Single use plastics are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. Some of these items include things like plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, water bottles, and food packaging. As of 2015, the United States was the largest generator of plastic packaging waste on a per-capita basis. This is a big problem because these single use plastics end up in landfills, oceans, waterways, and our environment. Most commonly plastics will eventually breakdown into smaller pieces called microplastics, but may never fully degrade in cold marine environments that lack sunlight. These toxic chemicals easily get transferred to animal tissue and eventually enter the human food chain.
One way to eliminate your single use plastic usage is to move towards a zero waste lifestyle! Kitchens are a space where people tend to use a lot of single use plastics including cling wrap, disposable dishware, and excessive plastic packaging. Follow these simple tips to help replace the single use plastics in your kitchen with more environmentally friendly options.
Tip #1: Say Goodbye to Plastic Wrap
This thin flimsy plastic is difficult to recycle and can clog machines at recycling facilities. There are several other options for preserving your leftovers! One alternative to plastic wrap is beeswax paper which is reusable, washable, and compostable. Make sure to wash it with cold water to prevent the beeswax from melting. You can make beeswax paper at home yourself, or it can be purchased. Another alternative to plastic wrap is storing your food in glass storage containers or glass jars. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Dish cloths are a great way to keep your produce fresh. Try wrapping it up in cloth and placing it in your refrigerator, or putting your produce in a bowl and laying the cloth over the top. You can fix the cloth to the bowl by using a rubber band, creating an airtight seal.
Tip #2: Negate the Paper Plate
In Massachusetts, plastic utensils and dishware are not recyclable and end up in the trash. To avoid taking up landfill space, use utensils made out of metal or bamboo and ceramic plates. These materials can be reused over and over again. If you are hosting a gathering and you do not have enough ceramic plates, or you are worried about them breaking, use compostable plates instead. Compostable plates can break down in our environment in a matter of months, while paper plates can take 20 years, and Styrofoam plates can take more than a million years.
Tip #3: Switch or Ditch the Plastic Straw
Americans use about 500 million drinking straws every day. To put that in perspective, that is enough straws to fill over 125 school busses. To help prevent plastic straws from entering our waste stream, try switching to a reusable straw while enjoying beverages at home. Reusable straws can be made from a variety of different materials such as metal, silicone, bamboo, or glass. There are even compostable straws that can be made out of paper or even pasta!
Tip #4: BYOB: Bring Your Own Bag
Some states and towns are starting to ban plastic bags while others are focusing on implementing effective plastic bag recycling programs. Do your part and grocery shop with a reusable bag! This is a great way to cut out single use plastic and encourage others to do the same. If you have plastic bags in your kitchen that you need to recycle, try bringing them back to the grocery store.
Tip #5: Sometimes More is Less: Buy in Bulk!
Buying your food and kitchen items in bulk can not only help you cut down your single-use plastic consumption, but it can also save you money! Make sure to stock up on groceries that will last a long time and not go bad, like rice, beans, peanut butter, seasonings, or trail mix. Grocery stores that sell in bulk typically let you bring your own containers or offer some sort of reusable container to avoid plastic altogether. It is also more environmentally friendly to buy things like dish soap or paper towels in large quantities. These bulk purchases have significantly less packaging per use than smaller quantity purchases.
By following these tips, you can significantly cut down your single-use plastic consumption and move towards a zero-waste lifestyle. Check out our website to learn more about how you can reduce waste at home. If you are a business or institution in Massachusetts looking for recycling assistance, check out RecyclingWorksMA.