Let's Refuse Single-Use

If your household is anything like mine, underneath the sink stashed away behind those delicious cleaning products is a big pile of plastic bags. Every week, my family goes grocery shopping only to forget our reusable bags at home, leading us to bring back a never ending supply of No Name (™) brand plastic grocery bags. Even though, technically, I’m reusing the bags that I get from the grocery store, I never really see that plastic pile shrink. So what are single use plastics? Single-use plastics are disposable plastics that are intended to be used only once before they are thrown away. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) notes that these products as the most common single-use plastics found in the environment: cigarette butts, plastic drinking bottles, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, and straws (6). While no single person can deny the miracle which is plastic, the shear impact of what single-use plastics are doing to our planet is staggering.

Recently, there has been a huge push to end the supply of single use plastics, and for good reasons too. The City of Vancouver will be issuing a by-law effective June 1st, 2019 which prohibits business license holders from providing single-use utensils unless requested by customers. This Vancouver by-law is a part of a city-wide Zero Waste 2040 long-term strategic environmental initiative (1).  Although governing bodies can limit the choices we make in terms of plastic consumption, the onus is on us, the consumers, to make the right choices. Are we going to eat out at that trendy Korean restaurant in south-side Edmonton which has all the delicious snack side portions but everything is served in single use bowls and plates, or are we going to bring our own containers these venues? The choice is ours and so is the responsibility.

Everyone knows about canvas bags and Hydroflask(™)  so below we have listed a few awesome alternatives to our least favorite single-use plastics.

Alternatives to single-use plastics:

  • Plastic straws: Choose reusable straws. Some options include silicone, stainless steel, glass and bamboo materials.

  • Plastic water bottles: you already know.

  • Plastic grocery bags:

    • Carry a few reusable bags in your car or bag for those unexpected runs to the groceries. Tip: you can match two colour of your double-cuffed beanie to the colour of your tote.

    • Credobags Mesh Produce Bags are made of regular cotton or cotton mesh.

    • ECOBAGS use cotton in India under the Fair Trade or Fair Labor policies.

  • Plastic takeout containers:

    • Consider bringing your own reusable food containers when eating out. It both doubles up as a container for your leftovers and hassle free meal prep for lunch tomorrow.

    • Stainless steel food carrier

  • Plastic food storage bags: Consider this option.

  • Cotton buds usually have plastic stems: Opt for paper stemmed cotton buds.

  • Plastic utensils:

    • Consider portable reusable utensils such as these: Light My Fire Spork is a spoon, knife and fork combo.

    • Wash plastic utensils for reuse instead of disposing them.  

    • If disposable utensils are preferred, use a compostable option.

  • Disposable coffee cups: While coffee cups are predominantly composed of paper, they are lined with plastic polyethylene which disqualifies them from being recycled.

    • Bring a reusable coffee mug to coffee shops. Tim Hortons and Starbucks provide a 10% discount when you bring your own mug!

  • Plastic trash bags: here is a compostable option.

  • Shampoo, conditioner and lotion bottles: try bar forms of these products

  • Plastic food wrap:

    • Etee Wraps are made with organic cotton muslin infused with beeswax, tree resin, organic jojoba, cinnamon & clove essential oils, and non-GMO soy wax. Wash with cool water using an eco-friendly soap (not ethanol-based) then let dry.

    • Bee’s Wrap is composed of organic cotton that has been covered in beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. The warmth of your hands softens the wrap to create a seal. To clean, simply wash it in cool water with a mild dish soap then let air dry.

  • Teabags: Paper tea bags are commonly sealed using polypropylene, a plastic polymer (2). Opt for loose tea leaves and use these methods:

    • French press: Here is a video demonstrating how to use a french press. Here is a review of what french press to buy.

    • Tea infusers are designed to hold loose tea leaves when placed in hot water for steeping (4): tea ball


Written by Kanesha Calo and Allen Gao

References:

  1. https://vancouver.ca/green-vancouver/zero-waste-vancouver.aspx

  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_bag#Paper_and_plastic

  3. https://www.waterdocs.ca/water-talk/2017/12/19/8-single-use-plastic-items-you-can-quit-right-now

  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infuser

  5. https://www.businessinsider.com/eco-friendly-alternatives-everyday-products-2018-1

  6. https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/25496/singleUsePlastic_sustainability.pdf?isAllowed=y&sequence=1