We use plastic every day of our lives. You can’t go far without seeing some form of plastic. The problem – plastic never goes away! If it ends up in a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Even then, it actually photo degrades which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water. Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch). In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food. Not such a healthy meal.
For us humans, plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our hormones.
Here are some ways to replace common plastics.
1. Plastic water bottles => Buy a reusable BPA-free or stainless steel bottle. They are available online and in many stores at reasonable prices. If you are currently spending $2 per week on bottled water the savings are $104 per yr.
2. Coffee cups => Carry a reusable mug with you for coffee. There is often a plastic lid or plastic lining the cup. If you are staying at Starbucks, ask for a ceramic mug.
3. Plastic grocery bags => Reusable bags. Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital. If you currently don’t have enough, build up your supply slowly. When you forget your bag, consider buying one at the check out if it’s a quality bag you will use.
4. Store bags => Reusable bags. They are not just for the grocery store. Keep a compact one in your purse. Bring your reusable bags to the Mall, Target, any store!
5. Any plastic bag => Say “No Thanks”. You don’t always NEED a bag. Throw that lemon straight into your shopping cart. Carry your one or 2 items out of the store in your hands or another bag you are already carrying.
6. Produce bags => Use reusable produce bags. Many online and retail stores are now carrying produce bags. I purchased mesh bags at the Dollar Tree at 4 for $1. Or reuse the same produce bag a few times.
7. Plastic food storage containers => Reuse glass food jars. The spagetti jars are great for beans, grains, coffee beans, and soups. I love the shape and size of salsa jars. They are perfect for a small amount of leftovers since they have a wide opening.
8. Plastic food containers #2 => Replace with glass ones. Use #3 above as much as you can, then look for sales or at yard sales this spring.
9. Plastic shampoo bottles => Buy bar shampoo. I haven’t tried it myself but a friend swears by it and gets it at Whole Foods.
11. Plastic wrap => Use aluminum foil or wax paper. I stopped buying plastic wrap a couple of years ago, opting for aluminum foil and natural wax paper instead. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought.
12. Bread bags => Buy bread from the bakery section or make your own. I am still experimenting with this one. We have gotten into the habit of having bagels with breakfast. I am testing out recipes with my bread maker to replace the store bought bagels for homemade bread. I’ll let you know when I succeed.
13. Plastic bottles for cleaning products => Make your own cleaners, refilling the same bottles. See my post on Homemade cleaners.
14. Plastic Straws => Purchase Stainless steel or glass straws. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t until recently, very cool!
15. Zip top plastic bags for lunches => Reusable snack and sandwich containers. There are loads of reusable sandwich bags and containers out there. Take a look on Etsy for some really cute reusable snack bags. We use reusable fabric snack bags made my my Mom.
While this Good Housekeeping test found that BPA and phthalates do not leach into foods when heated in the microwave, I still don’t. I’d rather not find out they were wrong, or didn’t test my particular form of plastic.
I have not suggested that you stop buying/using anything that is wrapped in plastic. Some people will stop using something if they can’t get it without plastic. I am not ready to do that. My kids love bananas, if I am at a store that sells their bananas packaged in a plastic bag, I note how silly it is and buy them anyway. Of course I do recycle the plastic bag at Hannaford.
Look around at the amount of plastic in your home. See what you can eliminate or replace.
Need help? Search the internet or ask here. Please post any ideas you have.