Ways that each of us can reduce our use of plastic

There are many ways we can reduce our use of plastic, especially single-use plastic:

Don’t ever litter. This is the kind of suffering and death that discarded plastic can cause.


Reduce our use of plastic by reusing plastic items that are safe to reuse, like plastic bags. Most plastic containers have a number from 1 to 7 on the bottom.  2, 4, and 5 are the types that are relatively safe to reuse, the rest are not.

Reduce our use of plastic by saying NO to:

  • Products packaged in plastic, when possible. Choose products that are in aluminum, glass or paper/cardboard, which are made of natural substances that break down.
  • Plastic knives, forks, and spoons – use metal or bamboo cutlery instead.  Carry your own with you so you will have them available whenever you need them.
  • Take-out foods that come in plastic containers (especially Styrofoam); bring your own re-usable containers and request the restaurant use them instead.
  • The small plastic toys that some fast food places give away.
  • Plastic straws. It is estimated that, worldwide, McDonalds alone uses approximately 60 million drinking straws every day.
  • Balloons, or at least do not release them into the air where they can get blown into the ocean. Dispose of them properly after you no longer want them.
  • Plastic carryout bags – bring along your own cloth bag, or at least ask for a paper bag instead. (Paper bags come from renewable sources, are biodegradable, re-useable, and recyclable. They contain no toxic chemicals.) And place your fruit and vegetables directly into your shopping cart, instead of into plastic bags. Worldwide, shoppers use over one million bags every minute. Even bags put in the garbage can end up in the ocean because they can easily escape from the landfills where the garbage gets dumped and then can get blown into waterways.
  • Plastic sandwich bags.  Instead use re-usable plastic containers.  Invest a little bit of money up front in washable containers and you’ll save a lot in the long run, and save wildlife while you’re at it.
  • Bottled water – use a refillable bottle instead and fill it up with tap water or, if safe tap water is not available, with water from large reusable purified water containers.  And bring your own cup or mug when you order drinks.  If you carry a stainless steel travel mug or water bottle, you can use it for coffee and other drinks as well. Beside the plastic lid and plastic straw, paper cups are lined with a plastic coating.
  • Sodas, juices, and all other plastic-bottled beverages. Eat fresh fruit or drink water instead of buying juice or soda.  Tetra Packs are also considered plastic.
  • Beverages in aluminum cans that come with a plastic 6-pack holder.  And if you find a 6-pack holder, cut all the loops before you disposed of it.
  • Canned beverages that come with plastic 6-pack holders.  And if you find a 6-pack holder, make sure you cut all the loops open before you dispose of it.
  • The little plastic “table” in the middle of a pizza box when you are ordering pizza.
  • Clothes made from plastic (also known as synthetic) materials, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, lycra, ans spanex. Synthetic clothes release hundreds of tiny plastic fibers every time they are washed.  The fibers get carried with the wash water onto beaches or into the oceans where they can be ingested by ocean organisms.
  • Bubble gum.  Almost all chewing gum is made from plastic.
  • Bread that comes in a plastic bag.  Buy fresh bread that comes in either paper bags or no bags.
  • Frozen convenience foods.  The more we limit our consumption of frozen convenience foods, not only do we use less plastic, we will also be more healthy. 
  • If you do nothing else, try to steer clear of Polyvinyl Chloride (#3 PVC), Polystyrene (#6 PS), & Polycarbonate (#7 Other).  PVC is found in many, many products and causes a whole host of environmental problems. See problems of PVC for more information. PS contains styrene, which is toxic to the brain and nervous system. PC contains BPA.  Read more about BPA here. If you must use plastic, make sure it’s not #3, #6, or #7 polycarbonate. (Note: #7 is a catch-all for many types of plastic that doesn’t fit into the first six categories. Biodegradable plastic is also labeled #7. So when in doubt, ask.)

Reduce our use of plastic by:

Using beeswax cloth and glass or metal containers for storing food.  You can seal bowls with wax-coated cloths, such as those from Abeego or Bee’s Wrap.

Emptying berries or other fruit or vegetables that come in a plastic basket or container into your own container and before leaving the store, leave the plastic basket behind.  If enough of us do this, perhaps merchants will think about getting their suppliers to supply the produce in a more environmentally friendly way.

Bringing your own container for meat and prepared foods.  The vendor can weigh the container and deduct the weight.  Just ask.

Buying from bulk bins as of often as possible and bring your own reusable bags and containers to the store to use for the bulk foods you are buying.  There are various ways that the stores can deduct the container weight.  Ask at your store. Or ask the store to provide paper bags for their bulk food.

Shopping at your local farmers market or stand and bring along your own bags or containers for the produce you buy.  Normally the fruits and vegetables bought directly from farmers do not have those little plastic stickers on them.  

Choosing milk in returnable glass bottles, if available. All cardboard milk containers are coated inside and out with plastic, not wax.

Requesting plastic-free gifts for yourself.

Requesting zero plastic packaging when ordering online.  When this doesn’t work, send back unwanted plastic packaging with a letter of explanation.

Switching to a wooden-handled tooth brush.

Other ways to help:

If you see plastic on the beach or near the ocean, pick it up and dispose of it properly.  You just might be saving the life of an animal like the Laysan Albatross.

Make sure rubbish doesn’t get blown away by the wind.  This is the cause of a surprisingly large amount of plastic litter. That means always closing bin lids and tying bags of garbage properly.

Encourage other people to reduce their use of plastic.

Featured image by Terry McCormac

Other Photos: Michelle Mech, Chris Jordan

Several of these action were source from:  www.myplasticfreelife.com/plasticfreeguide