Why Are Single-Use Plastics A Problem? How can I reduce the number of single-use plastics my household uses? Here at Moss, we all love our Keep Cups when we stroll down the Tamworth main drag to grab our morning coffees, but what else can we be doing at home to make a difference to our waste?
In addition to my keep cup, my stainless steel straw lives on my desk so I can grab and go. If the soggy paper straws your local café is now supplying don’t inspire you to make the swap, then I’m not sure what will.
Did you know that Australians use 10 million plastic straws a day?
Unfortunately, these are too small for a majority of recycling facilities to process, so they end up in landfills. A washable reusable straw is easily bought these days at KMart or Chemist Warehouse. I give ours a rinse when we are finished, then chuck them in the dishwasher and none have died yet. Many come with a small pipe cleaning brush to get any stubborn bits of smoothie out. The below straws (and smoothie cups) are RePlay brand, made from recycled milk bottles.
Hands up if you have ever forgotten your green bags at Woolies….
Never fear! I found that setting habits for these really helped. I keep the green bags in the car, and a calico bag in my work bag for lunchtime shopping trips.
I was worried that not having plastic shopping bags would leave me buying bags to use as bin liners for the garbage bins, but we have made the swap to naked bins at home and haven’t looked back. If you compost your food scraps, you’ll find that not much of your waste is wet and your bin won’t get too icky. If it does, a quick hose out will fix it up in no time. Our chooks compete with our compost for food scraps!
But, I acknowledge that chooks and naked bins are probably not feasible if you’re in an apartment with a rubbish chute – you might make yourself very unpopular. In this case, try to source certified compostable bags to use in your bins, or fashion your own liner out of newspaper if you still receive a physical paper. As you remove more plastics from your life, you’ll find that your bin takes longer and longer to fill too.
Once you have your Woolies order home and you’ve cooked your delicious meal, what do you do with leftovers? I love the silicon wraps found here as a great alternative to cling wrap. Similarly to plastic bags, cling wrap won’t break down in landfills and often ends up in our oceans where it can be mistaken for food by marine life.
Another popular kitchen swap in our house is these tea sticks for our evening cuppa, as an alternative to tea bags – many of which contain plastic and can’t be composted. It only takes a second longer than a teabag, I promise. Plus you get to look fancy with your loose leaf tea!
Ready to take it to the next level? I was appalled when I had my first baby to realise just how many nappies they produce. I know I know, all you more experienced parents than I are rolling your eyes at my naivete, but I think the reality was even worse than I expected. Did you know that disposable nappies take around 150 years to break down in landfills? This is why single-use diapers are a problem. Every disposable nappy ever used, is still around today. The nappy below was photographed on the side of the highway in world heritage listed national park while Moss was undertaking a field assessment. The water crystals are all saturated, meaning it would have soon burst open and contaminated the environment (Moss removed it).
We made the decision to swap to cloth nappies and wipes, and it was a lot easier than I anticipated! I promise you it’s not as much extra work as you expect – an extra 10-15 minutes a day. Our nappies are on to their second butt now, and we will donate them when we are done. Most cloth nappies will survive to a fourth butt, so they’re a great financial option too. Plus they’re adorable – look at those booties! These nappies are econaps and we’ve found them wonderful, but different brands all fit differently so I recommend trying a few (Mel here at Moss liked the pea pods brand for her babe). Make the switch and never worry about panic buying again!
Speaking of never-ending laundry, how annoying is it when your clothes pegs snap as you go to use them? We’ve started swapping them out for a stainless steel alternative as they die. You can even get them at Aldi on special buys at the right time of year!
A topical swap currently, is face masks. Did you know that currently, globally, we are discarding 3 million face masks a minute? These single-use plastics are a problem because they break down to release nano and micro plastics in to the environment, and pose an entanglement hazard to wildlife. Reusable masks are an easy swap, and can be bought at many retail outlets.
Alternatively, why not try your hand at whipping some up yourself if you are handy with a sewing machine? This can be a fun way to use up some old fabric you may have, or an opportunity upcycle some old pieces of clothing that you no longer wear. These are easily washed by hand or in the machine with your normal clothes wash.
As we seek out more accessible alternatives, some plastic waste might still be inevitable for some households. And that’s ok! It’s not all or nothing, every piece not ending up in our environment helps. Make sure that all recyclable plastics go in the yellow bin, and keep your soft plastics for the REDcycle bins to allow them to be turned in to cool park benches. There’s a REDcycle bin at most Coles and Woolies, but have a check on the website for your local.