If cutting back on the plastic wasn’t one of your New Year’s resolutions, you may want to add it to the list now. Here’s why it’s important—and how to do it in five easy ways.
Many disposable plastic containers—from water bottles to baby bottles—contain synthetic chemicals like styrene and BPA. Research has shown that these potentially harmful chemicals are leached from plastics into food and water, and upon consumption, can enter the bloodstream. When ingested in extremely high doses (just how much is still in debate), according to some scientists, this could lead to a slew of health concerns, including obesity, diabetes, problems with fertility and reproductive organs, susceptibility to various cancers, and cognitive deficits like ADHD.
In addition to harming your health, plastic can also hurt the environment. After you drink and toss that empty water bottle, it ends up in a landfill, along with an estimated eight million tons of other plastic. Different types degrade at different rates, but the average time for a plastic bottle to completely break down is at least 450 years. That’s a whole lot of time to be sitting on the ocean floor.
However, as important as it is to avoid plastic, sometimes there just isn’t a more sustainable alternative available. “And that’s OK,” says Corey Scholibo, co-founder of Repurpose Compostables, a popular line of sturdy, plant-based, BPA-free tableware. Scholibo admits that just the other day even he had to cave and use a plastic baggie to carry his store-bought barley. “I had no other option; I’m trying not to beat myself up about it,” he says, laughing.
What matters, says Scholibo, is making little tweaks to your daily routine. These small changes add up and will have an enormous effect on your long-term health and carbon footprint. Here are Scholibo’s five foolproof tricks to jumpstart a plastic-free life.
Keep reusable shopping totes on you
Stash a few extra recycled totes in your car for impromptu trips to the grocery store. If you find yourself on a spur-of-the-moment market run without a bag on hand, carry it out to the car in the cart or in your hands, especially if it’s just a few items.
Ditch the plastic produce bags
Not every piece of produce needs its own plastic baggie. “Just throw that bell pepper straight into the shopping cart,” says Scholibo. “You’re going to wash it when you get home anyway.” And foods with outer peels (like avocados, lemons, bananas, and oranges) certainly don’t need them, he says.
Buy products in glass bottles
If you start paying attention to all the plastic products in your refrigerator, you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to replace them all. Scholibo suggests starting small: “First switch to buying recycled glass bottles or cartons of milk; do it for a few days, then switch out another item, like ketchup.” And so on—you can find everything from mayo to pickles to hot sauce in glass—so just keep that in mind as you restock items over time.
Look for “compostable” on the package
“‘Biodegradable’ doesn’t mean anything,” says Scholibo. Technically, everything is eventually biodegradable (including humans!), so it’s a misleading term. If you want to be sure you’re using items that will degrade in a safe, timely manner, look for ‘compostable’ on the package. According to ASTM guidelines, to be truly compostable, an item must completely break down—within 180 days or less—into organic ingredients that nourish the soil and plants around it. Biodegradable items do not have such regulations. “Repurposes’ items are 100 percent compostable within 90 days,” says Scholibo.
… And don’t stress about the actual compositing
There may not be an industrial compost facility available where you live. If you’re interested in composting at home, check out our guide here! But if composting isn’t a realistic option for you, Scholibo says you can rest assured you’re still reducing your carbon footprint by as much as 60 percent by choosing plant-based tableware like Repurpose Compostables over plastic (when you can’t use ceramic, that is).
For one-use plastic alternatives, head over to Thrive Market to shop Repurpose Compostables’ line of heavy-duty, plant-based, 100 percent compostable cups, utensils, bowls, and plates at over 30 percent off! It’s just another easy way to start living plastic-free.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho