Here’s what you can do to cut down on plastic waste

By Simran Bajaj

Our lives revolve around plastic: our day starts with plastic and ends with it. Almost a century age, Bakelite, the first fully man-made plastic came into being. Since then, there has been no looking back. Plastic is used in almost all our daily activities- we brush, eat, wear, sleep, talk and even see with the help of plastic. And why not? It is cheap, durable and dynamic. We can make whatever we fancy with plastic, be it thick or thin, transparent or opaque, sharp or blunt.

However, in the smokescreen of plastic’s advantages, we have ignored the key characteristic that is it is not biodegradable. Unlike paper and food, plastic will not automatically go away, it will not break down or decompose. It will stay, in its original form and intact making it dangerous for humans, as well as animals.

Each year 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced, and 40% of that is single-use, which is plastic we use only once before it is dumped, reported the BBC. Examples of such single-use plastic products are- milk pouches, bottles, kitchen film amongst others. These materials go in landfills and water bodies, they harm the environment and lives.

In the oceans, plastic is either directly flushed or carelessly dumped. Once it enters the water body, plastic can entangle sea creatures and harm or even kill them. The most common example is of sea turtles, orca getting stuck in fishing nets. Since animals cannot distinguish plastic from food, they end up eating them and eventually die.

Humans suffer from the dump and forget syndrome: we only worry about waste when it is in our sight. Once we cannot see it, we stop worrying about it. While completely cutting down on plastic use is not easy, but gradually reducing their usage is surely a way to go. All we need to do is put in a bit of effort to move to a greener and sustainable lifestyle by availing the already existing alternatives and changing our habits.

Here are 10 simple ways of cutting down plastic waste in our day to day lives.

  • Carry your own shopping bag: Keep foldable bags in your suitcase, handbag, purses. It may seem like a chore in the beginning, but it will help cut down unnecessary plastic accumulation tremendously.
  • Say no to one-time use plastic bottles: Always carry your own flask or water bottle. It is a great way of avoiding unnecessary purchase of small bottles every time you go out. This has multifaceted benefits as it not only helps you save money but also contribute to protecting the environment.
  • Comb your hair the natural way: Wooden combs and brushes are a great alternative to plastic ones as they are sturdy and easy to maintain. Moreover, you have options in the kind of wood you can use, such as neem, which has anti-bacterial properties and is great for the scalp.
  • Plastic cutlery: Make sure that whenever you order-in food at home, it is specifically ordered without cutlery. We have ample of forks and spoons lying around so why use flimsy cutlery when silverware is easily accessible to you. 
  • Quantity shopping: Buying bigger packs for products will help you save money as you get better deals as well as time as you do not have to keep shopping frequently.
  • Use metal hangers: Many clothes such as baby clothes and suit sets are usually sold along with hangers. Avoid taking those home, rather give it back to the store so that they may reuse it. Use only metal hangers at home as they are tough and long lasting.
  • Go back to the old school lunchbox: The old school lunchboxes we all used growing up were eco-friendly, reusable and recyclable. Switch from plastic boxes to metal or glass lunch boxes. They may weigh a little, but they are totally your guide to going green.
  • Say no to plastic straws: Avoid using one-time use straws. In case it is absolutely required, you can opt for paper, metal or glass straws. They are easily available in departmental stores.
  • Fountain pens will trend again: Remember the days when we used fountain pens and refilled it from a glass bottle of ink every evening? Switch back to them. They are a great way of cutting down waste during our school days.
  • Micro-beads: Many skin care products have micro-beads. These minuscule plastic beads which work wonders for your skin are actually a major pollutant. Filtration systems cannot sieve out such tiny particles and they end up in the oceans. To save your oceans, chose skin care products with consideration, and when you need a great exfoliator, do it the natural way.

Other than these steps you can also choose to use recyclable paper or paper bags, instead of using glittery plastic wrapping paper during this festive season. Alternatively, one can also opt for daily milk supply in glass bottles, or directly take it from the vendor in a utensil instead of buys milk pouches. Remember that a little conscious living will yield long-term benefits, both for you and the environment.

Simran Bajaj is a journalist.