In today’s world, convenience is king. We can order just about anything to be delivered right to our door, from food to clothing to cars. Many of the everyday items we purchase in stores are wrapped and sealed in at least one layer of plastic if not two or three, and the majority of this plastic packaging is either thrown in the trash or unable to be recycled.
The average consumer is contributing pounds of plastic to landfills in a normal year, much of which will end up polluting our oceans and even the air we breathe. Though this may seem worrisome, it helps to know a bit more about the role that plastics play in our world, particularly single-use plastics, and how we can cut down on our consumption to reduce global waste.
What are single-use plastics?
Like their name suggests, single-use plastics are plastic products manufactured to be used once and then immediately disposed of. When most people think of a disposable plastic item, they might think of a water bottle, a plastic straw, or the bags they take their groceries home in. While these are all single-use plastics, there is an almost endless list of other disposable plastic products used commonly today, many of which are so small that they seem inconsequential to the consumer.
Have you bought a six-pack of soda or beer lately? The plastic rings holding them together are single-use. Some other common disposable plastic products that we may not think of in the same category as plastic bottles include pill packages, plastic razors, and even dental floss.
Can plastic be recycled?
The recycling process is designed to break items down to their most basic form so that they can be processed into new products. Glass and aluminum are relatively easy to break down and don’t lose any structural integrity when being formed into new materials. However, plastic isn’t so versatile—its quality naturally degrades much more easily and quickly than other recyclable materials.
To answer the question, plastic can technically be recycled. However, recycled plastic isn’t durable enough to be repurposed for long before it degrades to the point of ending up in a landfill anyway—plus, the majority of plastic products are too small or brittle to even be recycled in the first place.
In addition to the disposable nature of the majority of the world’s plastics, there are a few other unfortunate facts compounding the issue of global plastic waste. Nearly 20,000 plastic bottles are produced every second, and some countries have even made recycling expensive, leading citizens to opt for landfill disposable of recyclable items as the most budget-effective option. Therefore, there’s no wonder why the world’s landfills are overflowing with single-use plastic.
Does plastic break down?
Plastic is a synthetic material that is designed to be lightweight yet long-lasting. Though this is a perk in many ways, it also means that single-use plastic items can take anywhere between 10 and 500 years to fully break down.
What’s more, plastic is never truly gone. Instead of degrading into the earth like natural materials do, it simply breaks into continuously smaller pieces that end up in the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Some consumers try to make the most out of their single-use plastic items by reusing them a few times before disposing of them. Though this may work for plastic bags, it can actually be dangerous for items like water bottles and food containers as they are known to leech hazardous chemicals into food and beverages when washed and reused.
What can I use instead of single-use plastics?
If you’re realizing that single-use plastic is actually a huge part of your everyday life, you’re not alone. Most people cannot avoid these plastics entirely, but there are a few major steps you can take to greatly reduce your personal waste output.
Carry a reusable straw
Plastic straws are one of the most infamous unrecyclable single-use items. They litter landfills and are even known to commonly injure marine life when they end up in the oceans. Reusable straws are convenient, extremely lightweight, and an easy alternative to single-use plastic.
Invest in a reusable water bottle
Besides convenience, there are no known benefits to drinking beverages from single-use plastic—in fact, there are really only downsides, including the landfill contribution and the chemicals used to make the plastic. Reusable water bottles are durable and come in a wide variety of sizes depending on your needs.
Bring your own bags to the grocery store
It’s no secret that plastic bags are stuffing the world’s landfills—some states have even imposed an extra fee on plastic bags to encourage shoppers to bring reusable bags. While you’re at it, consider bringing a reusable mesh bag to carry your fruits and veggies instead of the flimsy single-use bags provided.
Use metal or wooden cutlery
Small, flimsy, and often contaminated by food waste, single-use plastic cutlery is unrecyclable and also one of the world’s most common wasteful practices. Metal and wooden reusable cutlery are made of sustainable materials that won’t break down or release harmful chemicals into your food, plus they’re easy to clean and fit into any purse or bag.
Other single-use plastic products you can easily find alternatives for:
- Disposable cups
- Plastic lunch baggies
- Food storage containers
- Plastic sponges
- Cleaners, soap, lotions, etc. that come in plastic bottles
- Feminine products
- Plastic trash bags
- Deodorant sticks
At Duebest, we’re dedicated to helping eliminate single-use plastics, while doing our best to remain conscious and intentional, for all of us and our environment. While these are only a few swap ideas for single-use plastics, there are many more ways for you to cut the plastic. We believe in you, we hope you can believe in us!
Duebest began with two best friends over one bowl of egg noodles! We were at a restaurant in lower Manhattan when Daphne pulled out her own personal set of chopsticks. We never would have guessed that this small gesture would spark a whole chain of events! Today, we're doing our best to support the zero waste movement through our line of sustainably sourced products including our on-the-go reusable wooden cutlery set, reusable mesh produce bags, and our reusable glass straw with case.