8 practical ways you can reduce the plastic usage in your home and business

A man’s arm holds out a crushed green plastic bottle in the direction of a series of recycling bins.

The green movement, built around growing concerns about climate change and the environment, has slowly solidified itself as the zeitgeist of the last 20 years.

For the first time, we are having to factor our impact on the world into our everyday decisions.

Plastic Free July is an annual campaign aimed at reducing plastic waste and pollution. The initiative was born out of humble beginnings back in 2011, when a local Western Australian government team, led by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, sought to bring about plastic pollution awareness, and encourage positive change.

Millions of people across the globe now take part every year with many opting to commit to the goal year-round.

Read on to learn about eight ways you can implement changes at home and at work, or within your business, to reduce the plastic usage.

1. Cut out single-use plastics

According to Almost Zero Waste, plastic production jumped from approximately 1.7 million tonnes a year in 1950 to nearly 300 million tonnes by 2012 (it now exceeds 360 million tonnes per year).

The biggest contributor to this issue is single-use plastics.

If you want to cut your plastic use, a simple mantra to work towards is: refuse, reuse, reduce. The refuse stage highlights the importance of turning away from using any single-use plastic products such as plastic bottles, bags, and other disposable items.

Cutting out single-use plastics from your household and your workplace can be financially beneficial in a variety of ways. Firstly, over the long-term, reusable items are more cost-effective than routinely purchasing disposable ones.

Secondly, reducing your waste has the added benefit of reducing your waste costs, whether that’s something as small as a reduction in the amount of bin bags you go through to the waste disposal costs associated with running a business.

Start by performing an audit on your home or business and list all the single-use plastic items that you currently use. Then research alternatives that you could begin using instead.

2. Look for services with reusable or refillable products

In the 1950s it was commonplace to have your milk delivered to your front door in reusable glass bottles. Many people are harking back to that simple philosophy. The “reuse” step puts the onus on seeking out reusable alternatives instead.

The most common way that companies are tackling the issue of expanding a sustainable idea to the needs of the modern world is through subscription-based services.

For a variety of fledgling eco-friendly subscription-based businesses, you would follow these simple steps:

  • Place your initial order, which is then delivered to your address
  • Retain the vessels your order arrives in
  • Place a follow-up order that will send out either a refillable ingredient to add to your container or they might use a “drop and swap” system, like the milkmen of yesteryear, and collect your used vessels and drop off freshly filled ones.

3. Change your office’s stationery policy to drastically reduce waste

The third step in “refuse, reuse, reduce” involves making a conscious effort to reduce your plastic waste.

Office environments produce a lot of unintentional plastic waste. These include the large quantities of cheap pens that are used up, lost, or disposed of by offices across the globe. Another ink-based item, office printer cartridges, are another large contributor to plastic waste.

Switching to higher quality pens, which are refillable, encourages employees to take better care of their stationery and reduces purchasing costs. Finding refillable cartridges or searching for companies that will take used cartridges back to replenish when delivering fresh ones can make your office printing system far more eco-friendly.

4. Make simple alterations to the office kitchen and toilets

Making little changes in the office kitchen and toilets can immediately reduce waste.

Bulk-buy teas and coffees that come in biodegradable packaging, decant them into containers such as large jars, and get staff to scoop out what they need.

Set up milk deliveries and change up from plastic store-bought containers to reusable glass milk bottles.

Refill soap dispensers near sinks rather than using single-use disposable bottles and consider using a toilet paper supplier that uses recycled paper or biodegradable packaging rather than delivering packs of rolls in a plastic film.

5. Rejig your bathroom routine at home and switch to refillable sanitary products

Refillable products are now readily available for a whole range of regularly used bathroom items such as shampoo bottles, cleansing cosmetics, aromatherapy products, deodorants, and soaps.

Review your regular toiletry shopping list and see what options you can easily switch to reusable or plastic-free varieties. Perhaps even consider if there’s anything you might be able to produce yourself with a bit of homemade D.I.Y creativity.

6. Search for green businesses that will help you achieve your goals

Zero Waste Home is a web-based app that allows you to search for zero waste businesses in your area. These might include compliant grocers that offer package-free produce, locally sourced meat and dairy, and refill stations for key dried food items and other household necessities.

If there are any in your area, then you not only cut out the impact of plastic packaging, but also the carbon footprint involved with placing any orders online.

7. Aluminium and glass are better options than plastic

Aluminium and glass containers are much more easily recycled than plastic and have a smaller carbon footprint. If you can’t buy fresh, then canned or glass-bottled goods are preferable to anything in a plastic container.

Canned goods also typically have long shelf lives. This reduces any unused food waste and consequently reduces your waste from repeated purchases.

8. Plan your office meals to cut out waste

Plan for your days in the office by bringing refillable drinks containers for coffees, soft drinks, or water.

Extend your daily meal plan to your office lunch and bring prepared meals in with you. Avoid ready meals or trips to fast food establishments. It’s not only the environment you’ll be saving but your wallet too.

9. Don’t think just about the product, but also the way it reaches you

As a business, re-examining packaging practices, whether that’s for products you make or ship, or for those you purchase, can help reduce waste.

Bubble wrap and other plastic-based packaging are a major contributor to waste, especially considering the rapidly growing delivery-based economy.

Green packaging options that you can use include beehive wrap, a type of hexagonal craft paper mesh that is being increasingly used instead of bubble wrap.

Finally, if you have no other choice but to buy plastic, having considered all the tips above, then buying second-hand is a more sustainable option and reuses items already in circulation that might otherwise be destined for a landfill.