Living better with less plastic
Tiny particles are creating huge problems. Microplastics are now found in a wide range of today’s products and therefore present a danger to both our health and our environment. Here we show you how to reduce the use of plastic at home.
Inexpensive to produce and incredibly versatile, plastic is undoubtedly one of the chemical industry’s greatest triumphs. It’s used to manufacture a vast array of items such as carrier bags, heart valves, flat screens, contact lenses, rain coats and packaging for vegetables – the list of products is endless. But this is precisely the problem. Across the world, we are producing over 335 million tons of plastic every year.
Problems for humans and animals primarily arise when plastic waste is not recycled and rather ends up in our environment. It frequently finds its way into our oceans, where it is washed up on distant beaches or becomes part of what is known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, which is an enormous carpet of waste floating between North America and Asia. This would be shocking enough on its own, but the underlying problem is much graver. After all, plastics can take up to several hundred years to degrade, and they frequently break down into tiny particles now referred to as microplastics. Particles of this kind are now being found in fish, seafood and sea salt.
Apart from refuse, the cosmetics industry is another major source of microplastics, which are found in several peeling exfoliants, toothpastes, face creams, shower gels, soaps and make-up products. These are then washed down our showers and wash basins, only to end up in the ocean – and further exacerbate the problems described above.
What can we do to turn this around?
Rather than a complete abandonment of plastic products, we need a more responsible approach to how they are used. And some progress has already been made: more people than ever before are using cotton totes instead of plastic bags, for example, and consumers are increasingly calling for food items to be offered without shrink wrapping. But because this blog is about life in our own four walls, let’s take a look at what we can do at home.
In the kitchen, we can use cutting boards, washing-up brushes and salad servers made of wood, together with storage jars, mixing bowls and colanders made of stainless steel or enamel. And, of course, we can cook with fresh ingredients instead of heating up ready-made meals.
In the bathroom, we can utilize bar soap instead of liquid soap, prefer safety razors made of wood and stainless steel, and buy bamboo toothbrushes and ceramic toothbrush mugs. Plus we can avoid peeling creams and shampoos containing microplastics. Here is a link to the Beat the Microbead website that contains product lists for individual countries. Please note this is also available as an app: https://www.beatthemicrobead.org/product-lists/
At the dining table, we can opt for rattan place mats and ceramic crockery and when we have guests, we can seat them on folding wooden chairs.
In the living areas, we can prefer furniture and storage boxes made of wood or metal, both of which are sustainable materials with a good ecological footprint. Those who purchased plastic furniture in the 1990s because it was trendy are now aware of how badly it ages – in stark contrast to wood and leather.
On trips to the countryside, we can take reusable thermos cups, stainless steel drinking bottles and chic rattan picnic baskets.
As you can see, using less plastic is not as difficult as you might think. The alternatives are not only more sustainable, they also look more attractive! Anyone who has genuinely compared real wood parquet flooring to its PVC counterpart won’t need much time to make a decision. Wood parquet costs significantly more, of course, but it’s a significantly better investment – durable, environmentally friendly, stable in terms of value, and infinitely more stylish.
One final tip: Buying furniture from local stores – preferably also locally manufactured items – rather than ordering them online can considerably reduce the amount of packaging waste, which often consists of plastic.