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Plastic. It’s in every corner of your house, of your office; of your life. Sounds like a redundant fact but really – take in your surroundings for a moment and notice how plastic is now the only thing you can see. The containers you use to store your condiments, the translucent green bag that awaits your trash, the decorative hooks holding on to your towel in the washroom, the bottle of water you’re drinking from right now! If you were to wake up one day and decide to lead a completely plastic-free life, you would probably get stuck right from when you enter the bathroom and decide to brush your teeth, because your toothbrush is probably of the plastic kind!
Why is Going Plastic-Free the Need of the Hour?
So plastic has taken over our lives, and by the state of things, over the world too. Without going into a very tedious science lecture, here is a simple fact about plastic – it doesn’t decompose naturally. We know, we know, that’s an obvious fact. And yet, with islands of plastic waste swelling up around us, why do we still hold on to every plastic element we can find? Sure, it’s a convenient option, but since Mother Earth has been such a kind host to us, shouldn’t we be responsible enough to clean up after ourselves – or better still, undertake actions that don’t require cleaning up at all!
If that wasn’t enough to convince you, perhaps these pictures from around the world will remind you of how harmful plastic is to the environment!
Not very pleasant sights, are they?
Things to Keep in Mind About Eco-friendly Alternatives
There are quite a few plastic items you can replace in your everyday life with their eco-friendly counterparts. A little research can show you where you can find these products near you. But first, keep these things in mind:
- These products can be a little expensive, but don’t be deterred from buying them because of the price tag. In a lot of cases, the quality is quite good and lasts for long. Not as long as plastic, but definitely not as harmful either!
- Also, it’s quite possible that certain products may have some elements that are non-biodegradable. Unless the product is majorly or entirely made of such materials, you can make a few exceptions, because buying the cheap or low-quality versions will anyway have you chucking them in the trash, and that beats the purpose of this exercise
10 Alternatives to Plastic Items in Your Everyday Life
Here’s a bunch of things you can use to make the switch from ‘devoted plastic user’ to ‘the hero the environment needed’!
1. Bamboo Toothbrushes
As mentioned before, we do start off our day with plastics, the very first being our toothbrush. This essential item, when tossed into the trash and subsequently in a garbage pit somewhere, take around 400 years – 4 WHOLE CENTURIES – to decompose! It’s also not something you can get rid of burning, not without consequences; the chemicals released while burning plastic are quite toxic. So why not switch to bamboo toothbrushes? Made of mostly sustainable materials that can decompose naturally (the bristles are usually made of nylon, so they aren’t a 100% biodegradable), they last for almost the same duration that is recommended for plastic toothbrushes (3-4 months).
2. Stainless Steel/Glass Water Bottles
Instead of buying an umpteen number of plastic bottles that you’ll use till the water gets over, invest in a good water bottle that limits your use of plastic ones. Prolonged use of plastic bottles is harmful because of certain toxic chemicals that seep into the drinking water and thus, into your body. There are plenty of designer stainless steel and glass bottles in the market to please the most aesthetically-picky people, and they’re durable too.
3. Eco-friendly Coffee Tumblers
Working professionals who’re fueled by caffeine, this one will be right up your alley. Why opt for several small plastic cups of coffee when you can have it all in one big durable tumbler, that looks super slick too? Now, this is another product which can have a plastic lid or a silicone sleeve, but is any day more eco-friendly than those little cups that will wind up in a big pile of garbage. Plus, seriously – a big cup of hot coffee or tiny little cups that you always burn your fingertips with?
4. Cloth Pads or Menstrual Cups
When it comes to the conventional sanitary napkin, it’s got more plastic in it than anything else. Imagine the number of pads one woman will need to go through in one month, till she hits menopause. That is one woman’s count. So you can imagine the staggering amount of plastic waste that is dispelled into the environment across the world due to sanitary napkins. Tampons aren’t all that innocent either because they are made of cotton and rayon (non-biodegradable) but are wrapped in plastic, and usually, every component (including the wrappers) are flushed away.
Enter, the reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups! Every other lifestyle guru is now recommending these products as great alternatives to conventional menstrual hygiene products. Not only do they create no waste, are resuable, and very durable, but plenty of people are ‘cupverting’ to menstrual cups because they make periods more bearable. Worth a try then, right?
5. Cloth Diapers
Bet you knew this would appear next on the list – how can we talk about plastic hygiene items without addressing the problem of countless disposable diapers that are clogging landfills and contributing to garbage piles at an alarming frequency? Cloth diapers are reusable and better for the baby’s skin due to the lack of chemicals. Just be mindful of the water you’ll be using to clean the diapers, because wasting water is just as big of a problem!
6. Reusable Shopping Bags
The plastic ban that has been imposed in almost every state of India has set back the usage of plastic bags – but only slightly. People still use and dispose of plastic covers mainly used for grocery shopping and throwing out the trash. Keep a reusable bag handy while going to the supermarket (mesh, cloth, canvas totes – there are plenty of pretty options that are now available out there), which also lets you skip paying for the plastic bag should you have too many things you can’t carry by hand. You’ll also find certain bags that are made from vegetable waste and are completely bio-degradable, as well.
7. Compostable Garbage Bags
The one reason we prefer to use our plastic covers as garbage bags is because it assures no leakage of food waste and can hold quite a lot of stuff in. But there are reasonably priced compostable garbage bags available in the market which have the above qualities AND help the environment. Use these to line your trash can, packed soiled clothes (if you’re travelling), to dispose of food and other wastes – well, just like how you’d use any regular plastic bag!
8. Eco-Friendly Cutlery
It’s not always possible to lug around stainless steel spoons and forks, especially if you need a whole lot for an event or a picnic. In the case disposable cutlery is the only option you have, pick those that can be friends of the environment. You get to choose from wooden spoons and forks, leaf or bamboo plates and cups, and even edible cutlery! It is better than throwing out an infinite number of plastic cutlery that will probably end up sticking around for a couple of centuries, long enough for your kids’ kids to see!
9. Reusable Straws
Yet another thing we toss into the trash in extremely high numbers are plastic straws. A lot of restaurants have cut back on serving plastic straws with drinks owing to the plastic ban in the states they belong to. But if straws are a must, use stainless steel straws that are washable and reusable.
10. Beeswax Wraps
Cling wrap that is used to seal food is thrown away without a second glance. It’s something we use in plenty and gets discarded after one throw. There is an expensive alternative to this, however; but the price paid becomes worth it once you’re able to get the number of uses that you do out of this product. We’re talking about beeswax wraps, which are thin cotton-cloths that are lined with beeswax, an odourless product with anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. These can be used for a couple of months at a stretch, and are washable as well. Just make sure that you don’t use it to cover hot food as the beeswax can melt.
Giving up plastic is not the easiest thing to do. Making the transition to eco-friendly products won’t happen in a jiffy – and shouldn’t either. Don’t rush to replace all the existing items in your house; simply remember that when you buy new products, you could be using their no-plastic (or lesser plastic) version too. And if you’re wondering whether giving up a measly straw or a couple of plastic straws can make a difference, scroll up, and let the pictures remind you that it’s high time we take action!