Ozarks Eco put together a list of five common single-use plastic items that you can easily swap out for reusable versions or stop using altogether. All it takes is some determination and a little ingenuity.
#1 Plastic Grocery Bags
According to the EPA, the United States uses over 380 billion plastic grocery bags yearly. Plastic bags are found in almost every store. Unfortunately, plastic bags can also be found floating across streets and swimming in our waterways. We need to cut down on our use of plastic grocery sacks. One way to do so is to bring reusable bags to the store. Reusable bags come in different sizes and materials, allowing you to find the bag that suits your needs. You will be able to fit more produce into a few sturdy reusable bags, and you’ll avoid hauling twelve plastic sacks to your car.
Tip: It can be hard to remember to bring your own bag; that’s okay! Keep reusable bags in your car. If you are a light shopper, keep one in your purse or bag—that way your bags will always travel with you to the store.
Do you need a bag with that? If you only have a few items to carry, say “no” when the checker asks you if you need a bag. You can carry your toothpaste, bread and bag of cookies in your hands—no bag required.
Some stores even offer bag rebates when you bring your own bag. Target stores give you $0.05 back for every bag you bring, and Springfield’s Mama Jeans gives you $0.10 back per bag.
If you can’t give up plastic grocery sacks or are still trying to make using reusable bags a habit, you should recycle your grocery sacks. Many stores offer in-store drop offs for plastic bags.
Tip: Use plasticfilmrecycling.org to find drop-off locations in the area. Springfield’s Target, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s stores take #2 and #4 plastic bags.
#2 Plastic Sandwich Bags
Need to pack a lunch or have a snack when you’re on the go? Don’t seal it in a plastic sandwich or snack bag.
According to One Green Planet, the average person uses one pound of plastic sandwich bags a year. That’s 540 plastic bags a year that are only used once. The 2016 United States Census reports that Springfield’s population is 167, 319. If we multiply Springfield’s population by 540 wasted bags per person, we’d estimate that the city of Springfield throws away over 90 million plastic sandwich bags each year.
How can we reduce this number? Bring out the reusable containers! Pack your snacks and sandwiches in reusable plastic, glass or aluminum containers instead of plastic bags. Get creative. You can also use glass jars and other items you might have at home to store food, too.
If you absolutely must have plastic baggies, purchase compostable ones or be sure to recycle. You can recycle plastic snack and sandwich bags—just look for the recycling label on the box. If the label has a recycle sign then you’re good to go as long as you recycle bags that are clean and dry. Some labels may include the words “store drop off,” which means that you can take the bags back to the store to recycle them.
Tip: Use plasticfilmrecycling.org or earth911.com to find drop-off locations in the area. Springfield’s Target, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s stores take #2 and #4 plastic bags. (Yes, this includes plastic sandwich bags!)
#3 Plastic Straws
Plastic straws are a staple at nearly every restaurant and fast-food establishment. Americans alone use 500 billion plastic straws a day according to the National Park Service. Many people use multiple straws a day without questioning what happens to each straw after it’s thrown away.
Discarded straws end up littering our streets, entering our waterways and harming wildlife. The Ocean Conservatory’s 2017 International Coastal Cleanup Report states that plastic straws were among the top ten items collected on beaches across the world as reported by 2016 cleanups.
The organization also states that the average person uses 1.6 straws a day, which means that one individual would discard 584 straws a year. Following those calculations, the community of Springfield would use 267,710.4 plastic straws a day and over 95 million a year.
You can make a difference by simply refusing to use straws at restaurants. If the waiter or waitress hands you a straw, say “no, thank you” and just drink from the glass.
If you are worried about germs or must sip from a straw, you can buy paper straws that decompose. Better yet, you can purchase reusable straws made of more durable plastic, glass or aluminum. By swapping plastic straws for paper or reusable ones, you can enjoy drinking from a straw without causing unnecessary waste.
Tip: If you choose to buy paper or reusable straws, carry them in your bag or in your car, so you have them with you when you need them. If you have them on you, it will be easier to make using them a habit.
#4 Plastic Water & Soda Bottles
In 2017, The Guardian reported that one million plastic bottles were being purchased across the world every minute. That’s an enormous number of bottles being produced and used around the globe. To make matters worse, an article from National Geographic staff writer, Laura Parker, states that 91% of plastic is not recycled. With this shocking statistic, it’s safe to assume that the majority of plastic bottles don’t reach the recycle bin.
Plastic bottles were the second most common items found on beaches all over the world, according to the Ocean Conservatory’s 2017 International Coastal Cleanup Report.
Plastic water bottles are easy and fun to replace. You can buy a reusable bottle, fill it with your beverage of choice, and take it on an adventure, whether that’s to the office or the Grand Canyon. You can tailor reusable bottles to your needs and style. Reusable bottles are made of different materials: durable plastic, glass, aluminum, etc. They also come in various sizes, colors and patterns, so you can pick one that speaks to your personality.
Reusable bottles can function in ways plastic bottles cannot. You can also choose specific types of lids and features. Do you want a bottle with a straw? Do you want a bottle with a twist-off lid? Does it need to be insulated? The choices are limitless.
If you have plastic bottles to recycle, you can do so with Springfield’s curbside recycling program if they are #1 or #2 plastics. They also accept #5 plastic caps. New American Recycling on 357 N Fort Ave takes #1 – #7 plastic bottles, as do the City of Springfield Recycling Centers on 3020 S Lone Pine and 731 N Franklin Ave.
Tip: Make sure to rinse out your bottles before you recycle them!
#5 Cling Wrap
We all use plastic cling wrap to cover leftovers or to shield delicious desserts from buzzing flies. However, plastic wrap is another single-use item that is not recycled often. Most recycling centers do not recycle cling wrap, since it is made of resins that require large amounts of energy to extract. The amount of energy required to recycle cling wrap is more than what is needed to create it in the first place, so most cling wrap ends up in the trash.
You can reduce your waste by eliminating plastic cling wrap from your kitchen. A great way to do this is by using reusable wrap, which you can purchase or make out of cloth and melted wax. Reusable food wraps are usually made of beeswax and cotton.
There are much simpler ways to reduce your use of cling wrap if you do not wish to buy or make reusable wrap. You can always cover dishes with a cloth or dishtowel. If you put your food in a bowl, you can place a dish on top of the bowl to protect it. Voilà! No plastic required.