Cutting Down on Plastic: What You Need to Know

Last Updated on January 12, 2021 by Nina Ahmedow

Cutting down on plastic is something a lot of people try to do to reduce their environmental impact. But I find that it is much more difficult than it seems, especially here in Greece. There are some things that are relatively easy, but others need more effort. These are the things that I find easy, difficult, and somewhere in between when cutting down on plastic.

The Easy Part About Cutting Down on Plastic

One of the easiest things when cutting down on plastic is not buying bottled water. Bottled water creates some of the most unnecessary plastic waste. Here in Greece, it’s very cheap because the government sets the price. This means that people buy bottled water all the time. Luckily, our office has a water filter and so does our house. I am never in a position where I rely on bottled water. I have a glass bottle at work and another one at home that I fill up as needed.

Likewise, I have my own mug at work and bring my own tea to drink. That way, I don’t have to order tea from the cafeteria which would come in a cup with a plastic lid. Avoiding these things may seem small but is very effective in cutting down on plastic.

A huge portion of the plastic that pollutes our oceans comes in the form of microplastics which are often found in personal hygiene products. Since I buy all such products from organic brands I minimize the microplastics that I personally add to our water.

Menstrual hygiene products are a sensitive subject that we don’t often discuss publicly. The fact is that people who menstruate spend a lot of money on menstrual products during their lifetime. Luckily, there are now reusable pads, menstrual cups, and period underwear.

Canvas totes are an excellent choice when going grocery shopping and probably one of the first things people do when trying to cut down on plastic.

Another really easy switch are safety razors. I always disliked disposable razors because the quality is horrible. But I used disposable blades for most of my life. Safety razors are a much better choice. And you save a lot of money in the long run too.

The Difficult Part About Cutting Down on Plastic

​Ordering takeaway presents some difficulties. It is not something we do particularly often, but when we do it means that the restaurant provides plastic containers. People often suggest bringing your own container, but this really only works if you know in advance that you will get takeaway and have a container in the correct size.

One of the biggest issues I have is that almost all food seems to be packaged in plastic. Unfortunately, this is even the case when you buy from vegan or organic stores. Often, things are even wrapped in plastic twice. This is a major issue for which I have yet to find a solution other than simply not buying certain products and opting for products that come in paper or glass. People usually suggest buying in bulk, but that’s not an option with all products.

cutting down on plastic pin lemons and luggage

The In-Between

Some ways of cutting down on plastic are not quite easy but not extremely difficult either.

Personal care products are a bit tricky. Ideally, we would make our own so we can reduce the usage of microbeads. I have made a face oil in the past, and my mother only makes her own soaps, deodorants, and moisturizers. But I still rely on a lot of products that come in plastic.

A few years ago I discovered soap nuts and really fell in love with them. I find that they work as well as laundry detergent. What I love even more about them is that they are so lightweight. I have always hated buying laundry detergent because the bottles are so heavy. But the problem with soap nuts is that at least the ones I found here come in a plastic bag.

Finally, I have reusable produce bags but don’t get to use them as much as I would like. The concept is so foreign here in Greece that it’s not as easy to use them as in other countries. Elsewhere, you can ask employees to weigh your produce bag before your shopping. Then at the end, the cashier will subtract it from the final weight. This is not an option over here but would really help with cutting down on plastic and to reduce the trash that goes to landfills.

In general, cutting down on plastic takes serious effort, but some things are easier than others. So I believe everyone can do their part in sending less plastic to landfills. Because there, it sits several hundred years until it fully decomposes. However, at the end of the day, zero waste is not perfect, and the responsibility lies not only with consumers. So do what you can but don’t stress over it.

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