Sustainable Living: Reduce Single-Use Plastics at Home

In our Sustainable Living series, we look at how tenants and homeowners are changing their apartments to be more sustainable.

Single-use plastics, though commonplace, are notoriously bad for the environment. If you want to live a thoroughly eco-friendly life, you can replace single-use plastics with reusable ones instead. Here’s why – and how – you should go sustainable and reduce single-use plastics at home.

What are single use-plastics?

Single-use plastics are plastics that get used once before they are thrown away. These items include straws, plastic bags, coffee stirrers, beverage bottles, and most food packaging. Humans produce approximately 300 million tons of plastic each year, 50 percent of which is single-use. Every year, more than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean.

Sustainable Living: Reduce Single-Use Plastics at Home

Why are single-use plastics harmful?

Plastic was only invented 115 years ago, but many everyday plastic items take 10 to 100 years to decompose in landfills and oceans, even when exposed to high temperatures. However, since most plastics are highly durable, many people use them, and their disposal leads to large amounts of plastic debris and microplastic in the ocean. There, it harms marine life. 

Biodegradable plastic was created in the early 2000s to replace non-biodegradable plastics. However, it is also harmful to oceans because it too does not quickly decompose unless exposed to temperatures higher than those usually found naturally on Earth. That’s why the below reusable options may be better than single-use plastics.

Reusable alternatives to single-use plastics

Beeswax wraps 

Beeswax wraps are cotton cloths covered with a light coating of beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. Beeswax is moldable and slightly tacky, so you can use it to cover food instead of using single-use plastics. Beeswax wraps make excellent alternatives to plastic cling wrap because you can reuse them by rinsing them off and letting them dry. Many eco-conscious people reuse beeswax wraps until they lose their grip, which usually occurs after a year.

Reusable snack and sandwich containers

Use a reusable snack and sandwich container to store your food instead of a plastic container you immediately discard. Some reusable food containers are made out of silicone, ceramic, cotton, or glass, and some are easier to clean than plastic and last far longer. Silicone reusable containers have been growing in popularity and are dishwasher-safe.

Canvas bags

Reduce your plastic waste with canvas bags. Instead of accumulating a pile of single-use plastic supermarket bags under your sink, bring affordable (and sometimes stylish) canvas bags with you on all your grocery runs. Some grocery stores and department stores may even have canvas bags for sale near checkout aisles.

Reusable water bottles

People buy approximately one million plastic bottles per minute, and roughly one-quarter of those bottles are recycled in America. You can reduce the environmental footprint of your water consumption by using reusable water bottles instead. There are countless reusable bottle options made from stainless steel, aluminum, and glass, and many are free of the chemical BPA (bisphenol A), a harmful chemical found in some plastics.

Insulated bottles, often made from stainless steel, are far better for keeping your beverages cold or hot than are plastic bottles. They are vacuum-sealed to maintain the liquid’s temperature over long periods of time.

How do you cut back on single-use plastics in your apartment? Share your tips in the comments!

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