13 Easy Things You Can Do To Reduce Plastic Pollution

1. Refuse plastic straws

Maybe you've seen the youtube video of that poor turtle with a plastic straw deeply lodged up its nostril. The turtle probably had the straw stuck in its respiratory track for a much longer time than any of us EVER used ANY one straw. It's been quite easy to take for granted how available they are, while not realising that in the US alone, 500 million straws are used EVERY DAY (sorry, couldn't find similar terrifying statistics for Asia). Consider all the resources that was mined, manufactured, and delivered to produce a plastic straw that would last centuries (literally), just so we can sip on our iced coffee and throw it away almost immediately. What a waste (*sadface). Try this: Challenge yourself and go "strawless" for a week, refuse them when you buy a beverage. It might not be intuitive at first, but you'll definitely get the hang of refusing in no time.

Honestly, we don't need straws in most situations. Well, unless you're drinking bubble tea, and you've got bubbles. Then yes, maaaaaybe you need a straw. In this case, use a biodegradable/compostable/reusable straw (e.g. steel, glass, bamboo, paper straws, even pasta straws!). I'm sure the turtle will be eternally grateful not to have another plastic straw stuck in any parts of its body or in its friends.

2. Skip plastic bottled water

This was an easy switch for me. We're fortunate that tap water in Singapore is clean and drinkable. Instead of buying bottled mineral/distilled/still water everyday (savings of no less than $700 a year), bring your own bottle and most establishments, in my experience, are willing to fill it up for you.

Some may say they buy bottled water, but they use it multiple times. I say, "Okay, not so bad for the plastic situation, but maybe not so good for you." Read: chemicals leaching from plastic bottles into your body

Also, I find that I drink more water these days having my own reusable bottle. Note: You should drink loads of water. It's great for your skin (and all the other organs in your body)!

3. Grocery shop with reusable bags, not plastic

I know. It's free. You can line your trash bins with those bags... Think about it, how many bins do you have at home? Now, how many extra plastic bags do you have? Have you stopped taking more to 'stock up'? Chances are, not nearly enough bins to use up the excess bags stocked up, and no you still bring them into your homes even though you have about 50 stored under your sink. Perhaps, pause the plastic bag 'collection' and only accept them when your stocks have depleted. In the meantime, refuse disposable plastic bags for single items, or bring your own reusable bag when you go shopping.

4.Do not buy products with micro beads

Micro beads in cosmetics enter the oceans through our sewage. Plankton eat the said micro plastic beads. Fish and other seafood eat said plankton. Humans (oh, us) eat said fish and other seafood. Don't buy products with micro beads. End of story. 

5. Ditch the disposable razor

Never gave much thought to this. We buy them 'cos it's what is available in the market. And the media tells us hairy is scary, not sexy (not in those words, but that's the gist). These are virtually non-recyclable (too many different materials in one product).

I've recently purchased a double edge safety razor. When used right, they are said to reduce chances of razor burns and give a really close shave. I'll feedback after a couple weeks of use.  

6. Reusable coffee cups

Take away cups, regardless of what material they are made of, are not recyclable. Soiled cups that are thrown in the recycle bins might contaminate the whole load of recyclables in that bin. If you really need your daily coffee, and you don't have time to sit and enjoy the cuppa, consider bringing along your own reusable coffee mug/tumbler. The trees, turtles, and human communities living near landfills all thank you.

7. Make coffee at home

An alternative to buying takeaway coffee is making your own at home or when you get to the office.
1. Save money; 
2. Reduce waste output.

8. Switch to bamboo - toothbrush, cups, straws, reusable cutlery

Buying is voting. Choose products that are responsibly made with natural & sustainable materials to replace plastic. Also ensure the product's "afterlife" is properly arranged (i.e. compost or recycle).

9. Ditch the sponge

Material from used sponges enter our sewage stream, and like micro beads, they end up in the oceans, and ultimately find their way onto our dinner tables. Find alternatives in your local stores that use natural materials like copper scrubs or wooden brushes with bamboo bristles, sea sponges, reusable wash clothes, etc.

10. Go Solid! USE shampoo / soap that's packaging-free (or refillable)

I never considered the amount of waste that go through our bathroom – plastic bottles for shampoo/conditioner/body lotion/moisturiser/face wash/handwash/toilet cleaners, synthetic loofahs, plastic tooth brushes, and the list just goes on and on... Brands like Lush offer a wide variety of shampoo bars, conditioners, and soaps that are packaging-free. For products that do have packaging, they have in place initiatives and incentives for customers to bring back the containers to the stores so they can responsibly recycled or reused. 

11. Replace cling wrap – beeswax wrap, airtight glass containers, jars

Finding alternatives for plastic can be a challenge, especially when it comes to food. We've all been conditioned to rely heavily on the plastic packaging that is available in the marketplace, from cling wraps to plastic ziplock bags. Beeswax food wraps are a reusable and eco-friendly alternative to plastic cling wrap. They can be used to wrap sandwiches, avocado halves, opened wine bottles, etc.  Take the time to step back and look at what we have in our homes, and adopt a little creativity to replace plastic – cleaned jam jars for the lemon half you didn't use, glass food containers for left overs, or beeswax wraps as food covers.

12. Choose refillable laundry/dish detergent

It is exceptionally difficult to find household cleaning products that do not come in plastic bottles. A way of reducing plastics would be buying them from stores that offer them in bulk, like a refillery where you bring your own reusable containers and fill them up with the desired volume of product. Some places even have hair and body care products in bulk. As there may not be many options or places with refilleries and this point, buying the products in their biggest available packaging does, in a very small way, reduce the amount of plastic consumed and remember to clean out dispose the packaging responsibly.

13. Give up gum. It is made of synthetic rubber, which is a plastic.

Gum is made of up of resin, wax, elastomer + flavourings + sweeteners. Do we really need this?