20 Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Use Today

Plastic seems inescapable these days—it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t widely used before the 1960s!

Of course, plastic is a practical, sturdy, and easy-to-clean material—but it’s often not needed, especially in packaging.

Plastic is a manmade product, and nature is doing its best to adapt, but there’s just so much of it. There are approximately 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans alone.

Why is it Important to Reduce Plastic Use?

Plastic pollutes water, builds up in our bodies, and causes animals to mistake it for food, starving to death. However, a functional society that uses less plastic ensures that our plastic doesn’t end up as polluted as possible.

Not every form of plastic is easily recyclable, and there isn’t yet a popular method for breaking down plastic pollutants. So here are some tips to reduce your plastic use in your own life.

20 Ways to Reduce Plastic Use:

At Home

1. Use Washable, Reusable Silicone Baggies

Use washable, reusable silicone baggies (like these, available on Amazon) instead of single-use plastic. Alternatively, cloth bags or beeswax-coated cloth wraps work just as well for storing sandwiches or covering food or drinks in the refrigerator.

2. Buy Pet Toys and Accessories Made of Canvas

Buy pet toys and accessories made of canvas, natural rubber, or hemp instead of plastic. Harry Barker has been making eco-friendly dog supplies since 1997! The jury is still out on whether pets absorb toxins from plastic chew toys, so there’s even more reason to avoid plastic altogether.

DIY pet toys are also a cheap option – sometimes, a dog only wants an old sock! Cats are well-known for getting hours of joy out of simple cardboard boxes. Consider using old feather pillows as pet beds instead of store-bought mattresses stuffed with plastic-based filler.

3. Opt for Wooden Pencils Over Mechanical Ones

The plastic parts of the pencils and the plastic packaging of the lead refills add up. Try out these pencils made of reused newspapers! Pens always contain plastic, so be sure to purchase ones made of recycled materials.

But before buying any new pens or pencils, inspect your house, car, and desk. That pen you accidentally took from the bank may still be full of ink in a drawer!

4. Get that Plastic Out of Your Hair

Terra Ties and Kooshoo make 100% biodegradable hair ties. Etsy has many eco-friendly hair accessories available, or you can make your own by getting crafty with ribbon.

5. Avoid Acrylic Paints

Did you know acrylic paints are made of plastic? Acrylic is a type of plastic! But it is possible and fun to mix your paints using nature’s dyes and powders.

Mix water with dirt to make brown, beet juice to make purple, and turmeric to make orange. Add a binding agent, like egg yolks, to make the paint stick. Be careful, as these pigments stain. Adding vinegar will make the colors more vivid.

In Your Community

6. Pick up Plastic Litter

Pick up plastic litter when you see it outside, especially at the beach. By 2050, the weight of plastic will exceed the weight of fish in our oceans.

Plastic beach toys like inflatable rafts, shovels, pails, chairs, and umbrellas easily blow into the water – that’s out of our control. What is in our control is what we bring to the beach.

Choose beach toys and accessories made from lightweight and compostable bamboo.

7. Initiate a Competition in your School or Workplace to Reduce Plastic Use

Initiate a competition in your school or workplace to reduce plastic use, like “Plastic-Free February.” For example, every person who doesn’t use plastic in their lunch gets the point.

Kids are pretty competitive, and challenging one grade or homeroom to use less plastic than another will instill good habits at an early age.

In the workplace, it’ll raise company awareness of the issue and perhaps lead to more sustainable commitments from the higher-ups.

8. Get Familiar with Curbside Recycling

According to the United Nations, only about 9% of all plastic waste produced has been recycled. We can and must do better! Familiarize yourself with your locality’s rules for plastic curbside recycling and ensure you recycle correctly.

Be aware of which plastics are more complex to recycle than others: #1 and #2 can be placed in curbside recycling. Plastics with imprinted #3 – #7 may require additional research and effort. Check to see what your county accepts.

9. Let Your Plastic Items be Reused

Are you cluttering your home with plastic appliances, garden supplies, or kids’ toys? You can reuse your plastic items by donating them to your local thrift shop or selling them at a yard sale. For example, your old microwave could be used by a local college student.

10. Buy local

So much plastic is used in packaging – an estimated 40 million tons in 2020 alone. If what you need is available at a store near you, don’t place an online order. Pick it up, and skip the bag at the register if you can carry it yourself.

Shopping & On the Go

11. Shop 100% Organic Cotton

Plastic is hidden in our clothes in the form of elastic, polyester, spandex, nylon, lycra, faux fur, and even vegan leather (if it contains polyurethane). Shop 100% organic cotton as much as you can. And if you have to have a particular fashion item, consider thrifting it or shopping vintage.

12. Be Mindful of Packaging

Use paper stuffing or biodegradable packing peanuts instead of bubble wrap. At the grocery store, seek food brands with minimal packaging or those that use reusable/recyclable/compostable packaging, such as glass.

Does your meal delivery service use recyclable packaging? Green Chef uses a recyclable insulation material to keep food cool and fresh.

13. Use Reusable or Compostable Utensils

Use reusable or compostable utensils, plates, and cups for picnics or on-the-go eating. Amazon has some great bamboo options with 100% plastic-free packaging!

14. Store Reusable Cloth Shopping Bags and Mug

Americans go through an estimated 100 billion plastic bags per year! Know how many barrels of oil are needed to make them all? 12 million!

Store reusable cloth shopping bags and a mug in your car so that you’re always prepared for a last-minute grocery shopping trip or coffee run.

(Remember that Starbucks does not clean personal reusable cups for customers at this time and does not accept them in the drive-thru.)

15. Keep Reusable Cutlery in the Car

If you plan to take fast food directly home through the drive-thru, ask the cashier not to include plastic utensils. Consider keeping some clean, reusable cutlery in the car for road trips or when eating in your car feels right.

Stay Educated

16. Calculate Your Plastic Footprint

Be honest with yourself about your plastic usage by calculating your footprint here.

See where you use plastic the most in your daily life. If you can shift to a more sustainable material, do it! If it feels too big to tackle, start smaller and work your way up. Build good habits every month.

17. Commit to Reducing Plastic

Be aware of everything plastic is in, from latex gloves to skin care products, glitter, and vinyl records! The list is endless, but don’t get overwhelmed. To start, commit to reducing plastic in just one part of your life. Don’t give up if you find yourself relying more on plastic than you want to, and reward yourself for developing good habits.

18. Use Products Made of Glass

Use products made of glass, ceramics, bamboo, thrift materials, paper, cloth, stainless steel, and recycled plastic instead of single-use plastics.

Silicone is a good plastic substitute, especially for kitchen and bathroom items. It’s highly durable and, unlike plastic, doesn’t release toxins when burned.

Every product you usually use plastic for has a more sustainable alternative, from straws to toothbrushes.

19. Donate to Help Out

It’s easy to pick up litter off the street, but because we live on land, we don’t see how much plastic pollutes our oceans. Often, litter gets washed away into waterways, out of sight, out of mind.

The reality is that 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic are estimated to be floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Donate to Plastic Oceans or the Plastic Ocean Project to help end plastic pollution in our oceans.

20. Get Your Friends and Family On Board

Get your friends and family on board, too! Generations before and after us must agree on plastic reduction. That’s how real, long-term progress is made.

Final Thoughts on How to Reduce Plastic Use

Which plastic reduction habits do you see yourself adopting? Since large corporations put plastic in the products that we rely upon, it’s difficult for individuals to avoid plastic.

But technology evolves fast, and hopefully, methods to break down plastic pollutants will soon become popular and affordable.

Soon, individuals will no longer have to avoid plastic because corporations will choose more sustainable materials.

In the meantime, incorporating even a few tips will help form good habits and help create a cleaner, more natural world.

Related content: What Do Plastic Recycling Symbols Mean?

Did you find this article helpful? If so, please share it with your friends! Many thanks.

You May Also Like