Weaning Myself from Single-Use Plastics

Avoiding Single-Use Plastic

New years bring new resolutions, and while I made this one a couple of months ago, now seems like a good time to talk about it. I’m going to prioritize the replacement of consumer products that utilize single-use plastic in their design and packaging throughout my household. I expect it to be a challenge, but every selection I make will be a positive step forward. Additionally, beyond simple consumption choices, I also plan to advocate for changing the product offerings and behaviors of vendors I patronize.

It is not hyperbolic to say that humanity has a problem with plastic. In little more than a century, we’ve managed to clog our landfills, choke our oceans, and contaminate our food chain. Recycling efforts have not been effective, and in the United States we have mitigated our insatiable consumption of the material by shipping the waste overseas. China — who has purchased half of our excess plastic — recently announced they would no longer accept those shipments, creating chaos for local recycling programs.

What to do? There are obvious choices that can be made immediately, and although avoiding plastic is harder than embracing it, I believe it is a matter of preference and not necessity. There is no reason why our preference for non-plastic packaging can’t radically change our waste profile. Perhaps the easiest choice I made was purchasing a safety razor instead of buying plastic disposable razors. Slightly more difficult was finding laundry and dishwasher detergent that didn’t use plastic packaging. Instead of using bottled water I have a Brita pitcher (still plastic but not single-use), and when I do want seltzer I drink from aluminum, which is more effectively recycled. Each time I go to the store I prioritize the packaging of products that I select for purchase.

In little more than a century, we've managed to clog our landfills, choke our oceans, and contaminate our food chain. Click To Tweet

Advocacy groups are organizing information and actions against the use of plastics. Dame Ellen MacArthur — famed British yachtswoman — is focusing her foundation on the achievement of a circular economy that prevents plastics from escaping the consumption cycle. Her website offers many resources including news stories, books, case studies, and programs to achieve an economy without plastic waste. At a more local level, A Plastic Planet advocates for a plastic-free aisle in your local grocery store, giving consumers an easy way to identify products that reduce packaging materials and harmful waste. This is one objective I plan to ask for at my local grocery stores this year (looking at you, Whole Foods.)

Plastic is convenient, but we can no longer deny that it harms our environment and our food chain. The risk/reward ratio is simply not favorable. The transition away from single-use plastic may be challenging, but it will not be traumatic. All we need to do it make conscious choices each day.