When you started the 28 Day Challenge, you probably already had cupboards full of plastic items – and even going forward, you’re probably already thinking that, for some items, there are simply no decent sustainable alternatives to plastic. Your feelings are right – in the 21st century, it’s almost impossible to live a life without plastic without becoming some sort of hermit. Plastic can be really useful. It is lightweight, long-lasting, durable and can withstand high temperatures. It also just seems to arrive out of the blue – whether it is someone gifting your child a plastic toy or, just think about it – how much of the device you are reading this on, is made from plastic? It is incredibly difficult to avoid plastic completely so we are going to show you how to make your existing plastic last longer.
So how do we deal with this? We’ve spoken a lot about ways to use fewer plastic items, but another key element is to make the plastic items that we do still choose to use last as long as possible before they need to be disposed of and replaced with “new” plastic.
What can I do?
Firstly – this isn’t an excuse to buy more plastic. The first option should always be to avoid it if more sustainable alternatives to plastic are available!
Reusing single-use plastic:
- If you already have single-use plastic shopping bags, take them to the shop again and again until they are too ragged to use. Only then use them as a liner for your recycle bin – avoid using them for non-recyclables as the bags themselves can be recycled in many cases.
- Use non-recyclable food packaging (that you absolutely cannot avoid) as waste bags that are destined for the bin.
- Reuse bottles, e.g. for shampoo and detergent, to decant the same type of fluid from bulk purchases or “refills” which use less plastic. You shouldn’t need to reuse water bottles because you’re hopefully avoiding those!
- Up-cycle your plastic waste into kids’ crafts, garden containers and more. Just one caveat – many upcycling projects actual render the plastic non-recyclable, so rather dispose of easily-recyclable plastics correctly if you have access to recycling facilities!
Making everyday plastic items last longer:
- If you have to buy plastic (and let’s face it, sometimes it is necessary when you can’t find sustainable alternatives to plastic), rather buy good quality that will last a long time than cheap material that needs to be replaced often or will easily deform, fade, crack, etc. Food storage containers are a key example of where quality makes a significant difference.
- Avoid using metal utensils in plastic food containers to avoid scratches. Rather dish those leftovers onto a plate that eat them directly from the container.
- Avoid the microwave – even if the container is microwave-safe, heat shortens its lifespan. Again, it’s better to dish those leftovers up cold and then reheat.
- Avoid leaving plastic items in the sun – even if they are designed for it. They will last longer in the shade. This is significant for garden accessories and pots, which can often be protected simply by painting over the plastic or using ceramic/wooden containers.
- Give your stationery a second life – rather put a refill in your pen, or sharpen your scissors than buy new ones.
- Consider repairing broken gadgets and appliances rather than replacing them.
- Donate old toys to charity rather than discarding them.
Why does it matter?
What’s the fastest way to immediately half the use of ANY single-use plastic item? Reuse it one more time!
If you have come this far in the challenge, you will know that when it comes to plastic, the less there is in the environment, the better. So, buying less plastic is basically the number one thing to do – and reusing what you do have is key! We’d love to hear all the creative ways you’ve reused plastic in your daily life.
Myth-busting: You cannot live without generating plastic waste
It’s difficult, but it’s not impossible to live completely plastic-free. People like Bea Johnson, the original and highly effective zero-waster, have proven this one wrong. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. If you can’t live without plastic, then put your money behind better alternatives like glass. The more people demand these alternatives, by buying them, the more they will start to replace plastic. And start by just buying less!
Who can I follow?
Check out this amazing site called Curbly which looks at fun and creative toy upcycling hacks.
Talented local artist, Janet Ormond, creates magnificent art pieces from all things beach plastic.