With this blog, I want to share my journey and experience with plastic. How I have been trying to reduce the consumption of plastic in my day-to-day life. It isn’t that I have reached the level of perfection where I have no single plastic item in my house or I don’t purchase anything made of plastic. That is certainly not possible because plastic is such a widely used material, that it may not be feasible for us to completely do away with it.
But what we can do is- try to avoid it whenever we can AND try to replace it with more sustainable alternatives whenever possible.
So, we have two categories of plastic to deal with-
1. Things made up of plastic,
2. Plastic packaging
I am going to share very easy and simple ways you can make a sustainable switch. I have shared my personal experiences, tips, mentioned alternative products, named some amazing brands, and some creative ways to deal with plastic. I hope to inspire you to try these ways and begin saying bye-bye to some plastic.
Let’s send less plastic to the landfills, rivers, oceans, stomach of animals and into our own bodies.
Carrying your own shopping bag
The first, the foremost and the most basic- say no to plastic bags/ polythene. I see people purchasing a packet of chips or a loaf of bread and asking for polythene to carry it, from a store next door.
Please do not ask for a polybag or just refuse to take one even if the shopkeeper offers, whenever you are buying something that you can easily carry just like that.
And most importantly- whenever you go groceries, take your own bag. It may sound small but its impact is bigger than we think. Be it a jute bag, cloth bag, or even if its a big plastic bag that you have saved from your previous shopping trips or whatever is already present at your home. Carry it. Just don’t hoard more polybags at your home.
Carry small bags separately for groceries
Also, if you shop for fruits and vegetable from a store where they have a take-out plastic bag roll at each counter to fill it with and later weigh at the counter OR If you purchase loose rice/ lentils/ flour from the local stores- do not throw away all those plastic bags. Keep it safe back in your shopping bag and use the same bags the next time too! Or just use small cloth bags for the same (you can make some from your old clothes if you want to get creative). Remember, the aim is to not take any new plastic bags.
What I like to do / What you can do-
- I keep a bag tied to my main door handle so that I never forget to carry it while going out.
- I keep a bigger bag handy near the door (for bigger shopping). Even if I may need the bigger bag at that time, that smaller bag tied to the door will remind me of it!
- I keep one bag ready in my car/ scooter /bike as well. I always keep one in my office bag too. I shop for groceries mostly on my way back home from the office. This way I am never without my own bag for shopping.
No more eating in plastic
As plastic items have turned to be one of the cheapest available in the market, we have ended up consuming way it way more than we require. In some cases, plastics are not even advisable, and better options already existed. But just because of the low price tag and maybe the various plastics offer, we choose plastic. One such case is plastic cutlery and food storage containers
Studies have found that plastic leaches out chemicals in our food and water. Even though single exposures to a specific chemical in plastic are small, if they occur repeatedly over long periods of time, their effects may add up, leading to a variety of adverse health outcomes down the road. Furthermore, and most importantly, we are exposed to many chemicals simultaneously (i.e., chemical mixtures) that may have additive adverse effects. These chemicals are known to interrupt the reproductive system and the proper functioning of our endocrine system (responsible for producing hormones). Read more here.
Hence, the usage of plastic, in this case, is more of a health concern along with the environmental one. So, switch to the materials we have been using for decades- iron, steel, ceramic. Not only are these more durable, but these materials are recycled and reused way more often than plastic.
And yes, remember to not simply toss out all your plastic cutlery in the garbage now, but try to use it in other ways. We have to make use of it until the end of its life. The key is to not buy any more plastic cutlery/ storage container/ cookware. Also, why buy in excess at all? We don’t really need 5 Dinner sets, 30 plates, and 50 spoons at our home. Just buy what you need, and while being more cautious and considerate towards your health and the environment.
Watch the delivery food coming in plastic containers
Avoid ordering food that coming in disposable plastic containers too. Those containers are made up of even cheaper quality of plastics (as it is for single use only). Hot food stored in those containers breaks the chemical bonds of the plastic that leaches into your food. Prefer ordering food that comes in cardboard, or wrapped in paper or just dine outside.
What I have been doing/ What you can do too-
- I have not purchased any new plastic items for my kitchen in months. I have two steel plates, 4 steel bowls and glasses, 4 spoons, 4 forks, and 2 knives. And all other cookware is of iron.
- I also purchased bowls and easy-to-carry cutlery made of bamboo wood from BareNecessaties India. And I think it is an amazing alternative too.
- I prefer ordering food that comes without plastic containers- like wraps, donuts, burgers, sandwiches coming in paper/cardboard boxes.
- I also reused the old plastic containers from food delivery. I use them to store things other than food and save money separately purchasing storage containers.
Look out for other plastic items at your home
Take a tour of your whole house and make a note of things that are made of plastic. You would be surprised to see how much plastic is being produced and consumed in our everyday life. While we may not have an alternative to each plastic item, I made another list of items for which I can easily use better substitutes instead. I am also mentioning some brands so that you can easily find the kind of products that I am talking about.
Here’s my list of Before || After items with which I started my journey to shun plastic-
- Plastic Fridge Bottle || Purchased a glass and copper bottle
- Food like honey, jams, butter, spreads coming in plastic containers || Looking for bigger size of these items or other brands that come in glass containers
- My shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facewash in plastic bottle || Using soap bars instead ( Check the brand Earthrhythm and Vilvah. I would also recommend checking the @thebeautybutter.co on Instagram for some amazing handmade soap bars if you think bars are ‘uncool’)
- Plastic toothbrush || Using a bamboo toothbrush ( Check the brand BareNecessaties )
- Plastic Comb and hair ties || Using a wooden comb and hair ties made up of recycled cloth ( Check the brand BareNecessaties and @ohscrapmadras on Instagram )
- Other essentials like moisturizer, cleansing oil/balm, serums, lip balm, deodorant in plastic containers || Purchasing from brands that use more sustainable (reusable/ recyclable) packaging like glass/aluminum. (Check Earthrhythm, Vilvah, Suganda )
Wait! Don’t rush and throw all the plastic at your home
“Ok! We got it. No more new plastic. But what about the stuff that we already have in our house? ”
Now after knowing that we have alternatives to many items at our home, let’s control our excitement a little and not throw away all the plastic items right away.
The first way to look at the existing plastic should be- use it / upcycle it/ make something else out of it. Throwing away all the existing plastic would defy the whole purpose of not letting it end up in waste. So be creative, think how can you use things, and stop them from going in our landfills and oceans.
Some of the things that I have done –
- I wanted to purchase a toothbrush, toothpaste holder to hang alongside my sink. So instead of purchasing a new one, I used an empty cardboard box (you may use any thin/thick cardboard box as toothpaste and a toothbrush won’t weigh much) cut one opening, and pasted it on my wall.
- I was looking for a jewelry organizer for a long time. A few weeks ago I bought the Karachi Bakery biscuits (was trying to choose as it was in a cardboard packaging, but then…) and saw that the inner tray in which the biscuits were placed was made of plastic had small compartments in it. So I washed it and turned it into a jewelry organizer in my cupboard.
- I had some empty Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes which I now use to store my tiny items like buttons, pins, threads, nail paints, and even on my bedside table to keep my spectacles, hair clips, lip balm and everything in place.
- I have 3 plastic plates lying around in my kitchen that I bought a long while ago. I do not use it for my food anymore. So I have painted them and turned them into wall decor items.
(Follow me on Instagram to see pictures of these cool upcycled items and what more I do on a daily basis)
And if you can not reuse or up-cycle these items, find scrap dealers / kabaadiwalas / startups that take plastic material for recycling. You can google and easily find scrap dealers near you. The ones I know in Hyderabad, India are – SCRAPQ, Crapbin. I haven’t used their services yet as I am still collecting the majority of my recyclable waste (old plastic bags, cardboard boxes etc.) to reach an acceptable weight for a pick-up service.
Share and Grow
It is OK if you just start with one switch at a time. It is OK to start small. What also matters is this change in perspective which now allows you to look at your choices more carefully. Also, remember to share these tips with your friends and family too. It is the collective action of all of us that will bring the change. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to share our knowledge with more and more people for this effort to compound.
Let me know which tips you would use in your daily life. Follow my Instagram Page where I share stories and pictures of more such things that we can easily do to make a difference. Also, comment and tell all of us if you have more such ideas!