33 TIPS TO REDUCE PLASTIC USE
Since its invention in 1907, humans have produced 7.8 billion metric tonnes of plastic — that’s more than one tonne of plastic for every single person alive today. Alarmingly plastic production continues to grow at a rapid rate year on year. In 2015, 381,000 million metric tonnes of plastic was produced, which is up 200-fold since the 1950s. If current trends continue, by 2050 this figure could be north of 1.8 billion tonnes. Yikes! And the biggest culprit? You guessed it packaging, especially that of the single use kind. Last year, we as a collective species used a lot of the stuff, as is evidenced in the infographic below.
What’s even more incredible is that plastic food wrappers / packaging and takeaway containers are actually the worst contributors by weight, but they don’t even appear on this list as they are harder to quantify in unit numbers. Check out your yearly plastic footprint, with our plastic usage calculator below.
KELP’S PLASTIC FOOTPRINT CALCULATOR
Although there are lots of solutions out there in reducing the plastic problem, from clean up projects to new innovative plastic alternatives, reducing consumption is the easiest way that each and every one of us can impact the problem. See for yourself – reduce some of your consumption numbers in our plastic footprint calculator and see how dramatically you can reduce your plastic footprint. But hang on, how can we impact plastic production when we don’t control what a company packages their products in? Well that’s pretty simple! Production is a response to demand. Less demand. Less production. Less plastic pollution. You beauty! Changing consumer behaviour also has the added benefit of drawing attention of different levels of government, which can result in changes to legislation. As we saw with Hobart’s rule to ban single use plastic.
So… where do I start? This can be a daunting task, as although there are increasingly more and more alternatives to plastic packaged products it still requires a bit of thought and in some instances behavioural change. Well never fear, Kelp is here. Read on for our 33 easy tips on how you can reduce plastic use.
ON THE GO
1. DON’T SKIP OUT THE DOOR WITHOUT YOUR COFFEE CUP
As mentioned earlier, 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. It’s easy to see why as we all love our coffee fix on the way to work. We’d never suggest giving up your morning brew (the Kelp team couldn’t function with a couple of cuppas), but instead get your drink to go in your very own mug. Reusable, renewable and usually cheaper! Find your local cafe that offers discounts when you BYO mug. Our fave green cups are from Frank Green founded in Melbourne. We love this Aussie initiative. We even have our very own in Kelp Green!
2. STOP THE BOTTLED WATER
The average American consumes 167 plastic water bottles each year, but only recycles 25%. That’s nearly a bottle every second day! An easy first step in reducing your plastic bottle usage is to ditch the bottled water. Not only is bottled water no better or healthier than tap water, a single bottle of water may contain dozens or possibly even thousands of microscopic plastic particles. Yuck! If that doesn’t sway you maybe saving some cash will. Long life bottles may cost a little up front but very soon pay themselves off once you stop buying the bottled waters. One of our favs is Senda’s stainless steel bottle. Fill it up when you get home and put it in the fridge so that it’s nice and chilled for the next morning. Creating this habit is important so that it becomes as ingrained as grabbing your car keys on the way out in the morning!
3. CHOOSE A BAG YOU’LL LOVE FOREVER
A plastic bag can take 1,000 years to breakdown. We know how damaging these bad boys are and how easily we can make the switch. Whilst it was great to see legislation change in Australia in 2018, banning single use plastic bags (with many similar actions across the world in recent years) the substitute in most instances is more durable plastic ‘bags for life’. Whilst these bags have been shown to reduce plastic consumption, these bags need to be used at least 12 times for them to actually reduce plastic usage vs. just using normal single use bags (due to the extra plastic used to make them). Unfortunately in many instances these bags are used much like single use bags, which of course only makes the issue worse.
Before you go running for the cotton or calico bag, think again. Whilst preventing plastic waste, when factoring in the total environmental impact cotton bags are not as green as you might think. In fact organic cotton tote bags have a huge environmental impact, according to a report by Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food, and need to be reused thousands of times to have the same environmental footprint as a lightweight plastic bag (due to the amount of water and resources required to manufacture them).
So what they hell!? I need to carry my avocados and quinoa in something! The solution is simple. Whatever bag you choose, reuse it. Over, and over and over again. The more times you can use a bag, whether it be a long life plastic bag, nylon, calico, or whatever, the better for the planet. And when those plastic bags are getting at the end of their life, don’t throw them out straight away, use them as bin liner to give them one last usage in substitute of a virgin plastic bag.
4. CHANGE UP YOUR SNACKS
You don’t have to give up your favourite snacks! You can make your own. Making muesli bars, crackers, trail mix, popcorn etc. is an easy and healthy alternative to buying on the go. Not only will you save money you’ll forfeit the wrappers! Whilst we were initially put off by the time and effort to create this stuff, it’s actually surprisingly quicker and easier than you think. If you want to dip your toe in the water, one of our favourite recipes to start you off is this great granola bar recipe from the Zero Waste Chef.
5. EAT IN AT YOUR FAV CAFE
Have your cake and eat it too! Sit down and enjoy that slice. Not only will you reduce your plastic footprint you’ll also be able to eat more mindfully. Taking the time to sit down and eat or drink is better for your health too.
6. SAY GOODBYE TO STRAWS
We’ve seen the awful images of sea turtles being choked by plastic straws. This was more than enough for us to say no more to the straw. If you’re worried about those lipstick red lips on the rim of your glass, invest in a bamboo or metal straw, it’s a great way to help fight the plague of single-use straws. Don’t be bashful keep it in your bag and whip it out when you need it, no one is ever going to judge you for doing your bit for the planet. The Other Straw is a Melbourne startup making eco-friendly, organic and zero waste straw, which are a great alternative to the single-use equivalent.
7. CARRY REUSABLE UTENSILS
BYO is in and we’re getting around it! You can get really funky cutlery travel sets so you never have to go with plastic again! Pop em in your bag with that bamboo straw and you can get your food to go with a clear conscience.
8. FRUIT & VEG HAVE THEIR OWN WRAPPERS, USE THEM
In some flawed attempt at convenience a lot of supermarkets now offer fruit and veg pre-chopped, pre-segmented, pre-god-knows-what! Don’t buy it. Bananas, apples, mandarins are food built for the go. For everything else, washing and peeling it ourselves, ain’t that hard. France recently introduced a ban on plastics in produce stores. Hopefully we need not follow suit in Australia, as if we stop using or buy plastic wrapped fruit and veg, supermarkets will stop stocking them.
9. GROW YOUR OWN
Whilst we’re talking fruit and veg, have you ever tried growing your own? Not only will you reduce all packaging and CO2 used to transport the ingredients to stores, you’ll also reap the benefits of fresh and beautiful fruit and veg. Trust us, they taste better when you grow them yourself!
10. TAKE YOUR OWN CONTAINERS TO THE SHOPS
Meats and dairy are tricky to transport. But why not plan ahead and bring your own containers to the deli? Bring your own container to transport your goodies, to avoid the single use plastic bags, tap or containers they’d otherwise be packed in. Reusable containers are better to preserve your produce too!
11. SWAP THE CLING FILM FOR BEESWAX WRAPS
Cling film has held its place in our homes for generations. Whilst it’s so easy to use, it’s also incredibly wasteful. At your next BBQ bring that salad wrapped in a reusable wax wrap from Wrappa. You’ll be the talk of the BBQ, just don’t forget to take your beeswax wrap home! Also investing in some good quality containers which are freezer, dishwasher and microwave safe for storing leftovers is a good move too.
12. GET TO THE FARMERS MARKETS
Buying fresh produce from local markets not only reduces your plastic consumption but keeps profit local too! Support the reduction of plastic by also bringing your own containers to transport delicate produce like berries.
13. BUY IN BULK
Bulk food stores are making waves in the plastic-free community. From flour to salt, to nuts to detergents, bulk food stores provide a great way to get exactly what you need, be that a few grams or several kilos. Again these stores often need you to bring your own containers or often provide plastic free alternative packaging like brown paper bags and glass jars. The Kelp team is regularly at The Source Bulkfoods, plastic-free store, loading up on cashews or maybe the odd chocolate covered goji berry (in bulk of course).
14. BYO CONTAINER TO GET YOUR TAKEAWAY FIX
Next time you duck into the food court to grab a bite to eat (lentil dhal with naan thanks) plan ahead and bring your own takeaway container. You’ll save the plastic and you might even score a discount in the process!
15. BUY REFILLS, NOT PACKAGING
Rather than buying a new product each time, start buying refills. Fill your olive oil at the bulk store or farmers market. Purchase freshly ground nut butter, honey and dips from delis and health stores. Flours, grains and pasta can also be purchased without packaging, not only is it cheaper you’re not contributing to waste.
16. EAT YOUR PACKAGING
Guilt-free packaging for a true moment of joy. Grab yourself an ice cream and don’t hold back on the waffle cone. It’s a truly tasty swap!
17. RETURN CONTAINERS TO STORES
When you absolutely can’t avoid going plastic-free try to return your containers to stores so they can be reused. Perishables such as berries and cherry tomatoes often come in containers. When you can return them and see if they can be reused!
18. THE BREAD’S IN THE BAG
There’s nothing better than a fresh loaf! Invest in a bread bag to keep your loaf nice and toasty. When you caught short and need that Sourdough fix with no bread bag in sight, opt for a paper bag instead of plastic!
19. LIKE CHEESE? BUY LOTS OF IT
Hard cheeses often need no packing, as in many cases they have their own natural wrapping. And if kept correctly they stay fresh refrigerated a lot longer than you’d originally think. Shop at your local deli and BYO your own container.
20. MAKE YOUR OWN DRINKS
Almond milk, kombucha, cola. You name it there’s a recipe out there. Make them in bulk and reap the benefits of your favourite drink, in a cheaper more sustainable way.
21. DITCH THE BEADS
Microbeads are plastic beads put into skincare to create artificial exfoliants. They don’t dissolve or degrade and no surprise these plastic beads have huge repercussions for our marine wildlife. Not to mention the additional hassle they cause water treatment plants. Be sure you avoid any products with Polyethylene listed as an ingredient. Use a natural exfoliant such as our clay mask that will exfoliate as it dries.
22. GO OLD SCHOOL, USE A CAKE OF SOAP
Avoiding plastic pumps, bottles and refill bottles reduces loads of plastic from your plastic footprint! Not only is bar soap usually a lot cheaper it stores well so you can always ensure you’ve got plenty on hand. Contrary to popular belief, hand soap is actually more hygienic as it is continually rinsed whereas germs can accumulate on the pump.
23. TRY PLASTIC FREE SHAMPOO
24. A BAMBOO TOOTHBRUSH, YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND
In Australia, over 30 million toothbrushes are used and disposed of by Australians each year, amounting to approximately 1,000 tonnes of landfill each year. A bamboo toothbrush like those at Toothcrush is a great way to reduce your plastic consumption, and is an easy swap to make. Although the bristles are still made of nylon, overall they dramatically reduce the amount of plastic used per brush.
25. WHILST YOU’RE CHANGING UP YOUR TOOTH BRUSHING GAME
Traditional toothpaste is out, toothpaste chews are in! More than 1 billion plastic toothpaste tubes are thrown out each year, with harsh chemical residues. A plastic free alternative is to order bites which come in a convenient subscription service.
26. CONSIDER YOUR HAIR REMOVAL
The plastic in disposable razors isn’t recyclable and doesn’t biodegrade. Make the swap to a metal razor. They are much more durable in the long run, and your skin will thank you too!
27. TRY PLASTIC-FREE FEMININE HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Tampons wrapped in plastic? Not necessary! Consider a menstrual cup, it’s a swap for the long term that means you’ll save years of plastic, plus saving a whooping $4,000 over a lifetime.
28. CONSIDER YOUR LOO ROLL
Toilet paper wrapped in plastic? We say no! There are plenty of great alternatives out there, but we love Who Gives A Crap that use recycled paper and wrap it in paper instead of plastic! Hate the awkward walk from the store carrying your toilet roll? They’ve thought of that too, and you can order online and buy in bulk direct to your door! Not to mention the company gives 50% of its profits to developing countries to build toilets.
29. TRY SOLID DEODORANT
A natural alternative to try is solid deodorant. Natural deodorants work to neutralise odours so you can naturally perspire.
30. CLOTH NAPPIES ARE ANOTHER OPTION
3.75 million disposable nappies are used each day in Australia and New Zealand. A bub and environment friendly alternative is to make the switch to a more sustainable alternative, cloth nappies or reusable washable nappies are a great choice.
31. RECYCLE YOUR OLD PHONE
32. USE IT OR LOSE IT
If you’re not using *(insert thing here) find someone who will! If it ain’t broken, recycle. Give your old clothes to clothing drives, old toys to toy libraries and old books to a friend. Holding onto something that might spark joy in someone else is a waste. We hear you Kondo! You’ll save someone else purchasing something and you’ll save your items from ending up in landfill!
33. SPREAD THE WORD
Tell others how they can reduce single use plastics! Share your tips and encourage others to do the same. The plastic problem is a global issue, and guess what? It will take a global effort to fix it. Share tips, articles and speak up!
PLASTIC FREE JULY
In honour of a cause we can really get behind we’re hosting a giveaway this month! Plastic Free July is a global movement to refuse single-use plastics. To win a Kelp & Co. Seaweed Clay Mask – jump over to our Instagram. We’re hiding seven jars across our website, find them in order to win yourself a Kelp & Co. Face Mask. Australian residents only and must be following @kelpandco on Insta. Competition closes 26/07/2019.