We wouldn’t normally recommend breaking up on Valentine’s Day – but when we reflect on our love/hate relationship with single-use plastics – sometimes enough is enough.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced a Public Service Announcement in 2018 as part of their #CleanSeas campaign to reflect on this “challenging” relationship. In the video “It’s not me, it’s you,” Sandra decides it’s finally time to break-up with single-use plastic products such as disposable cutlery, take-out containers, and shopping bags (it’s worth watching here if you haven’t seen it).
Sure, these items are convenient and cheap – but don’t we deserve more? Is it really “true love” if you only use the item once? We don’t know about you, but we are looking for a long-term relationship. Something sustainable (pun intended).
When you start looking around, you may realize these single-use items are all around you. It seems like almost everything is made out of plastic – from your toothpaste tube to the stir straw that came in your favorite cocktail. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Where do you even start?
This is understandable – breaking up is hard. It can be uncomfortable. You can even find yourself rebounding at times. Rest assured that you don’t have to do it all at once, you don’t need to go out and buy expensive reusable items, and your little changes can have a big impact. JFK once said “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
Here are some tips on how to break up with single-use plastic:
Can you reuse or recycle it? If you are wondering where to start – look at the disposable items you use on a regular basis that are not recyclable or reusable. Not sure which plastics are recyclable? If it’s a bottle, jug, jar, or tub – you can recycle it! Still not sure? Check the Recyclopedia.
Ask yourself if you really need it. Getting food delivered to your office or house? You likely have reusable forks, spoons, and knives on hand. Most restaurants are happy to skip the disposable cutlery if you just ask. Thanks to the Habits of Waste#CutOutCutlery campaign, delivery services like Uber Eats are getting on board and providing plastic cutlery for take-out orders by request only.
Bring Your Own (BYO). Some things you just can’t refuse (like coffee) but you can often bring your own reusable alternative. Refill your coffee in your own cup at the cafe, pack some bamboo utensils in your bag for lunch on the go, and grab those cloth bags for the trip to the grocery store. Big fan of straws but tight on space? They even make collapsible straws. Who knew?
Bulk Up. Some of the best things come with no packaging at all! If you haven’t checked out the bulk section at your local grocery store yet – just bring your own container and fill it with olive oil, coffee beans, peanut butter, granola, dried beans, grains, fruit or even kombucha on tap!
Sustainable Food Storage Swaps. Swapping zip-lock baggies and cling wrap for reusable options will save money and reduce your plastic waste. Win-win. Reusable food storage bags come in all different sizes, colors, patterns, and materials so you can really make a statement when you pack your lunch. Beeswax wrap, bowl covers, silicon lids, or even a dish towel can be used to replace cling wrap. Here is a tutorial on how to make your own DIY Beeswax food wrap.
At the end of the day- just remember that getting over the convenience of single-use plastic gets easier with time. As you embrace your new, fabulous plastic-free self – take the time to reflect on your progress and treat yo’ self. Ice cream in a cup or cone? What’s a few extra calories in an ice cream cone when you are saving the planet?