8 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Plastic Consumption

Stop contributing to plastic mountains and start reducing your plastic consumption.

By Maryruth Belsey-Priebe

Fact checked by Sander Tamm

Reducing Plastic Consumption
Recycling at Home: 5 Steps / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Here, we always emphasize the importance of precycling in waste management. And, it’s especially relevant for plastics. If you’re looking to cut back on plastic waste generation and make a positive impact on the environment, there are various steps you can take.

Follow these steps to start reducing your plastic consumption:

  1. Bring your own bags
  2. Carry reusable bottles and containers
  3. Make better packaging choices
  4. Buy and sell secondhand
  5. Prefer natural materials
  6. Prioritize durability
  7. Focus on recyclability
  8. Pack your own lunch

Bring your own bags

Whether you’re grocery shopping, hunting for a new outfit, or picking out a book, always have a reusable shopping bag on hand. Every year, our planet goes through 500 billion plastic bags, and by bringing your own bag, you’ll be helping make a dent in this number.

Once you’ve emptied your bags at home, place them by the back door. This way, you’ll remember to stash them in your vehicle, bicycle, or purse for your next outing. If you ever forget your bag and you’re purchasing only a few items, develop a habit of asserting, “I don’t need a bag with that!” This mantra will help minimize plastic waste from minor purchases.

Carry reusable bottles and containers

Maintain your hydration levels throughout the day, but say no to disposable coffee cups and bottled water. Instead, carry an eco-friendly, reusable water bottle or a reusable coffee mug for your caffeine fix.

The bonus? You’ll also save money! If you ever find yourself dining out and unable to finish your meal, it’s always great to have your own reusable container on hand. It’s a preferable alternative to the clamshell Styrofoam containers many establishments offer.

Make better packaging choices

Regardless of whether you’re buying food, underwear, electronics, or cosmetics, opt for items that have minimal or no plastic packaging. If possible, bulk-buy using your reusable bags. Many items, from fruits, nuts, and vegetables to dried goods, peanut butter, and deli selections, are available in bulk. Even certain consumer goods, like socks and underwear, can sometimes be found package-free. Plastic packaging accounts for around 40% of plastic waste in the world.

Buy and sell secondhand

Take a bit out of new plastic production by shopping for products at your local thrift store or consignment shop. Clothing, toys, baby gear, furniture, household supplies, sportswear, and many other consumer goods can often be found through secondhand sources, thereby reducing the amount of new plastic entering the waste stream.

Prefer natural materials

Given a choice between synthetic materials like plastic and natural fabrics like cotton, wood, or bamboo, always try to lean towards the natural and renewable. Such materials are not only sustainable but also more likely to degrade after disposal. Plus, natural fabrics can be harvested sustainably using organic farming practices.

Prioritize durability

In cases where plastic is the only available material, invest in durable, high-quality items. Aim for products that can be easily taken apart for recycling when they’ve outlived their usefulness. Products made to last reduce the rapid consumption rate, which is especially high in higher-income countries in areas such as the USA and Western Europe.

Focus on recyclability

To further diminish the presence of non-recyclable plastics, ensure that the products you choose are made of recyclable plastics. Globally, only 9% of all plastic waste gets recycled, which means that most of it ends up in landfills, oceans, or scattered across our landscapes.

Pack your own lunch

It’s time to stop eating take-out! Instead, bring your own lunch to work or pack a picnic for supper with friends rather than grabbing highly-packaged foods from your local fast food joint. Once again, those reusable containers come into play. Not only does packing your own lunch reduce your single-use plastics usage, but it also allows for healthier, more customized meal choices.