Plastic, plastic, everywhere. It’s a key component of everyday life for billions of people around the world. But while the material has made life convenient for humans, it’s wreaked havoc on marine life.
A study from the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that as much as 8 million metric tons of plastics, spilled out from landfills or littered on beaches, enters the world’s oceans each year. Researchers estimate that between 140 to 170 metric tons of plastic are littered in oceans.
Plastic components are found in 60 percent of all seabirds and almost all sea turtle species, according to the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Ocean Conservancy. Most of those animals mistake plastic for food, and it can take hundreds of years to decompose. Once it’s out there, it has to be manually removed, making it a crisis of colossal proportion.
It’s in our clothing, food packaging, vehicles, beauty products, technology, appliances, furniture, cleaning products and more—a large portion of consumer goods rely on plastic in some way, and its prevalence has fueled its spread into every wildlife ecosystem in the world.
Stopping the pileup from continuing can start at home. Here are 20 ways to reduce plastic use:
1. Buy products packaged in boxes instead of plastic bottles.
Everyday products, such as laundry detergents and even assorted beverages, come in cardboard instead of plastic. Cardboard is easier to recycle, and it decomposes faster.
2. Buy in bulk.
A one-gallon jug of water uses less plastic than the eight 16-ounce bottles needed for the same volume of water. Generally speaking, larger containers are a more efficient use of plastic. They’re also more difficult to litter with or lose track of because of their sheer size.
3. Downsize your plastic bags.
Why use a large sandwich bag for lunch when a small bag will suffice? As many as 75 percent of Americans regularly use plastic bags that are too large for what’s actually in them, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
4. Better yet, don’t use a plastic bag at all.
Plenty of alternative, more eco-friendly options are available. Stainless steel lunch boxes, paper wraps and Tupperware help reduce pollution from disposable plastic.
5. Skip the plastic straws.
Instead, try reusable bamboo or stainless steel drinking straws available at a growing number of grocery stores and online.
6. Get a water filter.
Reduce bottled water use at home by drinking from the tap. Not only does drinking filtered tap water help cut plastic bottle use, it reduces the chances of consuming Bisphenol A (BPA), a toxic chemical found in plastic containers.
7. Move on from disposable razors.
Look for razors that only require a cartridge blade replacement instead of an entirely disposable razor. Using straight razors, while less common, can also reduce waste.
8. Use alternatives to plastic for food storage.
Instead of plastic wraps and baggies, use jars or glass containers.
9. Use your own grocery bags.
Hate coming home from the grocery store with a bunch of plastic bags? Bringing reusable bags (available at some grocers for $1), can cut back on that waste.
10. Use less plastic bags in garbage cans.
Using one large garbage bag in which all waste from different trash cans around the house can be combined and collectively disposed of is one of the most efficient ways to cut back on plastic bag use.
11. Recycle plastic bottles.
Most Clark County residents can separate and leave their bottles at the curb for the Republic Services trash-collecting company. You can also drop the bottles off at Republic Services’ Recycle Station at 333 W. Gowan Road in North Las Vegas, or use UNLV’s drive-up drop-off station on the southeast corner of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street.
12. Buy groceries that don’t come wrapped in plastic.
Many farmers markets or natural food stores provide groceries wrapped only in paper.
13. Refill printer cartridges.
Most cartridges don’t need to be completely replaced until after several uses.
14. Ditch the chewing gum.
Nearly all mainstream brands of commercialized chewing gum are made of a flexible plastic.
15. Hand wash dishes without plastic.
Water, soap and a soft towel or cloth reduces plastic use from dishwashing detergent tabs, plastic scrubbers and synthetic sponges.
16. Leave out the plastic for personal cleaning.
Use bar soap and bar shampoo instead of liquid soap dispensed in plastic containers.
17. Get rid of disposable plastic writing utensils.
Refillable fountain pens are more eco-friendly than their disposable plastic pen counterparts.
18. Use pet toys made from natural sources instead of plastic.
Other popular materials include cardboard, wood, wool, leather, bamboo and coconut.
19. Use digital sources for music and entertainment.
Instead of CDs, DVDs and hard copies of video games, order the digital version through streaming services on mobile phones or via Smart TVs.
20. Carry a reusable water bottle that’s not made of plastic.
Hydro Flask, for example, is one such brand of non-plastic, thermally controlled water containers to gain popularity in recent years. Thermos and Eco Vessel have long been known for doing the same. None of the above options uses plastic or contributes to waste.