A lot of the single-use items we use today were not always one-use. In fact, it is only through industrial developments that took place within the last century that these items began to be produced as disposables. Because of their convenience and short-term costs, they are widely used. Nevertheless, their negative environmental impacts cannot be ignored. See how you can swap out your everyday single-use items for more sustainable, multi-use alternatives that are more cost-effective and eco-friendly in the long run.
First off, single-use items are part of all aspects of our daily lives. These items are typically made from cheap materials or composites like plastic or polystyrene. This means that even though they are only used for a few minutes, they can take thousands of years to break down. Additionally, when these materials break down, they often just break down into smaller particles instead of decomposing entirely. These microparticles are toxic to living organisms, which often ingest them unintentionally. This can lead to health and reproductive issues in the long term.
Switch paper napkins or kitchen towels for cloth ones
These days we have become accustomed to using paper towels and napkins to clean up spills. However, cloth napkins are significantly more effective at wiping up foods and liquids. They have longer lifespans, are more durable and are more cost-effective than paper towels, which can only absorb small amounts of moisture before tearing or falling apart. Cloth napkins are also really useful for outdoor meals as they will not fly away easily and are unlikely to tear. Besides being incredibly versatile and durable, cloth napkins also come in a variety of colorful textiles and patterns to match your tablecloth.
Replace disposable straws with reusable straws
A study from 2019 estimated that every day 500 million straws are used in the U.S. alone. These straws contribute to plastic pollution on a global scale. In fact, research indicates that over 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s coasts. In recent years, food and beverage outlets have begun opting for environmentally-friendlier alternatives such as paper straws. However, this is still not the case for many cafes and restaurants around the world.
To combat the use of harmful plastic straws, we as consumers can use our own alternatives to prevent threats to biodiversity, especially in aquatic ecosystems. Alternatives such as metal, bamboo or silicone straws are easy to clean, durable and safe. Many of them come in pouches or boxes, allowing them to be easily transported for on-the-go use.
Ditch the plastic wrap and use beeswax wraps
Plastic wrap is one of the many types of plastic products that piles up in landfills. Beeswax wraps are reusable, antibacterial alternatives to plastic cling wrap. They consist of a sheet of cotton fabric that is coated in a beeswax and pine resin coating. The wraps are flexible and can be used to wrap fresh produce or can be molded to fit over open containers to prevent food from going stale. Unlike plastic wrap that tears easily and can only be used once, beeswax wraps are sturdy and multi-use. They are easily rinsed after use and can be used for up to a year (and possibly even longer) with the right care.
Forget ziplock bags, try out Stasher bags
Ziplock baggies are a common storage staple in most households. Most of the time, they are typically only used once before they need to be thrown away. However, Stasher is a company that has come up with a food-safe alternative to ziplock bags. Stasher bags are silicone storage bags that come in various sizes, shapes and colors. The company aims to prevent single-use plastic bags from polluting local ecosystems. Besides being great for storing food and other items without leaks, Stasher bags are also handy in the kitchen! They can be used in the microwave, in the freezer and on the stove. They are easily cleaned by hand or in the dishwasher and last several years.
Switch out dryer sheets for dryer balls
Gone are the days when dryer sheets were needed to reduce static and soften clothing. Sustainably-sourced wool dryer balls bounce around during the drying process and allow clothes to stay separated in the machine. They also retain heat well. Because of these properties, each load’s drying time can drop by up to 25%, hence saving time, energy and money.
Silicone sponges are the best way forward
Silicone scrubbers are durable, long-lasting alternatives to traditional kitchen sponges. The sponges are useful for gently cleaning dinnerware and cookware, especially non-stick pots and pans. While regular cellulose sponges are very porous, silicone sponges do not absorb moisture. This prevents the growth of mold and bacteria within the sponge which can lead to infections.
Swap the single-use mop pads with reusable mop pads
Did you know that one washable floor mop pad can replace up to 100 single-use mop pads? The reusable microfiber pads are thick, durable alternatives to flimsier single-use pads and can fit various types of mops. Because of the soft microfiber material, they can easily glide over surfaces, while the threads grip onto dirt, dust, fur and hair. For maximum usage, the pads can be thrown into the washing machine after mopping and reused multiple times. Since they are multi-use, they can be up to six times cheaper than non-reusable mop pads and prevent excessive landfill waste.
Ditch the single-use razors for metal safety razors
Metal safety razors not only prevent single-use razors from piling up in landfills but also help slash costs. Once you buy the razor, blade refills are very cheap and long-lasting. In fact, a single disposable razor costs approximately £1 in the U.K. ($1.21 in the U.S.), while a packet of 100 double-edged razor blade refills costs £10 ($12.10). Usually, each refillable blade can be used three or four times before it needs replacing. Talk about a bargain!
Replace regular cotton swabs with reusable ones
Do you remember the photograph that went viral of a seahorse clinging onto a cotton swab with its tail, from 2017? I sure do. These small, single-use buds are piling up in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems across the globe. Multi-use cotton swabs are easy-to-clean alternatives that can replace up to 1,000 single-use swabs. They also use materials like soft, medical silicone on the ends for a sanitary and user-friendly product.
Try out some plastic-free period products
Plastic-free, reusable period products such as menstrual cups, reusable pads and period pants are great for the environment and your wallet when it’s that time of the month. Studies show that menstruators will spend an average of $21,000 on disposable menstrual products throughout their lifetime. Since reusable menstrual products are plastic-free and last several years, they are great for cutting costs and preventing excess landfill waste.
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