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10 tips to get single-use plastic out of your life

Lauren Sedger
A couple laughing as they sit together outdoors while holding a keep cup and stainless steel water bottle

Living a reduced plastic life is cost-effective and fun

A couple laughing as they sit together outdoors while holding a keep cup and stainless steel water bottle

Versatile, durable and cheap to produce – although plastic is a convenient product, it’s also an affliction to the planet.

Over the last decade, we have produced more plastic on this earth than the past century, with more than 50% produced for single-use purposes – which means it’s used just once before it’s discarded. The sobering fact about single-use plastic is that once produced it will remain on the planet for hundreds of years.

That’s why we have a responsibility to try and limit our single-use plastic – and it doesn’t have to be hard. Leading a reduced plastic lifestyle is simple, cost-effective, fun and entirely possible! Here are some easy ways to start cutting plastic out of your life.

1. Meal plan

When you plan your meals, you’re more likely to buy in bulk and reduce unnecessary packaging. And, not only will it help limit single-use packaging, but it also reduces the stress around what’s for dinner and the number of trips you need to take to the shops – winning!

2. Shop locally

When shopping with your local butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, market vendor or baker, you’re much more likely to buy food that isn’t overly packaged. Believe it or not, plastic doesn’t equal freshness; meat and fish also stay perfectly fresh in paper. A great tip for the journey home is to put your paper-packed meat or fish in a Tupperware container – this ensures no leaks in the car on the way home!

3. Bring your own reusable produce bag to the shops

While bringing your own bag to the shops has become second nature in Australia, another great addition to your zero-waste shopping repertoire is reusable produce bags. Produce bags allow you to grab and pack grocery items such as salad leaves, mushrooms or grapes, without having to resort to plastic or paper bags. They are lightweight and when they get dirty, you can generally just throw them in the washing machine.

4. Find a bulk food store

Bulk food stores are great for all your pantry essentials. Buying from a bulk food store enables you to buy the exact quantity that you want, letting you purchase as little or as much as you need – less waste all ‘round.

5. Carry a reusable water bottle

Carrying a reusable water bottle is a practical, economical and rewarding habit. Not only can you refill your bottle wherever you go, but it limits the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfill or the oceans – and you’ll end up drinking more water during the day.

The back of a woman carrying green bags at a grocery store

6. Say no to plastic straws

The problem with plastic straws is just that – they’re plastic. Every single plastic straw you have used is still on the planet somewhere. Saying no to plastic straws is one of the easiest ways to reduce your plastic use. Ask your favourite restaurant or bar for no straw in your drink next time, or even better, bring your own!

7. Keep a zero-waste kit in your car, handbag or backpack

What’s a zero-waste kit? This is a handy kit that holds all your travel essentials. For example, I have a set of cutlery, a metal straw and a keep cup in my zero-waste kit. Consider it an essential handbag item like a wallet or a phone – and take it everywhere! That way, if you grab a takeaway lunch or coffee, you can rest assured that you’re not adding to the plastic landfill pile.

8. Beeswax wraps

Beeswax wraps are a reusable, washable and sustainable alternative to cling wrap! They are great to cover almost anything that cling wrap covers and last for up to 12 months. They’re also really easy to clean; simply rinse with cool or lukewarm water and eco-friendly dish soap. You can also use a sponge to wipe them down whenever you need to.

9. Reusable containers

If you don’t want to invest in beeswax wraps, you can always put your leftovers, roast veggies, cooked grains or half-used lemon or avocado in reusable containers. This is also a simple way to pre-pack your lunch for the next day!

Related: Food poisoning and leftovers – how long can I store leftovers in the fridge?

10. Returnable takeaway containers

Sick of cooking and want to get takeaway, but worried about all that single-use plastic? There are some new environmental initiatives out there that aim to replace single-use takeaway packaging with equivalent reusable solutions. They are managed and shared through existing café and restaurant networks, minimising waste and resources. Check out Returnr or ask your favourite café or restaurant whether they would consider adopting a similar scheme?

When trying to reduce your environmental footprint, it’s important to remember that everyone’s zero-waste journey is different; so don’t compare yourself to others. Instead, get inspiration from zero-waste bloggers and environmentalists, and remember that no-one’s perfect. You can start by trying something small each week or month to minimise your use of single-use plastic.

Related: Eat for the planet: 4 quick ways to climate hack your diet

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Lauren Sedger

Lauren Sedger

Lauren Sedger smiling at the camera

Lauren Sedger

About Lauren Sedger

Lauren is a Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Melbourne, Australia. Put simply, she just digs food and loves sharing that enthusiasm with others.