Single-use plastic is one of the biggest challenges facing the planet today. A depressing thought, but there is a silver lining. With a few easy lifestyle changes you can cut down the amount of plastic you throw out substantially — or even cut it out altogether. If you are looking to be part of a collective change try incorporating some of these simple steps into your weekly routine. It’ll begin to feel second nature in no time.
Takeaway coffee cups are a minefield when it comes to recycling and are best avoided. Paper coffee cups are lined with plastic, making them difficult to recycle (the lids can go in the recycling bin though). Many cafes provide compostable cups and lids but these need to be sent to a commercial compost facility to break down correctly — not thrown in the rubbish (some offices’ food scraps bins get correctly composted). A better option is to use a reusable coffee cup, or a mug or jar, which baristas will happily fill up for you, and sometimes offer a discount.
Good For wholefoods refillery. Photo / @Goodfor
3 COFFEE CUPS TO CONSIDER:
- Joco cup, $31, from Flightcoffee.co.nz
- Ceramic coffee cup, $39, from Paperplanestore.com
- KeepCup original, 340ml, $16, from Stevens.co.nz
Fill it up
A bulk food and refillery store is a great place to cut down on single use plastic. Everything from flour to oats, pasta, nuts, even dish washing liquid is available plastic-free. Most bulk stores offer paper bags, but a better option is to bring your own reusable containers or jars to fill. This avoids plastic packaging and might cut down on food waste too, as you can select the amount you need.
Choose fruit and vegetables that aren't pre-packaged in plastic. Salad greens and herbs are notorious for plastic packaging – maybe it’s time to grow some in a pot at home? It's also possible to put loose fruit or vegetables directly into your trolley at the supermarket, without putting it in a plastic bag first.
A lunchbox, especially a school lunchbox can be rife with plastic. A good first step is storing lunch in a reusable container (that looks cool) with a reusable water bottle, cup and cutlery. A lunchbox with clever dividers is handy for storing loose items like dried fruit, crackers or nuts. Wrap sandwiches in bees wax and make homemade snacks instead of plastic-wrapped versions.
Image caption: Monbento lunchbox from Father Rabbit.
Our addiction to clingwrap is hard to break, but there are alternatives. One solution is to store food in a container with a lid, use a silicone bowl or pot topper, or find a reusable wax wrap like Kiwi Wraps or Lily Bee. New Zealand company Compostic makes home compostable clingwrap, which breaks down in 12 to 24 weeks.
From the source
Finding meat, seafood and deli items that aren't on polystyrene trays and wrapped in plastic is a challenge. Visit your local butcher or fish market, which often sell unpackaged items and ask them to wrap it in paper, or bring your own container along. The same goes for bread and baked goods. Buy it straight from the source at a bakery or farmer's market and carry it home in your own reusable shopping bag.
The bottom line
Remember why you’re making these changes. Eight million tonnes of plastic pollution ends up in the ocean every year, which break downs into microplastics and can re-enter the food chain. And it’s getting worse, with plastic production increasing exponentially from 2.3 million tonnes in 1950 to 448 million tonnes by 2015 – that's expected to double by 2050, and most of it ends up in landfill.
— Johanna Thornton