic flip-flops, and then switched to natural rubber versions with hemp straps.
- Choose used. When you must buy something made of plastic, try to get it secondhand, or at buy the best quality you can afford so that it will last a long time.