Last summer, my friend Jini ranted to me about her campaign to reduce single-use plastics in her life and in our local stores. Her passion impressed me and opened my eyes to a disturbing planet-wide dilemma I’ve watched yet ignored. Well, no longer.

Recognizing a problem and taking action on it are quite different things. I invite you to take action with Jini and me and thousands of others who love this planet.

Do you need convincing? Greenpeace have done a nice job presenting the issue and some of the possible solutions.

Here’s my experience of following Greenpeace’s suggestions:

Insist That Your Grocery Store Stops Using Plastic Bags

As I pulled my canvas grocery bags from a shopping cart last fall, I asked the checker, “What percentage of people bring their own bags? Half, do you think?”

“Oh, no, not that many. Maybe a third,” she said. “Maybe.”

I was disappointed, though not surprised.

“Would you please tell your manager to start using paper bags instead of plastic?”

“You can tell her yourself,” she replied, guiding me to the office.

When I asked about converting to paper bags, the owner replied with a smile, “I don’t know… People will complain about how they’ll dispose of their kitty litter.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to make this suggestion, and I was pleased to see this store convert to paper bags within a few months.

Only two states (California and Hawaii) and a handful of countries have totally banned plastic bags. When I visited Puerto Rico recently, I was surprised that grocery and retail stores there don’t supply bags at all. If you want a bag, you have to either bring your own or purchase reusable shopping bags. And it works.

This map from waste360.com shows us who the leaders are in this effort:

plastic bag use

Write Legislators to Encourage a Ban on #3 Through #7 and Non-Recyclable Plastics

I’ve always been a rabid recycler, and since our local recycling center only accepts #1 and #2 plastics, I stockpile my other plastics to haul to a center that accepts them. I just learned, though, that #3 through #7 are virtually non-recyclable due to the lack of a market for them. Consequently, they end up in landfills – or the ocean.

When I survey which products I purchase in these higher-numbered containers, I realize it’s mostly non-liquid dairy products: yogurt, cottage cheese, etc. So why can’t they be packaged in #1 or #2 recyclable containers? Or better yet, in glass or aluminum?

Therefore, I’ve decided to appeal to legislators and encourage them to ban the use of non-recyclable materials.

Write Letters to Businesses Encouraging Them to Use #1 or #2 Plastic Materials

Manufacturers must also be persuaded that non-recyclable materials are of no benefit to anyone. So, I’ve decided to also approach business owners who work with non-recyclables and persuade them to switch to #1 and #2 plastics.

Seek Ways to Avoid Plastic Containers

Of course, banning the production of single-use plastics is difficult, perhaps pie-in-the-sky. What you and I can do, though, is reduce our purchase of products in plastic.

One item that bothers me is liquid laundry detergent, which comes in a heavy plastic container (#2, but such a waste!). I’ve recently discovered laundry sheets, small sheets of dehydrated detergent that you throw into the washer, and they come in a little cardboard box.

Though I can’t promote a particular product in this article, you can google “laundry sheets” to find your options.

My niece from Melbourne, Australia, says she’s found a supplier who will refill her gallon container with liquid detergent. Reusing the same container is another wise option.

My friend Jini (my great motivator) heard about shampoo in a bar form. She decided to give it a try. (Brings back memories of childhood, when my father scrubbed our heads with Ivory soap.) Jini loves it and said that with the shampoo bar she doesn’t have to wash her hair as often.

I eat a lot of yogurt, and those #5 containers pile up too fast. I’m going to start making my own yogurt at home. Why not? Years ago, I made it in quart jars, and it’s not hard.

Seek Out Places to Send Recyclable Items

In my research, I discovered earth911.com, an earth-conscious website with great resources and suggestions for recycling things you can’t do locally (though it’s geared to the U.S.).

For those in the UK, I discovered a similar site at recycle-more.co.uk.

And, just to round out this article, here are five more ‘no-brainer’ ways to avoid the use of plastics:

  • Buy a reusable water bottle rather than single-use ones.
  • Bring your own reusable coffee cup to coffee shops.
  • Use reusable containers rather than clingfilm for leftovers.
  • Shop in stores that allow you to refill your own containers with dry groceries.
  • Bring your own reusable bags to both grocery and retail stores.

How do you take care of our planet when it comes to recycling? What suggestions do you have that I haven’t mentioned in the article? Please share them below.

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