8 Simple Ways to Reduce Personal Plastic Waste

While perusing the deep depths of instagram, I came across this post from @least.waste that really stuck with me. I feel that a lot of times, the idea of reducing your own waste can seem overwhelming, or it may feel like small steps you are taking aren’t making any sort of impact on the grand scheme of things. It’s a big world out there, and it can be hard to imagine that something just one person is doing can make a difference. BUT, as a matter of fact, it makes a huge difference. Any sort of anti-waste practice is better than doing nothing at all. The more people that start to change their daily habits with plastic consumption, the better.

What I like about this post specifically, is how simply it breaks down different processes someone can integrate into their daily lives. I want to break down each step, to make this an even easier idea to wrap your head around. Let’s get started!

Rethink: This is the first step in the long journey of the zero waste movement. I recommend doing research into the impacts plastics and other waste has on our planet, short term and long term. Our impact on the earth can be a hard thing to conceptualize, especially because the common person doesn’t see a lot of this damage first hand. So much information is accessible online, a quick google search will produce enough evidence to help you understand the gravity of the situation. There are also a lot of great educational books out there, including “101 ways to go zero waste” by Kathryn Kellogg, and “Plastic Free” by Beth Terry, both of which are favorite reads of the creator of PUR. These novels will help you rethink your relationship with plastic, and provide simple and innovative ideas on how to reduce its presence in your life.

Refuse/reduce: This step is one of the easiest to attain in my opinion. These days it seems like everywhere you go, everything is encased in some sort of plastic packaging. Opt out of using unnecessary plastics like grocery bags, straws, to-go cups/containers, plastic produce bags, etc. and instead bring your own reusable options. Reusable straws and containers are available at most grocery stores, as well as mason jars, which are great for storing dry goods. This step is also helpful for your wallet, as many establishments will offer discounts for bringing in your own containers and bags. 

Reuse/refurbish: You don’t need to be a creative to figure out how to put excess plastics to good use. If you’ve found yourself in a position where you weren’t able to refuse plastic, repurposing it for functionality is a great option. This could be reusing plastic grocery bags as trash can liners or using old food containers as Tupperware, etc. Do your absolute best to find another function for your plastic before you decide to trash it or recycle. 
similarly to reusing a product, refurbishing is a great strategy when it comes to up-cycling old or broken furniture, or larger scale items. There are plenty of amazing tutorials online for reinventing old household items, I highly recommend checking it out!

Repair: It’s unfortunate that a lot of products are made for planned obsolescence. Company’s create items that they know will eventually break, so that the consumer will have to replace products more often, and therefore give more money to the company.   In a perfect world, everything would be made to last, but as of right now, that’s not the reality. If you or someone you know is willing and capable of fixing items you’d normally jump to replace, I recommend this as a great option for you! With a little time, research, and effort, things like furniture, clothing, electronics etc. can be repaired, rather than thrown out and replaced.  While this step can be much more intensive than the others, it is still something to consider the next time a product fails on you. Another resource to take advantage of are companies that buy back failing or obsolete products in order to recycle or reuse useful parts.

Repurpose: Our favorite step! There is a whole world of creative possibilities out there waiting to be explored. Plastics can make for great crafting material, and can also serve as a functional part of your creative process! At PUR, we use #5 plastics for all of our jewelry, and every scrap is put to good use.  When I paint, rather than using a pallet when I paint, I opt to reuse old lids from processed food containers. This works great with the acrylic paints I use. Making sculptures, wall art, and decorations are also great options, and really make way for your creativity to flow. 

This collage was made by local art and environment enthusiast, Lauren Virzi, in collaboration with her mother, Kelley Padrick. To create this piece, Lauren utilized magazines, the top from an old laundry hamper, and tin-can lids Kelley hand painted. All of the items she used were found around her home.

Recycle: While this is the most common step people take to divert waste, it is recommended that this is the last step you take when dealing with excess plastic. If you have the option to extend the functional life of plastics, do this before recycling. We are all about up-cycling here, and oftentimes there is a way to do at least one of the previously described steps before finally recycling something. 

So there we have it folks! I hope everyone finds this information useful! This can be a great jumping off point when attempting to go zero waste, and could potentially spark a conversation on how many ways there are to reduce and minimize personal plastic waste. Every step you take in reducing waste counts towards a more beautiful, healthy planet! Do your part, even if it’s in the most simple ways.

-Lily Medeiros

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