We’ve all seen the horrific images of beaches around the world littered with plastic bottles and other trash, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to expand massively with each passing year. Closer to home, our landfills are also filling up at an unsustainable rate. All of this means that protecting the environment and reducing the amount of waste we produce is more important than ever. Even if you’re trying to be extremely conscious about recycling and reducing waste, you may still be contributing to the problem in ways you never even considered. Here are some of the unexpected ways people create waste and what steps you can take to reduce the amount you’re responsible for.
Sneaky Ways You May Be Creating Waste
Paper, plastic, food, and other types of waste are a huge problem in the United States. Plastic is especially problematic since it takes far longer than other types of trash to biodegrade. It is estimated that PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics, the type of plastic used to make most bottles and other plastic containers, will take around 450 years to fully decompose in a landfill. This is a serious issue considering that plastic accounts for more than 12% of the nearly 300 million tons of trash generated in the United States each year.
Ordering takeout? Most of those food containers aren’t recyclable and will end up in the landfill. Cleaning your house? Almost all cleaning products come in a plastic container, and very few of them end up being recycled. Shopping for groceries? Good luck making it out of the store without lots of plastic, cardboard and other waste materials. But, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom — for consumers, it’s mostly a matter of mindfulness.
1. Skin, Hair and Body Care Products
You can quickly reduce the amount of waste you produce by being more conscious of what you buy and the amount of waste the products you use create so you can make smarter decisions. For example, since containers and packaging are by far the biggest source of plastic, you could start by using plastic-free deodorant.
Pretty much every single skin, hair and body care product you use comes in a plastic container, and this means that your daily routine produces far more waste than you might imagine. While it may not sound like much, even the little plastic containers that your lip balms come in increase the amount of waste you are personally responsible for.Luckily, more and more companies are getting on board by producing items that contain little to no plastic packaging. It’s easier than ever to find a natural lip balm that comes in a container made of 100% post-consumer recycled paperboard.
Switching to shampoo bars is another fantastic option that can help you reduce waste. Shampoo bars offer the same level of hair cleansing and nourishing but without the harmful plastic bottle. You could also try a dry shampoo that comes in a reusable glass jar or paper shaker tube and has the added benefit of reducing the amount of water you use. Conditioner bars and soap bars are other options that are far better for the environment than traditional products.
2. Cleaning Products
Most cleaning products come in bottles made of either PET or HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic, both of which are usually recyclable. However, it is important to look at the entire picture. Even if you do recycle your plastic bottles, both the manufacturing and recycling processes use a huge amount of energy. This is why it is always best to avoid buying plastic containers as much as possible.
The easiest way to make sure that your cleaning routine doesn’t contribute to waste and the increased energy consumption is to make your own cleaning agents. White vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice all work well and are often just as effective as those cleaning products you can buy at the store. If you’re using vinegar, opt for one that comes in a glass bottle.
3. Groceries, Food and Takeout
Shopping for groceries, eating at restaurants, and getting takeout produces a tremendous amount of waste. When buying groceries, always bring reusable bags instead of relying on single-use bags at the store. Try to skip the produce bags, and avoid buying individually wrapped items. Buy in bulk whenever you can.
Cooking at home is always the least wasteful option, but sometimes you just don’t feel up to it. If you do feel like going to a restaurant, eating in is always better than ordering takeout because of the increased waste of the takeout containers. When dining in, you can bring your own containers for leftovers instead of getting them in a plastic to-go box.
Another great option is to bring your own reusable metal straw instead of using the plastic ones the restaurant provides. If you live in a large city, you may be able to find restaurants that use biodegradable takeout containers and straws.
Glass containers are always better than plastic, which is true for storing your leftovers at home. Composting your food waste is also preferable to tossing it in the trash since food waste accounts for nearly half of all waste that ends up in landfills.
Helping Reduce Your Waste
Although some swaps seem minor, they are a great way to get started on living a more eco-friendly life. Taking the time to research and understand what the better alternatives are to plastics and wasteful packaging can be extremely beneficial in the long run.
Article Submitted By Community Writer