5 Ways You Can Reduce Your Plastic Consumption in 2020

6 min read

In our first blog post, we laid out three of the many, many reasons why plastic straws suck. However, plastic straws are not the only single-use plastics polluting our planet. According to the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup 2019 Report, the top 10 most commonly found items during their annual cleanups in over 100 countries are all made of plastic (including cigarette butts, which contain plastic filters).

Here’s the Top 10 list:

  1. Cigarette butts (5,716,331)
  2. Food wrappers (3,728,712)
  3. Plastic straws & stirrers (3,668,871)
  4. Plastic forks, knives & spoons (1,968,065)
  5. Plastic beverage bottles (1,754,908)
  6. Plastic bottle caps (1,390,232)
  7. Plastic grocery bags (964,541)
  8. Other plastic bags (938,929)
  9. Plastic lids (728,892)
  10. Plastic cups & plates (656,276)

That’s A LOT of plastic. An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste flows into our oceans every year. That’s the equivalent of one dump truck full of plastic every minute, every hour, every day going into the ocean.

Something needs to be done and it has to start with us.

Plastic utensils on beach in New York
Source: Unsplash, beach cleanup in New York

Here are 5 single-use plastics you can quit right now and how to replace them with reusable, more sustainable products:

1. Plastic Grocery Bags --> Reusable Grocery Bags

Let’s start with an easy one. In 2020, it has become nearly shameful to show up at a grocery store without an armful of reusable bags in which to carry your groceries home. Many cities throughout North America have implemented a tax on plastic bags and some cities have even outright banned plastic bags.

For instance, in 2018, Montreal took the major step of putting into effect a ban on single-use plastic bags in retail stores, supermarkets and dépanneurs. Plastic bags thinner than 50 microns (0.05 millimetres) became illegal as of June 5, 2018. Unfortunately, there’s a small loophole: Plastic bags thicker than 50 microns can be given out when customers don’t have a reusable bag. So, some plastic bags are still being offered on a daily basis. The bright side is that many stores don’t offer plastic bags at all and hand out paper bags instead. However, reusable bags are always best.

Quick tip: if you tend to forget your reusable grocery bags at home, try keeping 1-2 bags in your car at all times as backups. 

2. Plastic Produce Bags --> Reusable Mesh Produce Bags

It seems as though plastic grocery bags are gradually disappearing and reusable grocery bags are becoming widely-adopted for consumers who are trying to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. But one thing that hasn’t really gone away (yet) are the rolls of thin plastic produce bags found in supermarkets, designed to contain fruits, vegetables, meats, baked goods, and bulk items. After all, they’re a necessity right? If you’re looking to make a change, reusable mesh market bags for your fruits & veggies are an easy solution! They’re easily accessible and some grocery stores in Canada have already taken the initiative to offer reusable mesh bags in their fruit & vegetable aisles. Or, you can easily find them in other retail stores or online.

Ikea Canada Mesh Market Bags
Source: Ikea Canada market mesh bags

Quick tip: Wondering how to store your fruits & veggies in the fridge without protective bags? Individual containers, bins or stainless steel baskets are some simple solutions. Check out The Home Edit’s blog for some home storage inspo!

 The Home Edit Fridge Storage
Source: Instagram @thehomeedit

3. Plastic Food Packaging --> Reusable Bulk Bags

This brings us to our next item: food packaging. It’s hard to avoid how food is packaged; most of our favorite snacks, candy, baking ingredients, spices, pasta, rice, coffee, tea etc etc etc are packaged in plastic. The good news is that there’s a way around this: buying bulk food items. This requires some lifestyle adjustments, but bulk food items are becoming more widely available in conventional grocery stores and especially at health food stores. Specialty stores like Bulk Barn dedicate their entire business mission to offering a huge variety of items in bulk.

You can stock up on your favorite snacks and ingredients by using sustainable solutions like reusable cotton bulk bags. Plus, another great benefit of buying bulk food items is that you get to choose the quantity that you need, which reduces food waste.

Dans Le Sac reusable bulk bags
Source: Dans Le Sac Reusable Bulk Bags

Quick tip: Take a look at some home storage blogs like The Home Edit to find out how to optimally store your bulk items in your pantry by using products like small bins, containers or glass jars.

Home Edit Pantry Storage
Source: The Home Edit, Pantry Storage

4. Plastic Water Bottles --> Reusable Water Bottles

By 2020, we were hoping that plastic water bottles would become almost obsolete. But the exact opposite is happening. Plastic water bottle sales are rising. Globally, more than 1 million plastic water bottles are sold every minute. Why? It is assumed that the convenience of single-packed bottled water is appealing to consumers and the fact that water is a healthy, zero calorie beverage as opposed to sugary juices or soft drinks. In fact, as of 2016, yearly water bottle sales in the USA surpassed soft drink sales.

It’s great that consumers are more health conscious, but the damage that these single-use plastics are causing to our planet is undeniable. In the USA, only 30% of plastic water bottles are actually recycled and the rest end up in landfills and oceans. How come? Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), the type of plastic used to make water bottles, must be extremely clean and uncontaminated before it can be sold to other countries, such as China, or remanufactured to make new bottles or other kinds of plastic products. If these post-consumer plastics don’t pass the test, which most don’t, off to the landfills they go.

Plastic on beach
Source: Unplash

The bright side is that there are other convenient (and cheaper!) ways to drink water. All we need to do is invest in a durable, reusable bottle, keep filtered water in our fridge, and we’re all set!

Quick tip: Many companies offer high-quality, insulated stainless steel water bottles that will last for many years and keep your water cold all day long. These bottles might be considered pricey, but your return on investment is almost instant by not having to buy cases and cases of bottled water ever again.

5. Plastic Straws --> Metal Straws

Last but not least…let’s talk about plastic straws! In the USA alone, 500 million plastic straws are used daily. This number is not hard to believe if you’ve ever stood in line at a coffee shop or a fast food restaurant and noticed that every cold drink, one by one, is served with a plastic straw. These straws are used once and tossed away within only a matter of minutes. Check out our first blog post to learn more about the dangers of plastic straws.

MTL STRW was created to make using metal straws fun, stylish and easy! We've designed a variety of bundles so you can take advantage of all our straw sizes and colours. Or, you can simply customize your own bundle with our Mix & Match options. Check out our metal straw collection here.

Source: MTL STRW

Quick tip: Storing your metal straws in a mason jar gives you quick access to them when you're in the kitchen making a smoothie or iced coffee. When you’re heading out the door, pop a few in your drawstring pouch for your drink orders throughout the day. Quick tip #2: Sometimes, you’ll forget about that last part (which is normal as we’re all running busy lives!), so try keeping at least one metal straw permanently in your purse or bag!

MTL STRW metal straws
Source: MTL STRW

On a Final Note:

There are many, many single-use plastics that we haven’t explored in this blog post.

Think of all the plastic utensils, fast food cups and takeout containers used by millions of people every single day. It’s overwhelming, but it’s important to note that we don’t need to bat 1000 and do everything perfectly; every small effort counts and makes a bigger difference than we think.

Some of us have been living in a disposable, single-use culture practically our entire lives, but being aware of our plastic consumption and making an effort to reduce these items in our every-day-lives is so valuable. Plus, many cities and countries are starting to take action by banning single-use plastics which makes a world of a difference.

Here’s a little something to thank you for visiting our shop and reading this blog post! Enjoy 20% off your entire order by using code MTLSTRWBLOG at checkout. Thank you for saving our planet one straw at a time!

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