Each day, an estimated 8 million pieces of plastic enter our oceans through storm water drains, littering and being blown into our waterways. It is hard to determine how much plastic is now in our oceans, it is predicted to be in the hundreds of thousands of tonnes. Experts believe we will soon have more plastic than fish in our oceans which is a serious problem.
Plastic is preferred to many other packaging products because it is strong, lightweight and versatile. However, it is not a renewable resource and it cannot be recycled indefinitely like glass or cardboard. Research shows that a single plastic bottle can last for 450 years in the ocean, slowly releasing micro plastics as it breaks down. Today, 1 in 3 fish caught for human consumption contain plastic. We are not yet sure on the implications of microplastics for our health, but studies have shown that we have an increasing amount of microplastic present in our bodies.
The good news is, it's not too late to Be Eco. Each consumer has the power to choose which products they buy and how they consume plastics and other non-renewable resources like fuel and conventional electricity. Whether you want to move to a zero-waste lifestyle, switch to living plastic-free or simply consume less this will all help.
As a leading eco store in Australia we are also looking for ways to help you on your journey to living a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are some guiding principles that will help you on your path to zero waste living:
Refuse items which are single use and will not biodegrade like plastic cutlery, plastic bags, plastic drink bottles, takeaway containers, plastic straws, takeaway coffee cups and drinks in plastic. Where single use in unavoidable, opt for biodegradable packaging where possible like cardboard containers, paper straws and kraft paper packaging.
You can easily reduce your consumption of single use items by carrying a reusable kit in your bag or car. Some staple items include: shopping bags, mesh produce bags, stainless steel water bottle, reusable coffee cup, jar or container for food, stainless steel straws or silicone straws.
Here are some easy eco switches which can help you simply reduce your plastic use for the long term. Head to your favourite ecostore online or in store for these staples!
Use Eco-Friendly Mesh Bags Instead of Plastic Bags
Australians use an estimated 6.9 billion plastic bags each year. Of these, 3.6 billion are plastic shopping bags. These bags are very difficult to recycle, and as they are lightweight they often get blown into waterways and enter our storm water drains.
If you switch to an eco-friendly mesh bags instead of plastic bags, you can help to reduce your plastic use. Eco-friendly mesh bags are typically made from RPET which is a recycled plastic made from water bottles. These bags are a great alternative to plastic bags as they are affordable, lightweight, strong and durable. You can also find reusable bags which are made from cotton canvas, jute, organic cotton mesh or hemp.
Carry Eco-Friendly Straws
There are a variety of reusable straw alternatives available to single use plastic straws. You can find bamboo, silicone, stainless steel or glass straws. Bamboo straws are sustainable straw made from a renewable resource. Bamboo does not need pesticide or much water to grow, it is strong, biodegradable and naturally antibacterial. Silicone, stainless steel, and glass straws are durable, clean feeling and machine washable. Silicone straws make a good kid friendly option as they will not damage teeth, however you may have to stop your kids chewing on them.
Reusable Cotton Makeup Pads
Single use makeup rounds and cotton buds have a big impact on the environment, not only as they enter landfill but also due to the water, pesticide and bleach used in their production. If makeup pads are a part of your daily routine, switching to a reusable makeup pads are going to generate less waste and will be kinder on your skin. Makeup pads made from cotton, bamboo, hemp or a blend of all three can be washed, reused and will also biodegrade once worn out.
Carry a Reusable Water Bottle
Carrying a reusable water bottle can have benefits for your health and the environment. Less exposure to harmful plastics from single use bottles and ready access to water can lead to increased hydration. When choosing a bottle, opt for a durable and high quality bottle made from stainless steel bottle or glass bottle.
Reusable Coffee Mugs
It is estimated Australians use 1 billion disposable coffee cups each year. Up to 90% of all disposable cups end up in landfill, equating to 60,000 kilograms of plastic per annum. If you love a takeaway coffee but don’t want to contribute to landfill, opt for a reusable coffee cup. Again, opt for a quality cup that is made to last, ideally you want one that’s easy to clean, dishwasher safe and if you love your coffee piping hot you may want to look for an insulated cup.
There are a range of types of reusable coffee cups available to suit your needs, glass coffee cups, insulated stainless steel coffee cups, bamboo travel cups, huskee cups made from coffee husk. Before buying a reusable coffee mug make sure its BPA free, durable and insulated if you want to keep your coffee hot for longer.
Reusable Smoothie Tumblers
If you love to hit the juice bar or grab a refreshing takeaway smoothie or bubble tea, consider pairing your reusable straw with a jar or insulated stainless steel tumbler to enjoy your beverage. Avoid single-use plastic cups are a major problem, they are used for 15 to 20 minutes and then end up in landfill taking hundreds of years to break down.
Reusable smoothie tumblers are an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic takeway cups. Typically made from durable stainless steel, they're insulated helping to keep your drink cool or hot for hours. Stainless steel is easy to clean, and will not impart flavors onto your drink.
Start Using a Lunch Box
Taking your own food with you on a daytrip, to work or school can help you to avoid being tempted by expensive takeaway lunches in plastic packaging. Taking a lunch box it will help you control your portion sizes, help you stay on budget and reduce your plastic waste. Opt for a stainless steel lunch box or bento box, glass jar or container, bamboo bento, insulated lunch bag or BPA free plastic container.
There are a variety of kid-friendly reusable lunch boxes ethically made from eco-friendly materials. They are easy to clean and dishwasher safe. Common materials used in the making of reusable lunch boxes include stainless steel, bamboo, and silicone.
Sometimes reusable options aren’t suitable, in these cases you can reduce your plastic consumption by switching to an eco-friendly option. There are an increasing number of sustainable products which are ethically produced which can help you to reduce your consumption of plastic.
Bamboo Cotton Buds
Cotton buds are one of those items that are often overlooked, however they are a huge issue, due to their small size they often end up in the ocean or loose in landfill. Switch to a reusable bud or bamboo organic cotton bud. Bamboo is a renewable source and paired with organic cotton, this option is biodegradable and compostable alternative to plastic cotton buds.
Switch to Eco-Friendly Kraft Paper Tape
Standard plastic packing tape is made from polypropylene which takes 20 – 30 years to break down. As well as being non recyclable, plastic tape and the adhesive are made with chemicals which are harmful to the environment. For those times when you need to use sticky tape, opt for a environmentally friendly option such as biodegrade, recyclable or compostable paper tape.
Switch to a Natural Eco-Friendly Reef Safe Sunscreen
Next time you take a dip in the ocean, consider the impact your sunscreen may be having. According to a 2015 study, over 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the world's coral reefs every year, causing irreparable damage. These toxins can be harmful to marine life but also harmful to you. We recommend allowing at least 10 minutes for your sunscreen to sink in before entering the water, opt for a zinc based sunscreen in recyclable packaging, sit in the shade and cover up where possible so you don’t need to use as much sunscreen.
Researchers discovered that octinoxate and oxybenzone are the major toxins found in sunscreens. Try avoid products containing these and look for an eco-friendly sunblock.
Buy Eco-Friendly Dental Floss
Traditional dental floss is typically made with nylon or other plastics and housed in a small plastic container which are usually designed to be refilled and are hard to recycle. Like plastic bottles, it takes hundreds of years for nylon to biodegrade and floss is too small to be recycled. Eco-friendly dental floss is typically made from bamboo fiber or silk thread which is all natural and biodegradable. These are plastic free natural fibers will break down in your compost or garbage. There are also a number of refillable containers available such as glass jars or stainless steel containers which are cheaper for you and better for the environment.
There are a number of varieties of floss available that are infused with peppermint oil, organic tree tea oil or activated charcoal that can act as an antibacterial agent. Other materials used to make eco-friendly dental floss include silk, corn fiber, maize straw, and cornstarch.
Try Eco-Friendly Dishcloths
Eco-friendly dishcloths are typically made from natural and sustainable materials which are biodegradable and can be washed in your dishwasher or washing machine without releasing microplastics. Regular synthetic or microfibre dishcloths can take decades to break down and leach harmful chemicals and plastics. Look for a wash cloth made from bamboo, organic cotton, natural sea sponge, cellulose wood pulp. They are perfect for mopping up spills, wiping surfaces, and for use in the bathroom, car or office. Allow to dry between uses and wash as needed. When worn out you can usually compost them or throw then out and they will naturally break down.
Use Eco-Friendly Hair Bands
Eco-friendly hairbands are ethically made using natural tree rubber and organic cotton. These biodegradable hair bands prevent hair from slipping, creasing, and snagging. Durable and non snagging, they are typically packed in 100% recyclable packaging that easily breaks down.
Switch to a Reusable Safety Razor
Each year, billions of disposable razors and razor cartridges end up in landfill. While the blades are sometimes recyclable, usually they end up in landfill as they need to be broken down into several parts to be recycled. The good news is, you can switch to a plastic free reusable safety razor. Look for a high quality metal razor made from brass allow or high quality stainless steel. They usually screw open so that you can replace the razor blades as needed. These razors are often double sided and take a standard double edge razor blade which will last around 7 shaves, so with 7 per side you will get 14 shaves per blade. They also provide a close shave and as there is only one cut to the hair follicle you are less likely to have ingrown hairs and skin aggravation from shaving.
Refrigerate Your Food in Silicone Storage Bags
Silicone storage bags are a great alternative to using plastic wrap or plastic containers, they are made from food-safe silicone. This is BPA, phthalate, latex, plastic, and petroleum-free, and won’t leach nasty chemicals into your food. Refrigerator, dishwasher and freezer safe, you can store fruit, vegetables, herbs, liquids and any type of leftover food. Silicone pouches can reduce food waste as they create an airtight seal keeping your food fresher for longer. They come in a range of colours and sizes and are great for storing soups, stews, sandwiches, and so much more.
Switch from Tea Bags to a Reusable Tea Strainer
Add some eco luxe to your tea routine with a reusable tea strainer, better for the environment and your health. Available in a range of designs to suit your brewing needs, you can opt for a strainer style or an in-cup infuser to get your perfect brew. Using a strainer helps to ensure that each cup of tea is fully infused and flavored to perfection. Loose leaf tea requires less packaging and is usually better value than tea bags, you can also mix up your own blend of tea. Several tea bag brands use plastic to seal their tea bags which is not only bag for the environment and can lead to microplastics being released into your tea!
Designed for loose leaf tea, a mesh ball strainer features an ultrafine mesh to allow leaf steeping. This releases nutrients, aroma, and flavors creating a delicious cup of tea. To make maneuverability easy, it has a hinge and clasp system plus a stylish drip tray for catching the used loose tea.
Use a Bar Soap with Soap Saver Bag
A great way to make the most of your soap bar is to use to a soap saver bag for storage. As an attractive addition to your bathroom, the soap saver bag offers mild exfoliation to your skin and a rich lather and deep cleanse. Have a look at your favourite eco store online for a range of soap savers.
Made out of sisal, hemp, cotton or crochet fabric, a natural and sustainable fibre that is safe for your skin and environment. Besides providing a rich lather, the bag also aids in removing dead and can improve circulation while acting as a gentle scrubber. You can use a on your face, shoulders, arms, and the rest of the body.
In addition to reducing and reusing items, you can also get creative and look for ways to repurpose or recycle things around the house. You could use eggshells to grow seedlings, use an old toothbrush to scrub tiles or as a fingernail brush, you can use an old jar as a vase or food storage container. We have become very used to throwing things away when we are done with them, but next time you head for the bin, stop and think if you can recycle.
You can also head to an op shop to donate your things, or are looking for a new pair of jeans. You can use worn out towels, sheets and t-shirts to make cleaning rags, use as kitchen cleaning cloths, make handkerchiefs. Being eco-friendly really is a way of thinking about how we can use less and reuse more.
This goes hand in hand with recycling, instead of throwing something away, think about if or how it could be repaired. If you have a favourite pair of shoes that are worn out, see if you can get them resoled. If you have holes in your socks or other clothes, can you fix them with sewing or turn them into something else. When you start thinking this way, you will start to realise how many things you just threw out you could have saved.
Where possible consider getting a worm farm or compost so that nothing goes to waste. A huge amount of food scraps end up in landfill, they have the power to create amazing fertilizer for your garden and feed thousands of tiny worms and good bacteria. For more info on staring a compost or worm farm check out our blog here.
We hope you found some useful tips in our blog and good luck on your plastic free journey. For more great eco friendly products have a look at our online eco store. To find the best zero waste store online that sells eco products online, search online using suitable keywords.