20 Life Hacks to Reduce Your Plastic Waste Now
It’s no secret that plastic pollution is out of control and that we need to drastically decrease our plastic waste before our entire planet drowns in plastic. Plastic is a man-made material using natural resources and chemicals, and it never biodegrades. This means that every single piece of plastic ever created will still exist in some way on this planet. We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic every year, half of which is for single use. More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year. Packaging is the largest end use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage. Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide - more than one million bags are used every minute, and a plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes..! Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

Plastic bags aren't the only culprit.  According to the Container Recycling Institute, 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles were sold in the U.S. in 2014, or 315 bottles per person. 57% of those units were plastic water bottles: 57.3 billion sold in 2014. This is up from 3.8 billion plastic water bottles sold in 1996, the earliest year for available data. The process of producing bottled water requires around 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the container. 14% of all litter comes from beverage containers. When caps and labels are considered, the number is higher.

There is an enormous political, economic and social task ahead to try to turn this tragic situation around before it’s too late. As a consumer, it often seems impossible to avoid plastic. You read the above facts and think "this has to stop now". Then you head to the supermarket and you can’t work out how to make it stop because single-use plastics are everywhere. The challenge is great, but there are things we can all do every day to reduce our own plastic waste and contribute to this worldwide movement. Even if you can only take on a bunch of these at a time, any change is better than no change.


Here are 20 things you can do to help today: 

  1. Carry a reusable water bottle
  2. Carry a reusable coffee cup
  3. Put reusable bags in useful places such as your desk draw, your car, your satchel or handbag, your gym bag
  4. Have reusable steel containers ready for carrying snacks and food
  5. Take your own containers to cafes and restaurants when ordering takeaway food
  6. Keep metal cutlery in your draw at work if this isn’t provided
  7. Avoid ordering online as delivery incurs a huge amount of additional packaging
  8. Say no to drinking straws
  9. Choose non-synthetic clothes when you can – microplastics — plastic fragments less than 5 millimeters long — can get washed out of synthetic clothing, like those made of polyester or acrylic. A single cycle of a washing machine could release more than 700,000 microplastic fibers into the environment, concluded one 2016 paper.  Natural fabrics to consider instead include organic cotton, wool, flax and hemp
  10. Do not use chewing gum. Chewing gum is made of a synthetic rubber, which is plastic
  11. Choose boxed packaging instead of bottles where possible – for example, laundry detergent is often available in a box
  12. Choose products packaged in paper instead of plastic – for example, toilet paper can be bought which is made entirely from recycled paper, and is packaged in 100% recycled paper
  13. Don’t buy products containing microbeads – sometimes added as an exfoliating agent to personal care and beauty products like face scrubs, soaps and toothpaste, microbeads are tiny plastic pieces that can pass unfiltered through sewage treatment systems and end up in local waterways, and eventually the sea.
  14. Avoid frozen foods as they’re full of packaging
  15. Purchase kitchen pantry products such as beans, pasta, grains and cereals from bulk buy shops where you can purchase without any packaging – take old containers with you to refill
  16. Use matches instead of lighters
  17. Shop at farmers markets and take your own containers
  18. Make freshly squeezed juice
  19. Use a razor with replaceable razor blades instead of a disposable one
  20. Start engaging your friends, children, loved ones and your community on this important issue and encourage others to get involved