13 Substitutes for Plastic
Epoxy, latex, synthetic rubber, chloroprene, polyethylene, nylon, acrylic, polyester, cellophane, PVC, melamine, artificial shellac; plastic is simply everywhere. Despite an agreed global understanding that plastic is causing mass negative impacts to the environment, in this day and age, it is impossible to avoid.
The disturbing fact is that plastic production is continuously on the rise with reports stating the total quantity produced will increase 5-fold by 2050.
Despite increases in years, plastic recycling continues to fall behind average recycling rates of all products. Global plastic recycling rates are thought to be 14 - 18% which is substantially lower than those for other widely used materials such as industrial metals – steel, aluminium, copper, etc. – and paper which are thought to exceed 50%.[i]
The positives? Governments globally are investing in solutions. Plastic pollution is at the forefront of international agendas. In June 2019, G20 nations began negotiating a deal aimed at reducing marine plastic pollution.[ii] Countrywide bans, or taxes, on plastic bags are now commonplace across developing countries.[iii] And, in March 2019, 187 countries agreed upon a legally binding framework to make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated.[iv]
Whilst the global push by governments is vital to ensuring a plastic-free tomorrow, there are many things Australian households and businesses can do can support the cause. Below are 13 ways you can substitute plastic out of your daily life:
1. Reusable shopping bags
Across Australia, most states have implemented a ban on plastic bags for supermarkets and major retail chains.[v] But even so, they are still prevalent in small local stores and takeaway outlets. A simple, cheap and convenient solution is to purchase a few hand reusable shopping bags and leave them in your car, office or handbag. That way you will always have one handy when you head to the shops.
2. Stainless steel or paper straws
Plastic straws are one of the key concerns for marine life. Across the hospitality industry, venues are banning plastic straws or providing a paper solution. For kids at home, stainless steel straws are all the rage. Alternatively, paper straws for the home are great as well (and you can use left over ones for art and craft!)
3. Beeswax wraps
Single-use plastic is one of the core problems for the environments, and cling wrap is a key contributor. In recent years, Beeswax wraps have become increasingly popular to replace single-use plastic wraps. There are now many options on the market, and the products continue to improve. Just be cautious they can’t be used for all food.[vi] Therefore, consider reusable containers as an alternative.
4. Plastic Free Pet Care
Even your beloved pets can get in on the action! A few tips for substituting and reducing plastic when it comes to pets are: buy food in bulk – this means less overall bags, get your bones and treats naturally from the butcher, make your own treat (yum..!) and use a bio-degradable bag for doggy-doos. In some states, dog poop is even compostable in your green bins. For more tips visit: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/pet-care.html
5. Reusable drink bottles
Ditch the expensive bottled water and go with a reusable drink bottle. Glass drink bottles are a much eco-friendlier choice over their plastic counterpart. Despite reducing plastic, they are also much easier to clean and don’t contain harmful chemicals such as BPA or phthalate. If you must purchase plastic bottles, make sure you recycle right at your local container deposit refund centre.
6. Natural carpets and rugs
When renovating your home or office, make sure to consider natural carpets and rugs. Only about 10% of floor coverings are made of natural materials such as wool and goat hair, wool-synthetic blends, sisal (made from the agave plant), coconut, seagrass, jute or cotton. The rest are synthetic fibres such as polyamide, polyester or polypropylene. Natural fibres have the additional benefits of improving indoor climates and absorbing indoor air pollutants.[vii]
7. Microplastic-free skincare
Many people are not aware that some of the most popular skincare products contain microplastics that end up in our waterways. To see if your skin care product has microplastics, visit the Beat the Micro Bead site here: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/ProductTable
8. Eco-friendly party supplies
Throwing a party doesn’t have to be filled with plastic knives, forks and plates. Consider bamboo alternatives for an eco-friendlier approach. Often, paper plates can’t be recycled if there is too much food product left on them (such as oil and sauces). So focus on purchasing products which are bio-degradable and can be tossed into compost or green recycling bins.
9. Plastic-free clothing
Polyester has taken over cotton as the most dominant material for clothing and forecasts show the production of polyester will continue. Try to source alternate fibres such as cotton, bamboo, silk, hemp, linen, and wool. However, polyester is hard to avoid, so alternatively, try to find companies that use recycled PET in clothing.
10. Glass Jars to replace plastic containers
Glass jars offer a wide range of benefits over plastic jars. Despite being simply better for the environment, they look amazing when organised right! It’s a great way to recycle your old jars too. For tips see: https://seedsprout.com.au/blogs/news/eco-tip-of-the-week-how-to-organise-your-pantry-with-glass-jars
11. NO NO NO to wrapped fruit and veg in supermarkets
A Thai supermarket has made recent headlines with its innovative banana leaf fruit wraps.[viii] Whilst this may not be a possibility for supermarkets in Australia – make sure to SAY NO TO PLASTIC WRAPS! Supermarkets are continuously coming under fire for excessive plastic wrapping and eco-conscious consumers are fighting back. Coles and Woolworths have pledged to reduce wrapping by 2020. However, you can do more. Consider not using small plastic bags for fruit and veggies – or, BYO bag for items like mixed lettuce.
12. BYO containers
A great way for consumers to reduce everyday plastic is to bring your own containers for takeaway. The Australian website https://trashlesstakeaway.com.au highlights all the takeaway stores across the country where you can BYO containers. In addition to takeaway, organisations such as BYO Container are encouraging consumers to BYO containers to butchers, deli’s, fishmongers and more. See their website for tips here: https://www.byocontainers.org/
13. Go cold turkey: Plastic Free July!
Do you have any other plastic substitutes you use? If yes, let us know!
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