Environment Recycling & Waste 10 Tips for Living With Less Plastic It's impossible to avoid plastic entirely, but there are effective ways to limit your exposure. By Katherine Martinko Katherine Martinko Twitter Senior Editor University of Toronto Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated September 15, 2019 SewCream / Shutterstock Share Twitter Pinterest Email Recycling & Waste Plastics Zero Waste Plastic is so commonplace in our world today that it’s nearly impossible to imagine I a life without it. Striving for a plastic-free life, however, remains a noble and worthwhile goal – and it’s becoming easier with every year that passes, as more people demand plastic alternatives and refuse to participate in the grotesque plastic waste that’s filling our planet’s landfills. Here are some tips on how to get rid of plastic at home. Don’t worry; it’s easier than you think! 1. Avoid the Worst Types of Plastic If you check the bottom of any plastic container, you’ll see a number (1 through 7) inside a triangle made of arrows. The worst plastics are: #3 (Polyvinyl Chloride): an extremely toxic plastic that contains dangerous additives such as lead and phthalates and is used in plastic wrap, some squeeze bottles, peanut butter jars, and children’s toys#6 (Polystyrene): contains styrene, a toxin for the brain and nervous system, and is used in Styrofoam, disposable dishes, take-out containers, plastic cutlery#7 (Polycarbonate/Other category): contains bisphenol A and is found in most metal food can liners, clear plastic sippy cups, sport drink bottles, juice and ketchup containers 2. Choose Reusable, Non-Plastic Containers Carry a reusable water bottle and travel mug wherever you go. Pack your lunch in glass (Mason jars are wonderfully versatile), stainless steel, stacking metal tiffins, cloth sandwich bags, a wooden Bento box, etc. Take reusables to the supermarket, farmers’ market, or wherever you’re shopping, and have them weighed before filling. 3. Never Drink Bottled Water Buying bottled water in North America is absurd, especially when you consider that bottled water is less regulated than tap water; it’s usually just filtered tap water; it’s exorbitantly expensive; it’s a gross waste of resources to collect, bottle, and ship it; and it results in unnecessary plastic waste that’s usually not recycled. (via Life Without Plastic) 4. Shop in Bulk The more items you can buy in bulk, the more you’ll save in packaging. While this mentality has been the norm for years at special bulk food stores, it’s fortunately becoming more common in supermarkets. You’ll save money in food costs and, if you drive, in the gas used for extra trips to the store. Search for items such as large wheels of cheese, without any plastic packaging, and stock up on those whenever possible. 5. Avoid Frozen Convenience Foods Convenience foods are among the worst culprits for excessive packaging waste. Frozen foods come wrapped in plastic and packaged in cardboard, which is often lined with plastic, too. There’s not any way around it; it’s a shopping habit that will have to go if you’re serious about ditching plastic. 6. Invest in Alternatives to Non-Stick Cookware Don’t expose yourself and your family to toxic perfluorochemicals that are released when non-stick surfaces such as Teflon are heated. Replace with cast iron (which works just as well as non-stick if seasoned and cared for properly), stainless steel, or copper cookware. 7. Make Your Own Condiments This could be a fun experiment in canning, and if you dedicate a whole day to it, you could have enough to last the whole year. Make cucumber or zucchini relish and ketchup when late-summer vegetables are at their peak. Items such as chocolate sauce, mustard, and mayonnaise are quick and simple to make once you get the hang of them. Everything can be kept in glass jars. 8. Clean With Baking Soda and Vinegar Baking soda, which comes for cheap in large cardboard boxes, and vinegar, which comes in large glass jars, can be used to clean, scour, and disinfect the house and wash dishes, replacing plastic cleaning bottles; soda can be turned into an effective homemade deodorant; and both soda and vinegar (apple cider, specifically) can replace shampoo and conditioner bottles. 9. Use Natural Cleaning Tools If you need something with scrubbing power, go for copper instead of plastic. Use a cotton dishcloth or a coconut coir brush for dishes, instead of a plastic scrub brush. Use cotton facecloths instead of disposable wipes. Don’t underestimate the versatility of old rags! 10. Remove Plastic From Your Laundry Routine Use soap flakes, soap strips, or soap nuts instead of conventional laundry detergents that come in plastic-lined cardboard with plastic scoops or thick plastic jugs. They are truly awful for the planet. Along the same lines, use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap. Bar soap works as a good shaving cream alternative, too.