How To Reduce Plastic Waste In Your Kitchen
From food packaging to kitchen accessories, using plastic has become part of our kitchen and food prep routine. With these 8 simple swaps and tips, you’ll be on your way to using less plastic in your kitchen today.
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Take a look in your pantry, fridge and cabinets and you’ll probably find a surprising amount of plastic food storage, kitchen accessories and single-use plastic. The good news is that it’s easy to swap or phase out plastic items and replace them with more sustainable options.
It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to degrade (1). The less plastic we use and throw away now, the less plastic will crowd our landfills and pollute our environment in the future.
No matter how conscientious we are at recycling, only 9% of the world’s plastic gets recycled (2). That’s a pretty depressing statistic. And 90% of the debris floating on the ocean’s surface is plastic (3). All those cute seals and dolphins and penguins can get entangled in or ingest the plastic that we throw away. Yes, that’s on us.
Of the 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, half of that is manufactured for single-use products like plastic water bottles, coffee cup lids, plastic straws and coffee pods (4). With a wide range of buying options, we can choose to be more conscientious consumers and reduce plastic waste.
Start with these 8 simple steps to cut down on plastic use in the kitchen. It’s up to us to stop using and throwing away so much plastic.
PHASE OUT PLASTIC KITCHEN ACCESSORIES
I’ve found that plastic kitchen accessories like mixing bowls, cutting boards and large plastic utensils (pasta scoops, slotted spoons, etc.) start looking ragged after a while. Instead of replacing well-used plastic kitchen accessories with more plastic, purchase products made of stainless steel, glass or bamboo.
CLEAN DISHES WITH LESS PLASTIC
Conventional sponges are made with oil-based plastic. Replace sponges with bamboo handle scrubbers or natural fiber sponges. I ditched my sponge years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I keep a cup of baking soda by the sink and use a few sprinkles to dislodge any food particles left on dirty plates and bowls. For seriously stuck-on bits, I soak pans in water and use a bamboo pot scrubber to scrape away stubborn food.
Most dish soap comes in a plastic container, and yes, it’s recyclable. But if you really want to go plastic free, swap it out for a block of dish soap (like No Tox vegan dish soap). If you just can’t part with liquid dish soap, biokleen sells a gallon size jug of liquid dish soap. Fill up a glass oil dispenser bottle with liquid dish soap and refill from the bulk jug as needed.
Not only are plastic bags manufactured from non-renewable crude oil, they also don’t break down in landfills. The state of California and towns in other states (check here) have banned single-use plastic bags. Bring reusable bags to the store to cut down on plastic waste. You can also bring reusable produce bags.
We’ve been able to cut way back on plastic use in the summer by starting a garden. Even if you don’t have much space, you can grow herbs in containers and pick a small amount whenever you need some for a recipe. Think of how many plastic clamshells of herbs you won’t need to bring home from the grocery store. If gardening is out of the question, bring a basket to the farmer’s market and fill up your basket instead of using grocery store produce plastic bags.
REPLACE PLASTIC FOOD STORAGE WITH PLASTIC-FREE OPTIONS
Aside from adding more plastic to landfills, plastic food storage containers that may leach chemicals. BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, and public outcry resulted in companies removing this chemical from a slew of plastic kitchen products. BUT, plastic containers labeled “BPA-free” don’t necessarily mean they’re any safer. They may contain other bisphenols, such as BPS, which have the same harmful properties as BPA (5). Even bisphenol-free plastics may contain other endocrine-disrupting chemicals (6).
The best solution is to store leftovers in glass or stainless steel storage containers with lids, and use Bee’s Wrap instead of plastic cling wrap.
PLASTIC FREE DRINKS
When it comes to plastic waste, single use water bottles and plastic straws are a huge problem. Instead of buying a six pack of bottled water, use a stainless steel water bottle and refill it again and again. If you use plastic straws, swap them out for stainless steel straws that you can wash and reuse forever.
Single use coffee cups come with a plastic lid that adds to landfill waste and creates debris in our oceans. Bring a reusable coffee travel mug to your local coffee shop. As long as it’s clean, most coffee shops welcome this eco-friendly practice.
Brita 20 oz. Stainless Steel Filtering Water Bottle
PLASTIC FREE MORNINGS
Coffee pods (like K-Cup and Nespresso) may be convenient, but they’re creating piles of plastic waste in our landfills. The small size of the capsules causes them to slip through the sorting systems at some recycling centers. Instead of using a Nespresso or Keurig maker, make your coffee with a glass Bodum pour over coffee system or a stainless steel espresso maker.
Do you drink tea? Teabags from some brands of tea contain microplastic. One option is to purchase loose leaf tea and use a fine mesh strainer. If you still like the convenience of teabags, purchase brands like Numi, Teatulia, The Republic of Tea, Yogi, Choice, Stash or Pukka, which don’t contain any plastic in their teabags.
PLASTIC FREE FOOD CONTAINERS AT THE STORE
When it comes to purchasing food, look for items that come in a glass jar as opposed to plastic containers. Some brands of natural peanut butter come in glass jars, as does cooking oil, vinegar, condiments like ketchup and mustard, and spice jars.
Frozen meals often come in plastic containers. Instead of reaching for pre-cooked frozen meals at the grocery store, cook at home and double your recipes. Store the extra food in airtight glass containers with lids. Freeze the leftovers and say goodbye to single-use plastic containers.
The more you put in the garbage, the more plastic bags you use. Put less in the garbage can and compost your food scraps. Learn more about what you can compost here. Set a small compost bin on your counter and you’ll be surprised at how much less waste goes in your garbage bin.
MORE NATURAL LIVING INSPIRATION
- Bilbrey, J. BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous. Scientific American. Aug. 11, 2014.
- Kitamura, S., et al. 2005. Comparative study of the endocrine-disrupting activity of bisphenol A and 19 related compounds. Toxicol Sci 84(2):249-259.
first image and compost image via depositphotos