With Earth Day right around the corner, it’s time to take a look at our daily habits and how we can reduce our plastic use!
WHY WE WANT TO AVOID PLASTIC | FOR OUR HEALTH
I started avoiding plastic once I heard about what it can do to our health.
One of the prominent materials in plastic is BPA - a material that’s known for its ability to disrupt our hormones by mimicking the effect of estrogen, which can cause issues with anything influenced by our hormones, like our health, reproduction, and behaviour (1).
And although we’re seeing lots of ‘BPA Free’ products, BPA isn’t the only harmful material in plastic. Another is DEHP - a material that also causes changes to our reproductive systems, is known for causing weight gain, and can create insulin resistance in the body (1).
Maybe we’ll start seeing ‘DEHP Free’ products soon, but we shouldn’t stop there, because plastic isn’t just harmful to our health, it’s harmful to the environment.
WHY WE WANT TO AVOID PLASTIC | FOR THE PLANET
Plastic In the Waste Stream
Since 1950, humans have created about 8 billion metric tons of plastic (2). You might be thinking that’s a lot - but at least it’s recyclable.
And you’d be correct, except seventy nine percent hasn’t been recycled. Instead its become plastic waste, which means it’s sitting in a landfill (2).
Unfortunately, it’s not just that we produce a lot of plastic, it’s that we don’t measure it, which means we can’t manage it, so instead of reducing our plastic production or creating better recycling processes, most of the plastic we produce ends up in our waste stream.
So yes, plastic CAN be recycled. But that’s just not happening.
Plastic takes over 400 years to break down, which means all the plastic we’ve produced is still on Earth. Most of it is sitting in a landfill, but some of it has found its way into the ocean.
When plastic leaks into the ocean, it’s got to go somewhere, and unfortunately, it’s started to create plastic islands, like in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Created by the ocean’s currents as plastic leaks into the ocean with no way to break down, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is actually too big for scientists to measure, so no one knows for sure how much garbage is involved (3). But let’s agree it’s a lot.
Now the idea of a giant pile of garbage in the middle of the ocean is gross. But think about how awful it is for the marine life.
Animals often mistake the plastic for food and bigger mammals can become entangled in the abandoned nets. And when you have a giant patch of garbage blocking the sun, the autotrophs below can’t get the sun they need to survive. And if algae and plankton can’t survive, the entire food web falls apart (3).
To make matters worse, while we’re vegan, there are Indigenous communities all over the world that rely on fishing for food and financial stability. If we’re not taking care of our marine life, how are these communities supposed to thrive?
WHY IS IT EVERYWHERE?
If there are all these issues with plastic, why is it everywhere? Plastic has its uses. For example, it’s really beneficial in medicine because it’s versatile, cheap, and it can have different properties depending on how it’s made (1).
But that doesn’t mean it’s something we need to use in everyday life if we can avoid it.
PLASTIC FREE SWAPS
- Opt for a french press or Chemex instead of a Keurig.
- Reuse old clothing as cleaning rags instead of paper towels to avoid that outer plastic wrap.
- Buy in bulk - maybe with reusable bags or jars, or even just buying the biggest size (where possible) to cut down on plastic packaging.
- If you’re not buying in bulk, look for products in paper or glass instead of plastic. Go for those yummy chips in a paper bag or that almond butter in the glass jar.
- Look into plastic free cleaning solutions - opt for charcoal water filters instead of plastic filters, clear the air with incense instead of air fresheners, and reach for a biodegradable dish washing brush instead of a plastic one.
- Instead of using a plastic lighter to light your incense, use matches!
- Look for personal care products in glass or biodegradable packaging (like in our Deodorant Sticks or Face Exfoliants).
- Swap your plastic razor for a stainless steel safety razor (or don’t shave at all!)
- Go for bars of soap instead of bottles!
- Mix your own toothpaste with baking soda and peppermint essential oil.
- Skip the single use cotton rounds for a set of reusable ones or cut up your orphaned socks!
- Swap your plastic toothbrush for a compostable one.
- Look for beauty tools made without plastic - like a wooden hairbrush or metal tweezers.
- Clean and keep your glass jars - use them to house DIY creations, your new plant, or keep your desk organized.
- Swap your single use plastic bottles for reusable stainless steel or glass bottles.
- Carry a set of reusable utensils and a reusable container to cut down on disposable takeaway containers.
- Refuse plastic straws at restaurants.
- Refuse free samples and goody bags.
- Swap your single use grocery bags for reusable ones.
- Get familiar with the five R’s - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot - in this case, refusing, reducing, reusing, and recycling are key to reducing plastic waste. Rotting is important too, but you can’t exactly compost plastic.
- Ensure you’re recycling properly to reduce plastic waste!
- Try looking for products made with recycled plastic. Matt & Nat makes vegan handbags made from recycled plastic bottles!
- Don’t throw out all of your plastic possessions and swap them for glass or steel - that’s not great for the environment nor is it cost effective for you! Make sure you’re using things until they can’t be repaired anymore.
- When you’re gifting to others, skip the plastic toys and go for simple, thoughtful, and plastic free gifts.
- When you do need to purchase something (anything!) consider looking for plastic free alternatives. That’s how I discovered a plastic free toilet brush. (Yes it’s a thing, yes it works, and yes I recommend it to lots of people who probably think it’s a little tmi!)
We’d love to hear all about how you’re reducing your plastic use! Tag us in your Instagram posts and use #mmtcatlitter so we can share them!
Sarah Price is a green beauty and self care writer with an obsession with holistic skincare. She writes about natural beauty, DIY recipes, self care tips, and more on her self titled blog.