"easy plastic-free swaps" surrounded with illustrations of eco-friendly alternatives

Easy Plastic-Free Swaps for Common Goods

Written by Lea Coté
LEED Green Associate and Sustainability Officer for Botanical PaperWorks

Plastic is everywhere and it has changed the course of the world in many ways. Since its invention in 1907 (source), it has brought a lot of convenience, possibilities, and more recently, environmental destruction.

While there have been many positives that have come from this material, humans have been overusing it to replace items that may have been unnecessary to do so. Plastics are now being found in our waters, soils, and the food we eat. It’s affecting humans and many other species.

A study suggests people could be ingesting 5 grams of plastic per week.

On average, this is about 2000 microplastic particles or the equivalent of eating a credit card every week! (source)

Removing plastic items, especially single-use plastics, from your daily life adds up to big positive impacts on our health and the planet.

Doing so does not mean removing convenience, but it does require a mindset shift to be more aware of the items that never needed to be plastic in the first place. For example, mugs, bags, and cutlery all existed well before plastic was invented.

Not only is reducing plastic a good idea overall but more recently, legislation around doing so has become more and more common. In Canada, the EU, and part of the US, bans on single-use plastic items have already been passed or will be in effect very soon.

To help transition from common plastic items in your house, we’ve come up with a list of easy swaps to consider. If you’re a business, you can consider offering these plastic-free alternatives to customers, but we also have some business-specific tips to help reduce plastic overall.

plastic-free swaps infographic showing easy swaps like switching plastic wrap for bees wax wraps

Plastic-free swaps

Plastic veggie bags —> reusable mesh veggie bags

Instead of grabbing plastic bags in grocery stores, replace them with reusable mesh veggie bags. Easily washable, great for both produce shopping and storage, and better for the planet, they’re a simple way to avoid plastic waste.

Plastic toiletries —> reusable or compostable options

Swapping plastic toiletries for reusable ones doesn’t have to sound scary. Not only is it less wasteful, but it keeps harmful chemicals found in unsustainable products out of your system. Plus, eco-friendly toiletries are better quality overall. Choosing a metal safety razor over a disposable razor, or opting for bamboo toothbrushes, compostable floss, and shampoo bars are all fabulous choices.

Plastic wrap —> beeswax wrap

Want to save money and keep your food fresher at the same time? Choosing beeswax wraps over conventional plastic wrap is what you need. Not only can you reuse the wraps again and again, but their natural antimicrobial properties keep food fresher longer and prevent spoilage (source).

Plastic packaging —> eco-friendly packaging

Whether it’s a product, a gift for a friend, or something you are mailing, consider using paper components that can be composted or recycled to remove plastics. Old newspapers, paper wadding, plantable box filler, or reusable fabrics can be used.

Plastic household items —> refillable items

Buying dish soap, laundry detergent, and some food items doesn’t have to be so wasteful. Many bulk stores and product refill markets have opened up in recent years, allowing people to bring in containers of their choice and stock up on common items without paying for the plastic packaging each time. 

Disposable plastic freezer bags —> reusable silicone bags

Love to freeze food to keep it lasting longer? Try using reusable silicone bags that will last so they can be used over and over. These food-grade silicone bags don’t contain harmful BPA’s; they can go from the freezer to the microwave and even the oven. 

Plastic phone cases —> compostable phone case

New phones are an investment and protecting them with phone cases helps them last longer. More recently, several companies have come out with compostable phone cases so that at the end of the life of the phone, you can now recycle the phone through electronic recycling and compost the phone case, leaving zero waste behind!

Plastic makeup —> zero waste makeup

Beauty routines can be fun and waste-free now. Switching from conventional plastic-packaged makeup to sustainably-packaged makeup, such as cardboard, or using refillable makeup can help keep excess microplastics out of your body and our planet and waste out of our landfills. 

Plastic mugs and bags —> reusable bags and mugs

We all know that reusable bags and mugs are available, but often we forget to use them and fall back on disposable options. Leaving a reusable mug and bags in your vehicle, for example, can help ensure you have those options always available on the go and avoid unnecessary waste. 

infographic showing businesses tips to reduce plastics: educate staff and customers, eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics, incentivize reducing waste, and set up a plastic return model

Business tips to reduce plastic

1. Educate staff and customers 

One of the biggest ways to start reducing plastic in your business is through education. Sharing information with staff and customers about what is and is not recyclable, how they can reduce their single-use plastics, and what your business is doing towards reducing plastic will all make an impact.

2. Eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics 

Thankfully, there are a lot of ways you can reduce single-use plastics. Changing from disposable to reusable coffee cups for customers, or switching to recycled plastic packaging, and encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags and containers. Finding out where you have an excess of plastic and taking steps to reduce that will make a big difference.

3. Incentivize reducing plastic waste

Incentives are an easy way to get everyone involved on board with plastic waste reduction. For example, ask staff to track how much plastic is being thrown away and give rewards for meeting goals. For customers, provide a discount for bringing in their own bags, cups, and packaging. In addition, you can also incentivize by installing a penalty, such as charging for bags. People love rewards and you will find that this option will be a quick way to find a big reduction in plastic waste in your business.

4. Set up a plastic return model

Show you’re a responsible business by providing a way for customers to bring back their hard-to-recycle items. As more environmental mandates come into place, customers are now paying a deposit on the plastic products they buy at stores, which could be returned when they bring the plastic back to you for plastic recycling. Bringing customers back to properly recycle keeps customers coming back.

Wherever you are in your plastic reduction journey, choosing to reduce plastic in your life or your business over time will have many positive effects on your health, your wallet, and of course, our planet.


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