Plastic offers many advantages as a cheap, durable material. However, one major problem with plastic is litter. Only a small portion of polyethylene plastic is ever recycled.

And most plastic bags end up in landfills. Plastic waste is piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. There, they can take up to a thousand years to decompose.

Every year, global plastic production exceeds 300 million tons, as reported by the United Nations. Eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean annually. And less than 10% of all plastic is recycled.

Littered plastic bags are everywhere today. Plastic that ends up in the wild and the ocean also endangers wildlife. Plastic waste is deceptive for birds and other wildlife, who mistake it for food.

If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050. And the plastic industry could account for 20% of global oil consumption.

Single-use plastics have a disastrous impact on the environment and ecosystems. It's now, more than ever, essential to limit how much rubbish goes out in the world.

Here are proven and easy ways to reduce plastic waste and make a difference on a global scale.

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1. Get reusable containers

reduce plastic waste food containers

Using reusable containers is a brilliant way to limit plastic waste. Buy food containers and pack your lunch in reusable bags to reduce the amount of plastic you use.

2. Buy food without packaging

food market reduce plastic waste

As much as possible, buy food grown locally and organically. Shop for groceries at the farmer's market to stock up on delicious, organic, and locally-grown food. There, you can buy products without any plastic packaging.

Supermarkets generally sell products in disposable containers such as PET bottles, tetra paks, plastic containers, polystyrene trays, and more.

So make an effort to look for vegetables and fruits, cereals, grains, nuts and seeds, beans, and legumes without packaging. Avoid processed and frozen foods since many of them use plastic packaging.

A lot of fruits and vegetables can make the trip back home without an extra bag. You can also try to buy more bulk food.

3. Give old packaging a new purpose

packaging reduce plastic waste

When you have no other choice but to buy a plastic container or bottle, reuse it instead of throwing it away. You can use plastic containers to store food and refill plastic bottles as often as you like.

Learn the many ways you can reuse, repurpose, and upcycle old items into new products that are more beneficial and worthwhile without breaking them down completely.

4. Wear natural fabrics

reduce plastic waste natural fabrics

Polyester is the most widely used fiber in the textile industry. Global polyester production reached 55 million tons in 2018 and represented 52% of total fiber production.

Manufacturers use many other petroleum-based fabrics to produce apparel, footwear, and accessories, including nylon, elastane, polyethylene, acrylic, polypropylene, polyurethane, and more.

Synthetic fibers created through polymerization require a lot of energy, water, and chemicals. They also release pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And they contribute to the global plastic waste and microfiber pollution crisis.

Wear natural fabrics instead, such as sustainable cotton, linen, hemp, ramie, and jute. They have a much lower environmental impact, are biodegradable and compostable.

5. Buy second-hand

secondhand reduce plastic waste

Shop at your local thrift store or resale shop. There, you can find sustainable, affordable, and unique clothes, footwear, accessories, homeware, decor, furniture, upholstery, jewelry, and more.

Thrifting helps protect the environment tremendously. It reduces the amounts of plastic waste you produce and the exploitation of natural resources.

Buying used clothes, home decor, appliances, and furniture not only saves money but also promotes a more circular and regenerative economy.

6. Say no to excessive consumption

excessive consumption reduce plastic waste

The most sustainable product is the one you already own. One of the best ways to reduce plastic waste is to buy less. Adopt a more mindful approach to shopping and move away from excessive consumption.

It will increase your budget and protect the planet. Donate or sell what you don't need, only keep what you use regularly, and shop for new items only when necessary.

7. Bring your shopping bag

reduce plastic waste shopping bag

Bring a reusable shopping bag when buying groceries. It's a great way to reduce plastic waste as most plastic bags end up in landfills, or the ocean, contributing to plastic pollution.

Plastic bags are often thin and easily ripped. They aren't durable at all and have a high environmental cost. Get a reusable produce bag instead.

8. Fill a reusable water bottle

reduce plastic waste water bottle

Stop buying bottled water to protect the planet. It's often not good enough to recycle plastic waste. It's much better to avoid any plastic in the first place.

Plastic takes hundreds of years to decompose and a lot of energy to recycle. Fill a reusable water bottle instead and use a filter for tap water. It drastically limits how much plastic waste goes out into the world.

9. Buy durable cutlery sets

reduce plastic waste steel cutlery

Use stainless steel cutlery sets to make it easy for you to reduce plastic waste and add style to the table.

Get packs of durable knives, forks, and spoons to prepare, serve, and eat food instead of disposable plastic utensils.

10. Decline straws at bars and restaurants

reduce plastic waste bamboo straw

Say no to single-use plastic such as drinking straws at bars or restaurants. They are some of the most destructive forms of plastic waste.

Instead, you can bring an eco-friendly straw with you, such as a bamboo straw.

11. Use a thermos for coffee

ways reduce plastic waste thermos

Instead of using disposable plastic cups at your local coffee shop, bring a reusable travel mug, cup, or thermos with you.

Refillable coffee cups are eco-friendly to use at your coffee shop and available in a wide range of colors, materials, and sizes.

12. Stop using perfume and shampoo samples

ways reduce plastic waste perfume

Perfume and shampoo samples usually come in plastic packaging that contributes to pollution and the destruction of ecosystems. Just don't take samples at all and prefer products in larger containers.

13. Buy package-free soap

ways reduce plastic waste soap

Look for package-free soap and cleaning products at farmer's markets or some grocery stores.

You can even make cleaning products yourself by using a water and vinegar solution. It's as effective, less toxic, and plastic-free since it eliminates bottles of cleaner.

14. Don't litter or leave trash behind

ways reduce plastic waste litter

Take a few minutes to pick up your plastic waste everywhere you go and before leaving a lake, park, camping site, or beach.

Don't leave any garbage behind as well as any types of waste, including plastic, textiles, glass, oils, food waste, liquid waste, or paper.

15. Use cotton tissues, towels, and napkins

reduce plastic waste linen napkin

Switch from single-use napkins, tissues, and towels to more durable and sustainable cotton cloths. You can wash and reuse them many times over.

16. Buy organic cotton diapers

ways reduce plastic waste diaper

Similarly, if you've got a young baby, don't use disposable diapers. Instead, shop for organic cotton diapers that protect the environment and the sensitive skin of children.

17. Recycle your waste

ways reduce plastic waste recycle

If you produce any plastic waste, make sure to recycle. It's a fabulous way to minimize your impact on the environment.

Recycling adds value to waste materials, even plastic, and can save a large number of resources.

It reduces your ecological footprint and also supports the local industry involved in the collection, sorting, and shipping of waste.

18. Make your period plastic-free

plastic free period menstruation cup

Forget disposable products for your period. Instead, opt for one of the many reusable options available out there. Make the more mindful choice of avoiding plastic and packaging used in most tampons and pads.

Conventional tampons and pads contain up to 90% plastic. Avoid brands with plastic applicators as often as possible. Choose eco-friendly, reusable pads, tampons, or menstrual cups made with certified organic or recycled materials.

19. Use a bamboo toothbrush

bamboo toothbrush reduce plastic waste

A bamboo toothbrush is a plastic-free alternative to any disposable toothbrush that isn't environmentally friendly.

Bamboo brushes are recyclable and compostable. The best ones are entirely plant-based, compromising between eco-friendliness and the need for effective dental care.

A beautifully designed and sustainable bamboo toothbrush can clean teeth, clean oceans, and bright smiles.

20. Buy recycled products

reduce plastic waste recycled fashion

Look for products made from reusable and recycled materials. Recycled plastics use post-industrial wastes, such as fabric scraps, carpet flooring, fishing nets, and industrial plastics.

Products with recycled content reduce waste, greenhouse gas emissions, water, and energy consumption.

21. Cook at home

ways reduce plastic waste cooking

Make delicious meals at home to limit the amount of plastic waste you generate as you won't need to buy packaged food on the go.

After hitting up the farmers market, why not prepare seasonal products at home? To eat lighter and healthier, cook your meals in your kitchen, and bring them with you.

You can easily add berries to oatmeal bowls for breakfast, make salads or lettuce wraps for lunch, and cook a vegetable stew for dinner.

Cooking at home using seasonal and local products is a fun plastic-free activity all-year-round.

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About the Author: Alex Assoune

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