Introduction to plastic free living
How many times have you used something plastic today? Probably quite a few, and in places you didn’t even expect.
Plastic is found everywhere in today’s society. Our cars, phones, clothing, or everyday household products all contain some form of plastic or mix of plastics in them. After studying the material in my undergraduate years, I grew a respect for plastic as its design and manufacturing capabilities have benefitted the medical industry, transportation and more, but there was one thing that always made me a bit wary: that the chemical additives in plastic have a negative effect on our bodies, as well as the planet.
Though plastic has brought us forward for the past decades, scientists and researchers are discovering that plastic is doing more harm than good. In light of these issues, I’ve been on a journey to reduce my plastic consumption wherever I can, but understand that it’s impossible to go 100% plastic free because our technologies are still quite dependent on plastics. Yet we can still shift our mindset and reduce what we can, so below are the tips summarized from the video above with links, to help you start reducing plastic in key areas to still make an impact!
Products in video - glass carafe, kishu activated charcoal water filter, stainless steel straw, ball wide mouth mason jar, nesting stainless steel containers, guppy friend washing bag, klean kanteen insulated bottle, stainless steel container, heath ceramics salad plate, bamboo toothbrush, silk floss, safety razor, bamboo rice paddle, bamboo bottle brush, qwizl puzzle treat toy
Tips for going plastic free
Understand where plastics exist in your life, and their effects
Plastic is tough to avoid as it’s been embedded into almost everything we use, but the following are some areas I would focus on for the most effective impact.
Plastic has kept products safe from damage during transport, as well as allowing food to stay fresher for longer. However, the added chemicals in plastic leach into food, so it’s best to not store or use plastic when possible for the food we eat - it doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold! Here are some health effects of plastic.
Due to the lightweight nature of plastic packaging, it is often found as litter, ending up in waterways and eventually the ocean. As plastics never degrade, they break down into smaller and smaller pieces called micro plastics, which end up in our water and in the bodies of all sea life.
Much of our clothing is also made out synthetic plastic polymers such as polyester, acrylic or nylon. These plastic fibers tend to break down in the wash and become micro plastics which are too small to be captured at water treatment plants. They also end up in waterways which lead back to our drinking water and food.
Everyday household products
We’re bound to have an assortment of plastic items in our home which are usually not recyclable, and like all other plastic, will never truly degrade and last forever. Household products are also often made with a mix of different types of plastics, so the ability for them to be recycled into something new is nearly impossible, as recycling facilities prefer packaging or products with only one type of plastic.
Quick facts on plastic
Don’t throw away all the plastic stuff you have right away
Many of us have fallen into the mistake of wanting to purge all the plastic things from our lives away after hearing about the effect of plastic on our bodies and planet, but it’s a waste when we throw things that still have use in them.
For packaged food
Continue to finish all the packaged food you have in your kitchen.
Slowly switch over to plastic free cookware once your old kitchenware breaks down.
Consider repurposing old plastic containers as storage for non-food items.
Consider using a washing bag for your synthetic fibers. These washing bags catch the microfibers from going into the water, which you can collect and dump into your waste bin.
Consider natural fibers for clothing purchases in the future, such as cotton, linen, or wool.
For other household goods
Continue using up the plastic toothbrushes, bathroom products, and gadgets you have or find someone else that will.
What to do with plastic waste when you’re done with it?
Potentially find a way to reuse or recycle it with a company like Terracycle, which recycles tougher to recycle packaging.
Get in contact with your local government or waste facility to know their recycling guidelines and check out online resources for how to recycle tougher items.
Reach out to the companies you buy from that produce plastic products or packaging to see if they offer a recycling or take back program, and inquire about what they are doing to reduce their plastic. Know that your voice counts as a customer and don’t be afraid to speak up!
A compilation of my favorite actions to prep yourself to be able to refuse and reduce plastic moving forward
Pick up litter and keep our ecosystems clean - every piece counts!
Find some local restaurants that might be able to give you food in your own container, without the plastic packaging typically found at grocery stores. I love to get fresh bread and tofu locally from small businesses.
Do additional research on new product purchases. I look for plastic free, compostable, recyclable, or products that have a warranty or clear end-of-life solution from the company. Companies need to be responsible for their product waste.
Get inspiration from my shop page for what I like to purchase plastic-free.
Getting rid of all the plastic in your life is a journey and this post has only touched the tip of the iceberg. My hope is that this guide is a helpful primer to spark your mind to naturally begin reducing your dependence on plastic and that your actions will simply follow after you reflect and reconsider.
Here are some additional books and blog posts to help you with your plastic free journey. I would highly recommend Beth Terry’s book which is first on this list, as it’s a great detailed primer to understand different plastic materials, chemicals, and she does an amazing job outlining her journey of removing plastic in her life.
My Plastic Free Life (Beth Terry’s blog)
Sustainable Home (book)
Let me know if you have any suggestions or requests for content on plastic free and low waste living below, and cheers for a plastic free July, and hopefully plastic free future!