5 Easy Swaps to Avoid 800 Single-Use Plastic Trash Items Every Year - Twice the Ice


5 Easy Swaps to Avoid 800 Single-Use Plastic Trash Items Every Year

plastic ocean

By now, you’ve surely heard of the damage that plastic is doing. It’s filling our oceans and waterways, killing wildlife, polluting soil and food with microplastic, and filling landfills. The process of creating it uses oil, which pollutes the air and contributes to climate change. Many people have started to reduce their own plastic use, but many also wonder how much of an impact this makes? Let’s take a look at how a few simple changes can actually avoid significant amounts of plastic.

Are We “Addicted to Plastic?”

Avoiding plastic is surprisingly hard. Most foods and drinks, whether in a convenience store or supermarket, are packaged in plastic. Take-out containers and utensils are mostly plastic. Most household items are shipped and mailed in plastic packaging, and made from plastic, too. Most clothing is made with polyester, a type of plastic. It can start to feel inevitable, and reducing your plastic use can quickly start to feel pointless and exhausting.

Some have stated that humankind is “addicted to plastic.” However, it’s important to note that consumers did not choose to make plastic a ubiquitous product. Misinformation from plastic producers like Dow Chemical and ExxonMobil told the public that plastic could be recycled, and was harmless, when they knew this was a lie. Years-long advertising and lobbying campaigns promoted and continue to promote the use of plastic, when safer and more sustainable alternatives were and are readily available. Today, plastic producers and plastic buyers, like Coca-Cola, Nestle, Unilever and PepsiCo—whose products, like single-use plastic bottles and wrappers, continually pile up on beaches and in waterways—refuse to move away from plastic. We are not addicted to plastic. Plastic producers and buyers are addicted to plastic, because they are addicted to the profits it produces.

Though consumers did not cause the plastic problem, we can help to reduce our use of it where possible and practical. This not only reduces the plastic that ends up in landfills, oceans, and habitats, but also reduces the fossil fuels used to produce plastic. It also signals to plastic producers and buyers that we do not agree with or support their practices. Every bit of plastic not purchased is a signal to these companies, using the only language they understand: profits.

Do Reusable Water Bottles and Bags Actually Help?

More than a third of Americans are actively reducing their plastic use. As many as 80% of people globally support a ban on single-use plastics. Surveys indicate that as many as 80% of teens “feel pressured to save the planet, but don’t think they are well-enough equipped to make a difference.” Many of us feel the need to reduce plastic, but many of us aren’t sure how or where to start, or whether or not it makes a difference.

Avoiding plastic—whether that means using a trendy new water bottle, bringing your favorite reusable shopping bags, avoiding take-out containers, buying cotton clothing instead of polyester, or using other plastic-swaps—does help. Every bit of plastic you’re avoiding has multiple benefits: it isn’t filling up landfills or waterways, choking wildlife, turning into microplastics, using oil, spreading air pollution, or requiring miles of transportation and trucking emissions between different steps in the creation and stocking process. If you can replace a single-use plastic item with an item that’s already in circulation, such as a used item from a thrift store, you can almost completely eliminate the associated pollution and carbon emissions. And, you’ve saved a different item from a landfill, too!

In summary, since plastic has so many negative effects, every bit of plastic you’re not using is helpful in multiple ways. That’s why we collected this list to remove significant amounts of plastic every year. Since you’re buying fewer things, these swaps will also save money!

5 Easy Swaps to Avoid 800 Single-Use Plastic Trash Items Every Year

1. Single-Use Water Bottles: 156 Bottles Per Year

Tourist reusable blue bottle in a woman's hand on a mountain background

This swap is easy to make and easy to calculate, too. How many single-use plastic bottles do you use in a year? According to Earthday.org, Americans average about 13 bottles a month. That’s not including larger plastic bottles like orange juice or iced tea in your fridge. After twelve months, replacing 13 bottles a year equates to 156 bottles total! Your usage might be more or less, but this is a significant part of the equation. Single-use plastic bottles are one of the biggest types of plastic pollution. If you forget your reusable water bottle or the situation is inconvenient, consider an alternative to bottled water, like boxed or canned water, which is becoming increasingly commonplace.

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2. Single-Use Plastic Shopping Bags: 300 Bags Per Year

Every plastic shopping bag that holds your items gets one use, then it’s discarded. Since plastic is made from fossil fuels and it’s designed to last for decades, and will never actually decompose, this is a tragedy. Estimates suggest each person uses about 300 bags a year. For a family of four, this might be as many as 1,200 bags! Think of how much space you’d need to stuff over a thousand plastic bags into. And, think of how much landfill space you’re saving by bringing your own reusable bags!

3. Single-Use Plastic Razors: 40 Razors Per Year

By some estimates, the average daily shaver goes through about 40 to 50 razors a year. That’s a little less than one a week. Replacing only the razor head instead of the handle reduces the plastic impact, but completely disposable razors add up quickly. With a stainless steel safety razor, you’ll only need to replace the razor blade, which can be recycled. With some as low as $26 and other, more expensive types offering a lifetime warranty, you’ll also save money in the long run. Metal razor blades fit most safety razors, and they’re cheap, while speciality razor heads can change, and they can be expensive.

4. Garbage Bags: 48 Bags Per Year

Containing trash in its proper container is essential. However, it’s possible to skip this particular plastic bag in favor of plastic bags we already have. Even avid reusable-bag-users probably have plastic bags from other sources; take-out orders, convenience trips, packaging. Though total trash can vary a lot from person to person, trash services generally operate on a weekly basis, which requires at least one sealed garbage bag per week, whether it’s filled or not. Using the plastic bags you already have can help you avoid at least 48 full-sized garbage bags. You’ll also save money, since you won’t have to buy extra plastic bags destined for the trash.

5. Sandwich bags: 250 Bags Per Year

If you pack a lunch every working day, either for yourself or for someone in your family, and you use one sandwich bag each time, that’s about 250 sandwich bags each year. These bags, like single-use shopping bags, get used one time, and then sit in a landfill forever. But, there are many ways to avoid these types of bags. You might use bags or containers you already have, but are hard to avoid, such as bags of bread, or larger margarine or yogurt containers. You might also use reusable containers designed to hold food. Or, you might use reusable bee’s wax wraps, or even napkins, paper towels, or clean cloths.

Bonus: Extra Swaps

ways businesses are fighting plastic waste

All together, one person will have eliminated 794 plastic items every year with just 5 easy swaps! That’s a lot of landfill space, microplastics, pollution, and fossil fuels saved. That’s close enough to 800 single-use plastic trash items saved from a landfill, but let’s take a look at a few others to get officially over the finish line. Adopting any one of these will mean you’re saving well over 800 bits of single-use disposable plastic.

  • Cigarette butts: Cigarette butts are the most abundant type of plastic litter. Quitting smoking, cutting down, or disposing of butts responsibly can go a long way.
  • Take-out containers: If you throw away take-out containers once per week, bringing your own containers amounts to 48 unrecyclable styrofoam containers prevented.
  • Shampoo bottles: The average person uses about 1 shampoo bottle per month. Visiting a refill shop or zero-waste shop, using larger containers, or using shampoo bars can help reduce this number.
  • Refillable containers: Zero-waste or plastic-free grocery stores, as well as many regular grocery stores, offer options to use refillable containers for all sorts of items, from nuts and snacks to olive oil, vinegar, soap, cereal, beans, rice, and much more.
  • Thrifted clothing: Thrift shop clothing has already been previously purchased, and it has nowhere to go except to another owner or to a landfill. Americans buy an average of 60 new clothing items per year, and most of these are polyester, or plastic. Replacing even a fraction of these with pre-loved items can make a difference.

Remember, these swaps don’t have to be perfect. If you need an extra plastic bag or bottle or something else, use it when you need it! Making these swaps helps eliminate habitual uses of plastic that we don’t really need or appreciate, and these can add up pretty quickly.

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