Reducing Single-Use Plastic in Your Home Kitchen
From individually wrapped snacks fresh to the bag that carries your take-out, it’s no secret plastic can make life more convenient. Though a wrapper here and there may seem harmless, the scale at which single-use plastic is used and improperly disposed of is difficult to imagine.
In fact, half of the plastic we consume is disposed of after one use, and enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
Unfortunately, plastic waste does not break down, and some size down to microplastics that can make their way to bodies of water, harm wildlife, and make it back onto your plate as it’s commonly mistaken as food to fish or farm animals. Single-use plastics certainly have their place, such as surgical gloves and syringes, but there are ways you can start reducing your use at home. Here are some places to start:
Plastic food containers, even if reusable, are sometimes warped in the microwave or dishwasher. Stainless steel or glass containers are great durable options. Repurpose a pasta sauce or pickle jar for easy storage of meals including soups and salads.
Reusable zipper bags.
Made of silicone, these can stash anything from lunch bag snacks to frozen smoothie ingredients. The beauty? Silicone being a heat-resistant material allows for some dishwasher-friendly options.
Reusable grocery bags are a car trunk staple for many aiming to reduce plastic waste while shopping. Furthermore, mesh cotton bags are a great alternative to plastic and net bags found in produce aisles. They provide a barrier between produce and other groceries but are thin enough for the cashier to conveniently scan the goods. If you’re like me and occasionally forget to remember reusable bags, look for or request paper bags at check-out.
Whether they accompany a restaurant beverage, iced coffee, or fancy homemade drink, there are many opportunities to reduce plastic straw usage. Consider skipping the straw altogether or opting for a reusable metal option.
Beeswax coated cloths are versatile cost-effective replacements for cling wrap. Cover sandwiches, bowls with leftovers, or individual fruits with these pliable wraps. Because they are breathable, beeswax wraps not suitable to cover highly perishable items such as raw meat.
Mesh coffee pods.
Many coffee shops sell reusable cups and offer incentives when it’s time to refill. For a convenient morning homebrew, coffee pod makers have increased in popularity. But this doesn’t mean you have to use a new plastic pod each time. Consider reusable stainless steel mesh coffee pods ready to fill with grounds that not only reduce single-use plastic waste but is also economically a good choice.
Interested in taking a step further? When contemplating between products at the store, select the option with more recyclable material and less non-recyclable waste. Next, consider day-to-day items used and explore whether replacements exist. For example, bamboo is compostable and can replace plastic toothbrushes, plates, and dining utensils. Talk to your family about how everyone can get on board.
Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more tips, visit ahealthiermichigan.org.