How To Reduce Your Plastic Consumption in 4 Easy Steps

Tom Stevenson
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By 2050, it’s estimated there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

That’s one scary statistic. But that’s only the tip of the plastic garbage heap. Since 1950, the amount of plastic in the world has increased from 2 million tons to 381 million in 2015. 91% of which has never been recycled. When a plastic bag is only used for 15 minutes but can last for a millennium, it’s obvious we have a huge plastic problem.

These statistics are disturbing. Alarm bells should be ringing in your head. We’re turning the Earth into a plastic planet. Thankfully, we’re not powerless in the face of this plastic tsunami. You can make a difference. A small one, but a difference nonetheless.

The beauty of humanity is we have the capacity to change. We can recognise what we’re doing is damaging to the planet and alter course. If I take a walk around the small city where I live in the UK, I’m guaranteed to see plastic.

It’s in the bushes, it’s on the side of the road and it's scattered across the city centre. Plastic reaches every nook and cranny possible. The other day I walked by the canal and saw plastic bobbing up and down. It’s heartbreaking.

This is a problem we’ve caused and it’s one we have to fix. If humanity was wiped out tomorrow, one of our longest-lasting legacies would be the sheer amount of plastic we’ve produced.

It can take one thousand years for plastic to decompose. If we continue to use it at the rate we do now, that’s an awful lot of plastic we’re sending out into the world. Plastic which could remain long after we’re gone.

In the face of these statistics, you might feel numb. Powerless. They’re daunting, but they’re not insurmountable. While we can only make a small difference, that’s better than nothing.

If we all made a pledge to cut plastic out of our lives, we’d go a long way to making a dent in our plastic problem.

Here are four ways you can cut down on your plastic use today:

Soapy showers

This is an easy one. Swap your shower gel for a bar of soap. It does the same job but without the need to throw it away. It’s such an easy change to make it’s amazing more of us haven’t done this already.

Shower gel almost always comes in plastic bottles. You might think they’re recycled, but when you consider just 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled, you may start to question this.

Soap is a simple solution to this problem. No plastic is involved in the making of soap and you can even make your own at home if you want. I also find it lasts longer than shower gel which can run out quickly.

Just imagine how much plastic you’d avoid if you switched to soap. Now imagine if 10, 100, or even 1000 did the same thing. That’s a big difference for a small act.

Bamboo brushing

Unlike plastic toothbrushes, bamboo ones are compostable. All you need to do is pull out the bristles and bury the handle in your garden. Nature does the rest.

Bamboo toothbrushes use 97% less plastic than standard plastic brushes. The bristles tend to be made of nylon which isn’t recyclable. But some models do use charcoal bristles which have less of an impact on the environment.

The debate around bamboo toothbrushes isn’t watertight. There is a case to be made that using fields to grow bamboo isn’t an efficient use of land. One option is to use plastic replaceable heads which stay in a circular chain.

I’ve yet to see one on the market, but they have the downside of being made from plastic. If you have the chance to swap to a bamboo toothbrush, you should take it up.

Plastic toothbrushes are a scourge, while electric toothbrushes are not only harmful to the planet but the people making them too.

Bamboo toothbrushes may not be perfect, but they’re a good way to reduce your plastic usage.

Say bye to bottled water

Bottled water is one of the worst causes of plastic pollution. The statistics around bottled water are eye-watering. Since 1999 the per capita consumption of bottled water in the United States has increased from 16.2 to 43.7 gallons in 2019.

That’s a massive jump!

Just imagine where all those discarded plastic bottles end up. An easy fix is to buy a reusable water bottle. You’ll help the planet and your wallet! Instead of buying bottled water all the time, you just need to fill up your bottle and you’re good to go.

One question I’m asked regarding this is what to do if you don’t like tap water? Firstly, most of the tap water in developed countries is fine to drink. If you’re in a developing country, then that’s a different story as I found out when I was in the Philippines.

The infrastructure in these countries isn’t as good and the tap water can be contaminated with nasty particles. A solution is to fill up at a public water fountain. You’ll find many of these in most cities around the world.

The second solution is to install a water filter at home. You can buy one which fits on your tap and filters out the junk. This way you have peace of mind the water you're drinking isn’t going to upset your stomach.

Considering this is a simple fix, it’s amazing anyone buys bottled water at all. Buying a reusable water bottle and a filter at home will save you a ton of money. They’ll also stop more plastic bottles from ending up in the ocean and on our streets!

Straws suck

Straws end up everywhere, even in the noses of unsuspecting turtles. If you don’t need one, don’t use one. Instead, use what God gave you and try this radical technique called sipping!

Plastic straws have to be one of the worst inventions known to man. I shudder to think how many I’ve used during my lifetime. If you frequent fast-food joints, you’ll have used one. They get used for all of 10 minutes and are discarded straight away.

It’s a massive waste of resources!

The simple solution is to ditch them and just drink how most of us drink anyway. Bring the glass to your lips, and let your drink flow into your mouth. We’ve been doing this for thousands of years and it’s much more effective than using a straw.

If you do want to use a straw there is a solution. You can buy a collapsible steel straw. This way you can use a straw but have the peace of mind to know it won’t be immediately discarded after you’ve used it.

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