How To Reduce Your Single-Use Plastic Pollution

Words: Jess Spiro

Plastic pollution is a problem that has been growing at a meteoric pace. We are so used to using plastic in our everyday lives that we barely even take notice how wasteful we are. That, however, is a trend that can no longer continue to go unchecked.

So what exactly is plastic pollution?

The term ‘single-use plastic’ is kind of self-explanatory, but in case you’ve been living under a rock, it refers to an item made of plastic, which is used once before it is thrown away. If you’ve been living under an even bigger rock, these plastics are polluting our earth more than ever before.

Plastic Pollution

Should you be reducing your plastic pollution?

The short answer? Absolutely. If you’re a reasonable person who engages with and pays attention to the world around you, then you need to be making sure you’re doing all you can to eliminate single-use plastics from your life. These refer to lids on disposable coffee cups, plastic cutlery, shopping bags, and so on. They are by no means luxury or necessary items, and to be honest, there is nothing chic about a plastic shopping bag. So, if you want to make a positive impact on the earth, here’s how to help limit plastic pollution.

Reduce Plastic Pollution & Re-Use Shoppings Bags Instead

The most important thing to remember here is to take them with you! Get into the habit of hanging your non-plastic shopping bags on the back of your door once you’ve used them, so that you take them with you when you get into the car again. These bags are so handy, look much nicer than plastic and are so much stronger and sturdier.

Cut Out the Plastic Cutlery

This one should be pretty self-explanatory, but think about the duration of a meal that would require you to use plastic cutlery. It’s maybe 15 minutes? And then what, you chuck the cutlery and it ends up in landfill or worse, in the ocean? If your schedule requires you to eat-on-the-go a lot and you have to use cutlery, just go pick up your own little picnic-style set and keep it on you – camping shops have great options. If you work in an office and keep using plastic cutlery, there is actually no excuse. Bring a decent set from home and wash it after every meal.

Revive The Tupperware

Polystyrene is mostly non-recyclable, and even when it is recyclable, less than 10% of it will be recycled. Just skip the plastic containers where you can. As with the cutlery, if you’re picking up lunch every day and can’t sit down, then either take in your own lunchbox or make sure the establishment is using recyclable containers.

Use a Reusable Coffee Cup

There is no excuse for using a single-use coffee cup every day, seriously. If you have your spot near work, simply pop down with your own mug. Some coffee shops will even take a couple of bucks off your order if you use your own mug. There are also some great reusable coffee cup options, such as the Ecoffee Cup, so just find one you like and use it all the time. Ecoffee Cups are available from Yuppiechef or directly from Ecoffee.


Skip Unnecessary Things that Contribute to Plastic Pollution

You can also make a small change by forgoing a plastic lid on your coffee cup, if you know you won’t be spilling it anywhere, then don’t use the plastic. Some coffee shops offer a little plastic plug to stop your coffee spilling – so unnecessary, skip those too.

Don’t be afraid to ask your barista if the to-go cups and lids are biodegradable. If they aren’t, point them in the direction of companies that stock them.

Some examples of these biodegradable items include paper coffee cups lined with PLA, clear cups and containers made from PLA (polylactic acid), and takeaway containers, plates and bowls made from Bagasse (sugar cane). Polylactic acid made from plant starches, is a renewable source and BPA-free to boot. Bagasse is the residue left behind when the juice is extracted from the sugar cane. Both of these renewable sources are non-toxic and 100% biodegradable and compostable.

Forgo or Switch up Your Straw

Plastic straws are so passé, and annoyingly, even some paper straws are unrecyclable because they are lined with a plastic film. The reusable options such as glass and bamboo straws, are made from renewable, ethical sources. Over 500 million straws are used across the world every day and not all recycling systems can actually process them, so this really is one of the most fleeting contributors to plastic pollution.

Switch your Toothbrush

Although you don’t use a toothbrush just once, it’s still a plastic product that’s going to end up in a landfill. There are bamboo toothbrushes available at selected health stores, which are a great alternative to plastic ones.

Use a Reusable Water Bottle

This is a no-brainer. Especially if you’re the still water type of person, there is no reason you should be buying bottled water every day. Drinking out of plastic isn’t great for you, so why not pick up a fancy glass bottle and keep it topped up with tap water. You can even buy a water filter and keep it in the fridge, so that you always have cold, filtered water on hand. If you’re into sparkling water, invest in a Soda Stream. Seriously, having sparkling water on tap will change your life and make a huge difference to plastic pollution.


What else can you do to reduce plastic pollution?

Spread the word – encourage your coffee buddy and those around to practice better habits.

Start from the ground up – teach a child you know about going without a straw/bag, etc.

Say no to extra plastics – supermarkets often pack items into extra plastic bags before putting them into your grocery bags, discourage this practice where possible.

Shop consciously – look at the brands you are buying and what packaging is being used.

Recycle wherever you can! Check these recycling companies in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

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