Out of ideas to reduce plastic usage in your home life? We’ve got you covered! There are many ways to help reduce plastic pollution. Aside from recycling, the plastic containers, plastic bags and plastic bottles you have at home? They can be reused.
It’s heartbreaking to scroll through social media and read news of yet another marine animal dying from ingesting plastic. A whale shark was found dead on Tanjung Aru beach in Sabah with a large plastic shopping bag lodged in its gastrointestinal tract. This is one of the many causes of animal casualties that have become common in oceans all over the world these days.
Plastic pollution is rampant and there’s only so much we can do to contain the problem before more irreversible damage sets in.
Single-use plastics like plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic wraps, plastic bottles or any other plastic packaging are one of the biggest culprits in our home disposals. Think plastic bottles that store your soaps, detergents, product packaging, drinks and food. Most of them are unnecessary and cost you money (plastic costs are factored into the price of the goods you buy). Hidden dangers such as bisphenol A (BPA)-tainted food and microplastics in our water sources are already present in our everyday lives and we DON’T even realise this!
So, how can we reduce the harmful impact of plastic pollution on the environment and ourselves? Let’s start with making these changes at home.
How to reduce plastic waste in the kitchen
There are already so many ways to reduce plastic waste at home, such as buying in bulk instead of plastic packaging items, reusable bags and Tupperware for take-away food and so on. What else can we do to reduce our plastic usage further?
1. Avoid buying plastic containers, plates and bowls for your kitchen
“But they’re so cheap and durable!” – you might say. Yes, we know. But plastic food containers do not last as long as porcelain, glass, ceramics or metal wares. In fact, they get micro-scratches easily from the use of metal utensils, which can trap germs and bacteria, making it absolutely unsanitary for your family. Investing a little extra on porcelain or ceramic wares for your home may just give you a better bang for your buck in the long run.
2. Say no to plastic wrap or plastic sealer!
With so much food consumed at the various festivities in Malaysia, cling wrap has become such a commonly used household item. However, these filmy plastic materials are often found floating in oceans or lodged in some sea creature’s throat after they’re thrown away. Plus, some brands of plastic wrap or plastic sealer are known to contain phthalates which are harmful to your health! Alternatively, you can use beeswax wraps or silicone covers to cover your food instead. Both options are reusable and easy to clean!
3. Go chemical-free
Everything we use to clean our kitchen and home contains some sort of chemicals. These often come in large plastic bottles which usually end up in our local landfills after use. Do you know that items like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and apple cider vinegar are some of the most powerful and toxic-free items you can have in your kitchen? In fact, you can use a mix of these with plain ol’ water to clean your floors, dining wares, walls, tiles and even toilet bowls. This lethal combination not only brightens surfaces and kills germs, they even deter ants from your home – plus they are pet and child-friendly!
4. Repurpose single-use plastic bags
Plastic bags are inevitable. They’re convenient, they don’t break easily and you’ve got to admit, they can carry a lot of items in one bag. For those transparent plastic bags that you’ve brought home from the store, don’t throw them out just yet, they may be of use. You can use it for storage in the kitchen, make it into a piece of art (or home decor!) or use it to store your waste. Either way, you should always wash the used plastic bags before reusing them.
5. Bring your own recycle bag to the grocery store or buy in bulk
Instead of relying on transparent plastic bags, invest in recycled or tote bags to carry your grocery. Don’t worry if you don’t have any at home, you can literally find them anywhere from grocery stores, fashion boutiques and online stores. If you want to separate your grocery, you can get different recyclable bags for it – one for fruits and vegetables and others for your household items. If you’re looking to eliminate even more plastic at home, consider shopping at zero-waste stores or bulk grocery stores. Most bulk shops sell everyday essentials from shampoo to detergent and soap. Here’s the catch though, they don’t sell it in bottles. Instead, they encourage their customers to bring their own containers to the shop so they can fill them up for you.
6. Invest in a water filter
Why waste money (and do damage to the environment) on plastic water bottles when you can get a water filter at home? If you’re one of those who buy water in a plastic container or order drinks in a plastic cup, then it’s time to make the swap. We know that a water filter is not exactly cheap but think about it, the amount of money you’re spending on plastic bottles in a year is going to cost more than a water filter. Invest in one and say goodbye to plastic.
How to reduce plastic waste at work
Most Malaysians these days are still getting used to the idea of working from home. But does working from home mean that you should bring home ‘office’ habits too? Sometimes, we just can’t help it! Luckily, we have a few small hacks to improve your productivity, without making any compromises to work quality.
7. Instead of getting a plastic bottle or cup, invest in a good coffee tumbler
Whether you’re working at home or in an office, one always needs coffee to function well. We all know that one colleague who has a collection of 20 different Starbucks tumblers, but still asks for a take-away plastic cup whenever they order a cuppa. Our advice? Invest in a good tumbler that has good insulation for hot or cold beverages, a handle and spill-proof lid. Don’t buy one simply based on brand names or trends. If you do, make a conscious effort to use it more often. Don’t forget – a metal straw would complement your tumbler greatly, especially if you love your iced lattes.
8. Buy second-hand electronics
In our digital era, it definitely pays to use more electronic devices and less paper. But with newer models of smartphones, tablets and laptops launched every year, it’s tempting to constantly upgrade. Unfortunately, this causes a build-up of electronic waste in our landfills – most of which contain plastics. Most electronic devices these days have firmware updates and can last you at least 3 years or more – so why not get a second-hand gadget, or repair a faulty one instead of repurchasing?
Looking for places to recycle your e-waste? Look no further than here! We’ve listed down all the places you can recycle your household items in Malaysia.
9. Avoid disposable pens
It’s hard to avoid them. We get free plastic biro pens wherever we go these days – from hotels to public relations (PR) events. It is also commonly used as free gifts with retail purchases. We should definitely squash our love and habit for ‘free gifts’ and refuse free pens, especially if we don’t need one. Try refillable pens instead. You have the options of using biro, gel or ink. Fountain pens are an eco-friendly choice that allows you to switch ink colours easily. Though they might cost a little more, they look great and can last you a lifetime.
How to reduce plastic waste in the bathroom
Last and most importantly, items that we use for self-care are the number one culprit for plastic waste. These include items such as toothpaste, body and hair shampoo and shavers. Most of these items last us only a short while, but they create so much waste each time we replenish them.
10. Alternatives for washing body and hair
Many brands are going package-less these days and selling plastic-free shampoo and body soap bars. However, these plastic packaging-free items are sometimes sold at much higher prices than soaps in plastic bottles. This defeats the purpose of going package-less as most people would naturally prefer the cheaper, plastic option. Why not make your own body soap – easy tutorials are all over YouTube. Or try the ancient ritual of rice water shampoo (made from washing actual rice) to clean your hair? (Yes, it’s a thing!) Pure coconut oil is also a well-known and loved hair conditioner (as a plus, it serves as a makeup remover too).
Check out these shops that sell package-free, zero-waste products for your home.
11. Use a menstrual cup instead of a period pad
Ladies, listen up! Our sanitary pads are a major problem in landfills in almost every country – every woman uses a minimum of 120 pads a year, which adds up to A LOT of waste. Thankfully, the last few years have seen an uptick in the trend for menstrual cups. A one-time cup purchase can save a woman from buying 15 years’ worth of pads (that’s 1,800 pads and a lot of money saved!) and it helps to reduce unsanitary waste from piling up in our landfills!
12. Use mom’s best friend – aloe vera
Some of us may recall the days where our moms plucked an aloe vera leaf to apply its gel onto our sunburns or little cuts. Aloe vera is a plant with all sorts of benefits. Sadly, we seem to have forgotten about in our appetite for attractively packaged beauty products in retail stores. Why not try aloe vera as a face mask or as a scalp refresher? They also make a great skin soother for razor burns or wax-strip stings. Plus, you can even use the leftovers to make a nice cup of aloe vera tea.
If you’re looking to grow your own aloe vera plant, check out this comprehensive guide on how to grow and care for one. With a pot of aloe vera plant at home, you’ll have an endless supply of the cooling gel.
13. Switch from plastic loofah to natural sponge or loofah
Are you still using a plastic loofah in the shower? Did you know that every time you use a plastic sponge, microplastics get shed off the sponge and into the drain and eventually the ocean. And these microplastics often end up being eaten by sea creatures that will damage their health and wellbeing. While we can’t save every marine animals in the sea, we can definitely start by doing our part, which is to switch from plastic loofah to a natural one. Same goes with your kitchen sponge. If you’re still using the yellow and green plastic sponge, then maybe it’s time to swap it.
We hope you found these tips useful! As we’ve listed above, there are many ways to reduce plastic waste and plastic pollution at home. They are all really simple, but make a great and positive impact on our environment, even if we don’t see the results immediately. So forget about the plastic food containers and transparent plastic bags, save yourself some cash and create less trash!