Plastic has undeniably made our everyday lives more convenient, but the truth is that single-use plastic ends up in the ocean and various waterways, harming marine wildlife around the world.
Let’s look at 10 of the worst single-use plastics you should avoid and some eco-friendly alternatives!
Related: 20 Best Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Kitchen Products
What Are Single-Use Plastics?
As the name implies, single-use plastic is a throwaway plastic intended to be used once and then discarded or recycled.
This covers anything from plastic water bottles and produces bags to disposable plastic razors and ribbons.
Any plastic object you use and then throw away is considered a single-use product.
A few of the most common single-use plastics found in the environment are:
- Cigarette butts
- Knives and forks
- Water bottles
- Bottle caps
- Food wrappers
- Foam take-away containers
Related: 10 Longest Lasting Items in Our Landfills
Why Are Single-use Plastics Bad?
Single-use plastics are maybe the pinnacle of today’s disposable civilization. According to National Geographic, 91% of the billions of tonnes of plastic isn’t recycled.
The majority of our plastic is disposed of in landfills, oceans, waterways, and the environment. Plastics do not decompose. Instead, they degrade over time into microplastics, tiny particles of plastic.
Plastic has been shown to have negative consequences on both the Earth and individuals, according to research.
Styrofoam containers and plastic bags can take thousands of years to disintegrate. Meanwhile, it pollutes our soil and water supply.
Toxic chemicals employed in plastic manufacturing are transferred to animal tissue and eventually into the human diet. If swallowed, styrofoam goods are hazardous and can harm the brain system, lungs, and reproductive organs.
Plastic garbage is a nightmare for many animal species. The video of a marine turtle with a plastic straw lodged in its nostril went viral worldwide, and it may have prompted plastic straw restrictions.
Plastic bags and straws suffocate wildlife and obstruct their digestion. For example, turtles and dolphins frequently mistake these plastic bags for food.
Related: Plastic Straw: 1 Use That Lasts a Lifetime
10 Worst Single-Use Plastics
Billions of plastic straws end up in landfills worldwide each year. Because of how light they are, once they’re discarded, plastic straws can easily blow into our oceans and other waterways. Once they land in the water, these straws pose extreme risks to the local marine wildlife. For example, we’ve seen cases where sea turtles ended up having plastic straws painfully lodged in their nostrils. There are various global instances of plastic straws harming animals, particularly in waterways.
Plastic straw alternatives: There are a wide variety of eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic straws. Straws made of bamboo, stainless steel, and even pasta and rice are available as a better way to drink. Our favorite is agave straws—they feel like plastic straws but degrade like plants!
Plastic plates are an affordable favorite for activities like picnics, camping, and hosting parties, but they are the opposite of environmentally friendly. Once their single-use is over, they get thrown away and often end up as another piece of garbage in a landfill. Because of their shape, many recycling centers can’t sort them, leading to even more ending up in unwanted places.
Plastic plate alternatives: Any reusable plate is a better bet than using single-use plastic. From porcelain and glass to bamboo pulp and palm leaf plates, we can stop sending more plastic to landfills.
Over 500 billion plastic disposable cups get used each year—enough to go around the planet 1,360 times! While they’re convenient and lightweight, many curbside recycling services won’t collect them, leading to the cups ending up as garbage.
Plastic cup alternatives: Other than encouraging your favorite restaurants and cafes to switch to compostable, eco-friendly options, you can bring your own reusable cups next time you go on a trip or to your preferred drink shop.
Coffee Cups & Lids
If you’re like us, you probably love coffee! Unfortunately, billions of takeaway coffee cups end up in landfills each year. Almost all of them cannot get recycled because they’re made using a plastic lining to reinforce the cup. We’d never ask you to give up your coffee, but you can switch to plastic-free alternatives and enjoy your drink in a more eco-friendly way!
Plastic coffee cup alternatives: Keep reusable coffee mugs on hand, and you can try to drink more coffee at home rather than going out as often. If you’re in a situation where you can’t use a reusable cup at a coffee shop, you can say no to the lid and prevent a little more plastic waste.
Plastic Drink Stirrers
Whether it’s to stir your coffee or add some flair to a cocktail, drink stirrers are everywhere. However, most of them are made of plastic and only get one use before being thrown out. They end up everywhere: in the trash, on the beach, and in our waterways.
Plastic stirrer alternatives: You can use a washable spoon, glass, or bamboo stirrers. Vegetables like carrots and celery make great drink stirrers, and you can enjoy a healthy snack!
Related: Reduce, Reuse, Replace
Any time you get takeout, you probably get some plastic cutlery complete with a little plastic bag to house them in. In most places, this cutlery can’t get recycled, so they end up in landfills. Plastic spoons, forks, knives, etc., can take centuries to degrade.
Plastic cutlery alternatives: When you order takeaway, you can request for the restaurant to leave out the plastic silverware. Chopsticks and bamboo utensils are great to use as a traveling set of utensils that you can reuse over and over!
Over 82 million tons of plastic packaging gets produced each year worldwide, and that number is expected to continue to rise. From single-use plastic containers used to packaged foods to single-use plastic bottles, the packaging industry is one of the largest users of plastic around the globe.
Plastic container alternatives: Avoid prepackaged meals and bring your own containers when getting takeout. While some restaurants may not allow you to bring your own reusable containers, many wills. Glass containers, mason jars, and stainless steel lunch boxes make great alternatives!
Plastic Shopping Bags
Plastic shopping bags, both lightweight and heavyweight, are extremely lethal to marine animals. They easily float in the air and water and can travel long distances quickly. Small animals, turtles, and seabirds often get entangled in plastic shopping bags, leading to drowning. Turtles also easily mistake the bags for jellyfish (one of their favorite foods), and once eaten, the bags block their stomachs, leading to starvation because they can no longer eat.
Plastic shopping bag alternatives: Bring reusable fabric bags when you go grocery shopping. They aren’t expensive to buy, and you can even easily make them yourself. Some stores even offer a small discount if you bring your own bags!
Balloons & Balloon Sticks
Balloons are incredibly dangerous to animals and are one of the most common items found in their stomachs after death. Because they are almost impossible to digest and extremely stretchy, they can get tangled up in an animal’s stomach. The plastic sticks from balloons can break down into little pieces that look similar to food. Also, the strings and ribbons that commonly come with balloons can catch animals, causing them harm.
Balloon & balloon stick alternatives: Plan an eco-friendly party and forego the balloons. Try plastic-free alternatives like recycled bunting, paper lanterns, and flowers.
Plastic Cotton Buds
Over a million cotton buds get produced every day, and the average person goes through over 400 each year. Many of the used cotton bugs end up in the ocean. After the cotton dissolves, all that’s left is a small plastic stick that fish, birds, and other wildlife can easily ingest.
Plastic cotton bud alternatives: Bamboo cotton buds, organic makeup pads, and reusable silicon swabs make great eco-friendly substitutes for traditional cotton buds
Ready to ditch the single-use plastic and move towards a more sustainable future? Make the PlantSwitch today!
Related: The PlantSwitch Solution
ECO-Friendly Alternatives To Save The Environment
The worldwide plastic calamity seems terrifying, yet we still have a chance to change our fate.
Here are some suggestions:
- Instead of plastic bags, use cloth or reusable shopping bags.
- Bring your coffee mugs, and stay away from places that don’t provide non-plastic options. Alternatively, you might choose “for here” alternatives or conventional mugs, dishes, and utensils.
- Plastic bottles and straws that haven’t been recycled should be avoided.
- Encourage people to be more conscious about what they buy and do with their trash.
- Recycle as much as possible, and encourage businesses that do so.
- To limit the amount of plastic packaging used, buy in bulk.
- Bring your takeout containers or encourage restaurants that employ recyclable takeout containers.
- Learn what is and isn’t recyclable in your town, city, or region.
If you are serious about saving the planet, you can opt to buy agave stirrers, straws, forks, knives, spoons, and clamshells for a healthier alternative to eating your food. We at PlantSwitch make our products thinking about you and the environment.
Worst Single-Use Plastics: Final Thoughts
Plastic plates are economical and easy for hosting parties, picnics, and food courts, but they usually wind up as trash in landfills once discarded.
Regrettably, most recycling centers cannot separate these plates due to their shape.
We can change this story by acting today.
By trying new alternatives that don’t damage the environment, we’ll be saving the environment for our future generations so they can use the same resources that we have today.
Ready to contribute to the protection of the environment by purchasing high-quality, environmentally sustainable products that you may use for years to come? Send us a message to talk about our amazing sustainable solutions for your business and home!