How to easily reduce your plastic usage

While going 100 percent plastic-free might sound impossible, here are some easy swaps. We promise you won’t miss the old days. 

Australians use a whopping 130 kg of plastic per person each year. When only 12 percent of that gets recycled, it means up to 130,000 tonnes of plastic will find its way into our waterways and into the ocean. We’ve all seen that turtle video, we all know it’s bad.

The problem is that plastic is almost unavoidable. From the lining of our coffee cups (did you know they can’t be recycled?) to our protective phone cases, the idea of going plastic-free can be overwhelming.

But when you’re juggling a million other responsibilities, making the change to a 100 percent plastic-free lifestyle just doesn’t seem realistic, so many people strive for perfection and get disheartened when they don’t get everything just right.

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However, it’s not about making huge changes to your lifestyle all at once. Any action you take to live more sustainably will make a worthwhile difference. As Anne Marie Bonneau so aptly put it: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions doing it imperfectly.” Here are some easy swaps you can make to start reducing your plastic use.

In the bathroom

There are lots of plastic-free options here.

  • Look for refillable deodorants, packaging-free solid bars for soap, face wash, and shampoo wherever you can.
  • Replace your plastic, disposable razors with metal safety razors that have a higher upfront cost but are a great investment, are of better quality, and the blades are recyclable.
  • We love chewable toothpaste tablets as an alternative to your traditional tube, of which a billion end up in landfill every year. They’ll usually be packaged in a glass jar, and the idea is to crunch on them with a bit of water in your mouth, brush, and rinse as normal. Easy.

The daily grind

The food and drink industries have traditionally relied heavily on single-use plastic, but it’s nice to see individual businesses stepping up their sustainability efforts.

  • Sorry to say the plastic coating on the inside of your takeaway coffee cup renders them unrecyclable. Your best option is to buy a reusable one to keep in your bag and/or at your desk. The good news is a lot of cafes are offering small discounts to people who bring their own cups.
  • Coffee pods, on the other hand, might be more convenient but sustainable? Not so much. Look for brands that are offering compatible pods with plant-based, biodegradable composites like sugarcane to replace synthetic materials.
  • It should definitely go without saying by now, you need to stop buying bottled water. Australia has some of the cleanest drinking water in the WORLD, and it’s free straight from the tap. Buy a refillable water bottle, or even a beautiful glass carafe to keep at your desk so you can keep hydrated throughout the day.
  • Straws. Straws are a HUGE problem. Some bars and restaurants are taking a stand against single-use plastic by not providing you with one unless you ask. South Australia became the first Australian state to ban plastic straws (in addition to plastic cutlery).
  • Did you know that most chewing gums contain plastic and synthetic rubber? There are a handful of chewy brands that are free of petrochemical bases and instead use natural rubber made from tree sap, called chicle.

At the shops

While we’re thrilled much of Australia has phased out thin, single-use plastic bags at supermarkets, the waste created by the more durable ones is still a problem when you forget to bring your own. Find one you can easily fold up and stow in your work bag so you’re never caught out if you need to duck to the shops on your way home.

Don’t bother with the plastic-wrapped fresh produce, either, just grab those paper mushroom bags for everything if you don’t want your fruit and veg to be ‘naked’. Or better yet, grow your own!

Working up a sweat

Swap that plastic foam yoga mat (or ball, or roller) for one made of cork as it’s recyclable, biodegradable, and because it’s non-porous, it won’t soak up sweat and bacteria. Most cork is harvested from the tree’s bark, which regenerates, so it leaves the tree unharmed to continue its noble work eliminating CO2 from the atmosphere. Good work, trees.

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