Where's the Plastic in Our Life and what are the best Alternatives

Where's the Plastic in Our Life?

If you answered everywhere, you're probably not too far off the mark. This multi-purpose material can be found in our appliances, computers, clothing, and much more. One of the most common places we find plastic is in the packaging of the things we buy every day. Ultimately, it's an effective way to keep food and cosmetics clean and fresh.

But plastic is also lurking in some lesser-known places. If you look around your home, you may be surprised at how many things you find that contain plastic.

Here are some examples: 

  • Food packaging: Cereals, crackers, snacks, many teas, and coffees are packaged in plastic. Cheese, meat, and yogurt products are packaged in plastic, as are most seasonings
  • Coffee cups: In fact, even cups that appear to be made of paper often contain plastic inside.
  • Milk (including soy and nut milks) in cartons: Waxed cardboard contains about 20% plastic and 80% paper
  • Metal cans: Coke, Fanta, Sprite are often lined with plastic
  • Personal care products: Most of our shampoos, gels, creams, moisturizers, and makeup not only come in plastic bottles and tubes, but also contain synthetic polymers. Some may also contain micro pearls.
  • Bathroom items: Dental floss, Ear buds and disposable razors, makeup items are also mainly made of plastic.
  • Synthetic fabrics: Polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic yarns and fabrics are all made from plastic. When these materials are washed, millions of microscopic plastic fibers are secreted and eventually enter waterways.
  • Baby wipes and diapers: Disposable diapers are made of plastic from the inner layer to the waterproof outer shell. The absorbent inner core is made of super-absorbent polymer, while the outer layer is usually a petroleum-based plastic or plastic-treated fabric.
  • Female Hygiene Products: The average disposable sanitary napkin contains about two grams of plastic.
  • Wrapping paper: Often a blend of plant fibers and laminated plastic. Adhesive tape, glitter and stickers also contain plastic.
  • Chewing gum: A common ingredient in the "gum base" listed on chewing gum labels is polyvinyl acetate.
  • Cigarette filters: Contain cellulose acetate, a form of plastic. Often thrown away thoughtlessly.
  • Adhesives: Including school glue and wood glue, contain polyvinyl acetate, a form of plastic. Adhesives used to seal tea bags contain polypropylene, another plastic. 

What are the Best Alternatives?

Feel like having less plastic in your home and less plastic pollution on the planet? Well, here are some long-lasting plastic alternatives that are out there and available. 

Bamboo

A fast-growing, renewable resource that can replace plastic in items like tableware and drinking straws. It is lightweight, durable and compostable. 

Natural fiber cloth

Natural fiber cloth can replace plastic bags. Sustainable clothing made from organic cotton, wool, hemp, or bamboo does not shed plastic fibers when washed. Felted or recycled wool is a versatile, safe, and compostable material for children's toys, household containers and much more. 

Stainless steel

In recent years, stainless steel reusable food and beverage containers have become more plentiful. You can replace disposable cups, kitchen supplies, lunch boxes and more with this durable metal. 

Beeswax

Beeswax coated paper or fabric is mainly used as a substitute for plastic film and plastic bags, and it is easy to use and clean. Moreover, it has a good scent. 

Wood

A renewable resource, wood from sustainably managed forests can replace plastic in household items like cleaning brushes, kitchen utensils and cutting boards. 

Glass

While glass is not biodegradable, it is inert, inexpensive, and infinitely recyclable. And since many foods are packaged in glass, upcycling jars for food storage is a free way to breathe new life into your food packaging. Jars of jam, honey, pickles, nut butters and more can be added to your zero-waste toolbox for bulk shopping. They can also be used to store leftovers and homemade drinks or decorated and turned into homemade gifts. 

Paper

In earlier times, many things were wrapped in plain paper. While paper is better than plastic, it can't be recycled indefinitely because the fibers get shorter with each reuse, limiting its use. Fortunately, all types of paper except glossy paper can be put in your home compost without hesitation. 

Cardboard

Cardboard can be fully composted at home as long as it is not coated with - you guessed it - plastic. Many companies now package their products in plain cardboard to reduce waste. You can also use cardboard boxes as a substitute for storage containers in your home. 

Biodegradable, compostable 'bioplastics'

Made from a range of materials like wheat straw, cornstarch and sugar to mushrooms and agricultural byproducts, are the latest attempt to prolong our disposable lifestyle.

Remember: Everything you buy leaves an environmental footprint. Things made of glass, metal, etc. are more durable than plastic, but keep in mind they still require energy to make and transport. To make this replacement worthwhile, you need to use them repeatedly. However, by buying well-made, durable products, you can ensure that you use the products you choose for as long as possible.