Seven plastic items we can’t live without and their alternatives

06 July 2020

The scope of the plastic problem is huge.

According to figures provided by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Australians consumed about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic between 2017 and 2018, and less than 10% of that was recycled.

The good news is that everybody can play a role in the solution. By making simple substitutions in our daily lives, we can all help reduce the amount of plastic that gets tossed in the bin.

Why is plastic bad for the environment?

Plastic items are everywhere. For something that’s so commonplace, what’s the problem?

Most obviously, there’s a litter problem in our country that seems to be growing.

The majority of plastics are made from fossil fuels, which are a finite resource. Additionally, plastic is not biodegradable, meaning it will never break down. These two simple facts cause mounting concerns for our plants, natural resources and wildlife.

Plastic products pollute our oceans, putting marine life in danger. As the pollution spreads, it also affects people directly. A 2019 analysis conducted for the World Wildlife Fund by the University of Newcastle, Australia, concluded that humans may be ingesting around 5 grams of plastic each week!

With a growing impact on the ecosystem and our own health, it’s time to turn away from plastic. Here are some common products to avoid and suggestions for eco-friendly substitutes:

Disposable bottles for water and soft drinks contribute to plastic pollution. Avoid using them as much as you can.

1. Bottles

If you’re ready to live with less plastic, look around for disposable items that might be part of your everyday life. For many people, that means rethinking their reliance on bottled water or fizzy soft drinks.

Alternative: Reusable metal bottles and homemade carbonated drinks

We want you to stay hydrated so make sure to drink plenty of water every day. Just ditch the store-bought plastic bottles in favour of a single heavy-duty, BPA-free reusable bottle made out of metal. If you can’t carry on without the occasional fizzy refreshment, pick up a home carbonation machine to make your own soft drinks.

2. Bags

Once, it seemed like they were everywhere. Now, single-use plastic shopping bags are banned in many places across the country, and quite a few major chains have voluntarily stopped offering them. We encourage everybody to move on from these plastic items.

Alternative: Paper bags, reusable cloth shopping bags and biodegradable bin liners

Start shopping with durable paper bags or canvas totes of your own. The sooner you begin, the more the mileage you’ll get out of them. If you need a substitute for picking up after your four-legged friend or lining a rubbish bin, there are biodegradable and compostable options made from more sustainable materials like corn starch and vegetable oil.

3. Straws

You’ve probably heard by now that single-use drinking straws are some of the worst culprits behind plastic pollution. According to Sustainability Victoria, Australians use 10 million straws every day, each of which is used for an average of just 20 minutes! Some places are moving to ban plastic straws, and if you want to be more sustainable in your everyday life, this is a good place to start.

Alternative: Paper, glass and stainless steel straws

If your favourite restaurant offers paper straws, that’s definitely a big improvement compared to plastic. If you’re ready for the next step, invest in a reusable, stainless steel or glass straw.

4. Toothbrushes

A plastic toothbrush seems like such an insignificant thing. It fits in your palm, and you only toss one in the bin every three months. But when you think about everybody in Australia throwing away that little piece of plastic, the tonnes add up quickly.

Alternative: Bamboo toothbrushes

Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the traditional plastic toothbrush: bamboo. Since it grows quickly, harvesting bamboo is more sustainable than plastic manufacturing and traditional logging. Plus, it’s compostable! Just make sure to remove the bristles before disposing of the bamboo handle.

5. Cling film

If you’re searching for ways to make your home more sustainable, try taking a look in your kitchen. We know that plastic cling film can help you keep food fresh longer, and we’re big supporters of reducing food waste, but normal cling film products contribute to plastic pollution.

Alternative: Beeswax-based wrap

Eco-friendly alternatives made from beeswax are available in reusable varieties, and they’re compostable. You can purchase commercially produced beeswax wraps or even make your own.

Reusable cloth shopping bags are a great way to limit your use of plastic.

6. Cutlery

Ordering takeaway or having food delivered can be a real timesaver. But there’s a more environmentally friendly way to do it. Some state and local governments have begun prohibiting restaurants from giving away plastic forks and knives. If you don’t live in one of those areas, you still have options.

Alternative: Your own metal utensils or compostable alternatives

If you’re ordering from a restaurant, request that they don’t give you any forks or knives with your food. You could also submit a request with your favourite establishments asking them to switch to compostable and biodegradable options.

7. Hot beverage cups

Tea and coffee cups might look like they’re made of paper, but they’re usually coated with plastic. Some areas have considered banning these plastic items. Thankfully, there are alternative options available to you.

Alternative: Reusable travel mugs

This issue is a little bit trickier. Because of COVID-19, some major chains have announced that they won’t serve beverages in reusable glass, metal, ceramic or plastic cups provided by customers. It’s definitely important to take precautions that limit the spread of this virus. Call ahead to learn the policy at your local store and find out if they use biodegradable disposable cups. If not, encourage them to make the switch in a positive and empathetic way. In the meantime, you can always brew your favourite beverage at home!

Make sustainable choices

With some simple changes, you can dramatically cut down on the amount of plastic you consume. If you’re ready to make eco-conscious changes in other areas of your life, think about investing sustainably.

LGS is committed to responsible investment, which is why we have been named Australia’s ‘Best Green Super Fund’ six times by Money Magazine since 2012.

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