Living Zero Waste: Reduce Plastic Waste

Living Zero Waste means minimizing waste in your everyday life – usually by working to recycle, reuse and reduce plastic waste. Once good habits are established, it’s something that both individuals and corporations can do easily and affordably. It may sound like an overwhelming task at first, but it is quite achievable when broken down into categories.

So, what areas of life are best to start? Let’s start with plastic, one of the most notorious materials. Plastic comes from oil, a fossil fuel. It takes thousands of years to decompose, releasing toxins in the process, which pollute the air and water. More than one million marine animals die every year because of plastic litter.

Where do you accumulate plastic waste the most? The kitchen, bathroom, shopping, and pets tend to accumulate plastic waste quickly. From there, identify items to swap out for more sustainable options. The goal is to reduce trash – plastic trash specifically.

1. How to Reduce Plastic Waste in the Kitchen

  • Buy utensils, cups, plates, and bowls made of bamboo, stainless steel, or glass instead of plastic.

  • Challenge yourself to avoid buying food and drinks in the grocery store with plastic packaging. Right now, this is tough to do in most U.S. chain supermarkets, but ALDI has committed to recyclable, compostable, or reusable food packaging by 2025. Shopping in bulk also reduces waste from packaging.

  • Instead of single-use sandwich bags, use a washable beeswax cloth wrap to transport sandwiches and snacks.

  • General tip for reducing waste in the kitchen: create a compost bin and try to fill it up with waste before your trash bag fills up.

2. How to Reduce Plastic Waste in the Bathroom

  • Make sure your next toothbrush is made from biodegradable bamboo!

  • Regular dental floss is made from plastic. Use a plant-based floss (with no plastic container, of course) instead – like this candelilla wax floss that comes in a glass container.

  • Toothpaste usually comes in single-use plastic tubes. Happier Toothpaste comes in recyclable aluminum tubes and reusable packaging. Or you can make your own toothpaste at home, combining water, baking soda, and essential oils.

  • General tip for reducing waste in the bathroom (no pun intended): Check out our curated list of recommended sustainable products for your life and home.

3. How to Reduce Plastic Waste while Shopping

  • Shop from local farmers’ markets to reduce the need for packaging, and store reusable cloth shopping bags in your car (or bike basket) so you don’t forget them.

  • When you shop online, be aware of the packaging used. One Potato, for example, uses biodegradable and recyclable packaging for their organic family-friendly meal delivery service.

  • Be aware of the sneaky pseudonyms for plastic, like polyester, polyethylene, and vinyl. If the product contains a word that’s hard to pronounce, check to see if it is a form of plastic, and seek out a different material.

4. How to Reduce Plastic Waste for your Pets

  • Opt for dog and cat toys made of natural rubber or canvas instead of plastic. Or make your own pet toys using braided rags (for dogs) or cardboard boxes (cats love ‘em!).

  • Don’t use leftover plastic grocery bags to pick up pet waste. Pooch Paper is a plastic free, compostable, biodegradable sheet made from recycled paper that will get the job done.

  • To decorate the inside your aquarium or terrarium, use live plants instead of fake-looking plastic décor. It’s important to research this fully first, to ensure that the plants and animals are a good fit for each other, and that the plants will get enough heat and light.

  • General tip for reducing waste for your pets: if your pet outgrows a leash, bed, or toy, don’t throw it away. Donate your old puppy supplies to an animal shelter or save it for your next puppy.

Remember, reducing plastic doesn’t mean throw out everything plastic that you own – that would create a lot of waste! Make sure to use the plastic products that you do have again and again.

Once you identify a starting point to begin your zero waste journey, like plastic in the bathroom, the process becomes less intimidating. And once you’ve committed to a plastic free habit, the hard part is over. And it won’t break the bank. Using products made from sturdy materials like bamboo, stainless steel, glass, and aluminum instead of flimsy plastic saves you money in the long run, because those products last longer and won’t need to be replaced.

With the climate crisis, it may feel like the weight of the world is literally on your shoulders – but going zero waste is a collective effort. No one person can save the planet: it’s up to all of us to just try to get into some better habits. And you don’t have to be perfect. Perfection gets in the way of progress: you won’t even start if you insist upon immediate perfection. Just start reducing plastic trash today and take it one day at a time.