How To Reduce Your Household Plastic Use

Plastic is everywhere. It’s in our clothes, consumer product packaging, water bottles, helmets, modes of transportation, plumbing — no place on Earth is safe from plastics.

7 months ago   •   4 min read

By Mark Pearton

4 Tips to Adopt for a Plastic-Free Home

Plastic’s been found on Mount Everest and in the deep Marianas Trench. The problem is that it doesn’t degrade fast enough — depending on the type of plastic, breaking it down can take a few hundred years, perhaps more.

Plastic is clogging landfills. Tonnes upon tonnes of it have made its way to our waterways and oceans where it’s killing marine life. It then makes its way back into our food and water systems as micro-plastics in the seafood we consume and microfibres in the air and precipitation.

If you want to go plastic-free or are serious about reducing your plastic waste, the best place to begin is at home.

To help strengthen your resolve and make your adjustment to a plastic-free lifestyle easier, we’ll talk about the most common plastic products you’ll find at home and tips to decrease (and eventually eliminate) them.

Single-use plastics

Single Use Plastics
It's estimated that Australians throw out 2.7million single-use or disposable coffee cups every single day. Source: Sustainability Victoria 

An infographic by Plastic Oceans tells us that we produce 380 million tons of plastic annually, and about 50% of that comprises single-use plastics. But what is single-use plastic?

As the name suggests, single-use plastics are disposable the moment you use them. Their useful lifespan can last for a few minutes to a couple of hours, yet these products take a few hundred years to degrade.

Single-use plastics are utilised in various types of packaging and service ware. Water and juice bottles, candy, cookie and sandwich wrappers, coffee cups and plastic bags are just a few examples of single-use plastic products.

So, if you’re planning on going plastic-free, how do you start?

Steps to a plastic-free lifestyle

Before you take concrete steps toward minimising your plastic use and eventually eliminating plastic waste from your home, you need to remember some fundamental truths:

• Plastic waste elimination is a long-term process.

• People’s plastic consumption habits vary.

By keeping these in mind, you can avoid becoming frustrated or disappointed when you feel that you’re not progressing as quickly as you want.

To reduce your plastic waste and have a plastic-free home someday, consider the following steps:

1. Audit your fortnightly or weekly purchases.

Plastic Waste Household Audit
Grouping your household plastic packaging waste you can begin to see trends and then plan accordingly to avoid the same purchasing decisions the next time you grocery shop. 

Keep track of plastic household waste by collecting and sorting through your rubbish. Segregate the various plastic waste you find into categories, such as plastic chip packaging, meat trays, cling wrap, etc. Conducting this type of audit will reveal your patterns of consumption and waste.

2. Think of actions you can take to reduce plastic waste in your household.

If you find sweets and  potato chip wrappers regularly in your trash, you could lessen your consumption of sweets and chips by preparing your own snacks. You can also cut out processed sugar products like sweets and focus on eating fresh fruit instead. This way, you hit two birds with one stone: you reduce plastic waste and become healthier, too.

Instead of buying fresh herbs and vegetables that are likely to be placed in plastic or Styrofoam containers, why not start your own vegetable and herb garden at home?

3. Make better purchasing decisions when you shop.

Sustainable Packaging
Good decisions are made in the supermarket aisles, opt for packaging that has unlimited recyclability like glass and avoid unnecessary packaging in plastic.

Avoid buying more processed food that’s kept in plastic packaging and choose products stored in recyclable glass or aluminium containers. Or you can opt for fresh produce and protein sources that require minimal packaging, which need not be single-use plastic.

4. Look at your plastic household consumption in components.

Even if you want to do away with plastic all at once, it's better to take small steps to reduce and eliminate plastic in components or categories and find solutions or alternatives for each. After getting rid of plastic food packaging, for example, you can move on to household cleaning products in plastic containers, until you reach a stage where your home is virtually plastic-free.

Next steps - Plastic Free July
Plastic Free July provides a guide for people to think about their household plastic consumption in components. 

Small steps count

While we may not be fully aware of the scale of the world’s plastic problem because other people collect our rubbish, it doesn’t mean we should remain complacent.

The world’s resources are finite, and our unabated plastic consumption is hurting our planet. It’s choking out landfills and contaminating our waterways and oceans.

But by doing our part and taking concrete steps at home, we can effectively minimise our plastic consumption.

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