Plastic Alternatives: 10 Easy Options To Start Using Right Now
How To Integrate Plastic Alternatives In Our Day-To-Day Lives
Okay, so plastic is bad. But what are the alternatives? Plastic is everywhere and we need to do something to cut back on our plastic use. Easier said than done though, right?
Here’s a quick guide on what you can to do implement some plastic alternatives in your day-to-day life.
Where Can You Find Alternatives To Plastic?
There are plenty of ways you can reduce how much plastic you use by finding plastic alternatives. We’ve listed 10 options you can try, that fall under four key areas:
1. Plastic Straws
2. Plastic Bags
3. Plastic Wrap
4. Plastic Packaging
Change is good: plastic straw alternatives
Have you been to downtown Toronto recently? You might have noticed a bright orange sign as you make your walk past Union station.
A&W is at it again, but they aren’t walking around offering free teen burgers this time. The brand has displayed a 35-foot-long “Change Is Good” sculpture that is made entirely of plastic straws. 140,000 staws to be exact. This is all part of their initiative to cut back on their plastic use which will keep 82 million single-use plastic straws from ending up in landfills or bodies of water.
That figure right there is why there needs to be plastic straw alternatives. Plastics that are smaller than two inches (i.e., plastic straws) fall through the recycling sorter which is why there is such a staggering about of plastic straws that end up in oceans and landfills.
So what can we use instead?
Plastic Straw Alternative 1: Paper Straws
Ah, the simple paper straw. This alternative has perhaps caused just as much controversy as to their plastic counterpart. Yes, they’re a great way to cut back on plastic use but nothing tastes the same when you’re drinking from a paper straw. And not to mention that gross soggy feeling you get when the straw has been sitting in liquid for a while – yuck!
Paper straws have proven to be an effective but not desired plastic straw alternative. When asked about which plastic straw alternative appeals to them most, only 12% of Caddle survey members indicated them as appealing.
Plastic Straw Alternative 2: Biodegradable Straws
Okay, so paper straws are a decent solution but certainly have some cons to them. What about biodegradable straws? This option could prove to be investment-worthy for both consumers and industry leaders.
Biodegradable straws are made up of polylactic acid. Doesn’t sounds to environmentally friendly, right? What if I told you this means that they’re actually made from plant starch and oil that typically comes from corn! Neat eh? What’s good about this is that since they’re made from plant materials, these straws are able to decompose naturally, thus proving to be an effective plastic alternative.
Not to mention, they look, feel, and hold just like a plastic straw would and it doesn’t get all mushy like a paper straw would.
This option of so called ‘eco-friendly plastic’ seems to be a viable one. While only 3% of Caddle survey members indicated that they use biodegradable straws, 18% of survey members indicated that this option appeals to them most.
Plastic Straw Alternative 3: Stainless steel straws
One final option in our plastic alternative arsenal is the infamous stainless steel straw. This option has hit the market in a big way. While it seems to be the most durable and mutually beneficial for the user and environment, there are certainly some drawbacks to this option.
Let’s talk about safety.
First off, sanitary safety. Stainless steel straws are a great idea to have at restaurants or have around the home, but you’re going to have to clean them after every use. We all have different degrees of cleanliness, so what might be clean to someone might not be the same to the other. So this poses an issue.
Secondly, stainless steel absorbs and retains heat. In some cases this is good. But in other cases such as this, you might really regret this purchasing decision. If your drink is scalding hot, be prepared to burn your lips. On the flip side, if you like your drinks cold, be prepared for a quick chill when you bring that straw to your mouth.
From a business standpoint, this option appears to be the most valuable. 21% of Caddle members indicated that stainless steel straws are the most appealing to them.
Plastic Straw Alternative 4: Nothing
This option is pretty self-explanatory. 😉
Alternative to Plastic Bags
How many times have you gone to the grocery store and gone to the checkout line only to remember that you left your reusable bags in the car? I know I’m guilty of it! You can either buy more reusable bags (but you already have more than you need), attempt to strategically carry your groceries without dropping them or… buy yet more plastic bags.
Earth damaging plastic: 1
Best practices to save the planet: 0
Ways to Reduce Plastic Bags
So you’re trying to cut back on your plastic bag use. You’ve got a ton of them at home, you see people using them all the time at the grocery stores, and you see plastic bags floating in the wind getting caught in trees. What do you do?
Here are some quick options:
1. If you don’t need it, say “no thanks” to the sales clerk
2. Try your best to remember to bring your reusable bag
3. Follow a recycling program that takes your plastic bags for you
4. Re-use the plastic bag, they make great lunch bags or recycle bags
Plastic Bag Alternative 1: Jute
Turns out vegetables aren’t just good for you, they’re good for the environment too! Jute is similar to that of cotton and resembles the feel and texture of hemp. This option is a cheap and easily producible option for a plastic bag alternative. When you’re done with it after several uses, throw it in the compost if you want!
Plastic Bag Alternative 2: Canvas bags
This option is certainly the most common option, and why wouldn’t it be? Canvas bags are those bags that you have probably seen at the grocery store. They make quick and easy alternatives to plastic bags. Not only are they reusable, but you can even throw them in the wash if they get a little dirty.
Side note: Don’t want to spend the money on canvas bags but have a ton of old jeans or denim skirts? Sew the bottoms of those suckers and keep the waist open, you’ve got a stylish denim bag!
Plastic Bag Alternative 3: Paper bags
Whatever happened to going grocery shopping and coming home with two huge paper bags full of groceries? I remember seeing this on TV as a kid but never got to live this fantasy, guess it was before my time. For you Ontarian readers, maybe grocery stores could take after the LCBO with their use of the paper bag?
But who’s to stay this option shouldn’t hit the market again? It’s cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and can hold a heck of a lot more than what plastic bags can.
Issues on this option scale from minor to severe. On the less severe side, paper bags are prone to be less effective if you’re carrying the bags in the rain. On the more severe side, a deforestation issue could occur due to rising production in paper products. Then we have an even worse crisis next to plastic pollution.
Alternative to Plastic Wrap
This one stumped me for a while. Plastic wrap has such a convenience to it, but what alternatives (if any) are there that can substitute using plastic wrap?
Maybe I couldn’t wrap my head around it (heh, get it?) but there are quite a few quick and easy alternatives to plastic wrap that I bet you might even have laying around your home.
First up, storage containers such as tupperware and glass jars. They’re quick, they’re simple, and everyone’s got em.
How about parchment paper or aluminum foil? The worst is when you put your food in the microwave and forget to take the plastic off and you end up turning your once edible food into a delicious looking plastic display. Although for cost purposes we don’t suggest keeping the aluminum foil on your food in the microwave. You can certainly do this with parchment paper though!
How are we Going to Cut Back on all This Plastic Packaging?
Now here’s a tough question.
Whether it be the grocery store or a tech store, a lot of our products are kept safe in plastic packaging. Let’s be honest though, we could do away with all that plastic packaging. Especially that tough stuff that takes the jaws of life to open a package – good riddance.
Alternatives to Plastic Packaging
On the consumer side, this is a pretty difficult task. We don’t wrap our products in plastic, we just buy the stuff and throw out the excess.
But finding ways to reduce plastic packaging is key. An estimated 40% of plastic produced is packaging. So this one is on you, company innovators!
One option that seems to be a common trend here is plant-based plastics. This plastic packaging alternative is a simple one that looks and feels like plastic and is easily malleable so it can be turned into any shape. But would this be an effective product packaging both food and tangible products, or just one or the other?
Zero-waste Grocery Stores
While this next option isn’t necessarily an alternative to plastic packaging itself, this idea is one that is making slow progress in the market and has the potential to grow in the industry under the right circumstances.
Zero-waste grocery stores are sparsely spread throughout Canada but offer an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic packaging.
You as a consumer would walk into the grocery store with your own packaging, whether that be tote bags or reusable containers, pick off the shelf an item you want, weigh your items at checkout and go home.
This option is a green alternative and Caddle members indicate that this might be a viable option. 30% of survey members indicated that they have no concerns with bringing their own reusable containers and bags for purchasing food at their local grocery store.
A Viable Solution to Our Plastic World
There you have it. We know that plastic is everywhere and it’s not easy to get rid of it. But there are certainly some plastic alternatives that are easy to use when you take the time and think about it.
Which plastic alternative do you think will hit the market sooner than later and have a positive impact on the environment?