Plastic nowadays is ubiquitous and has many uses. But this practical material does not only have advantages. Almost half of the plastic produced each year is single-use plastic: It is only used for a short time before it ends up in the garbage - or in nature. This creates many problems. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you, too, can avoid a lot of plastic waste. We'll show you how.
Plastic is useful in many ways. First, it is an inexpensive material. Secondly, it is very versatile: Either hard or soft, water-repellent, heat-resistant or rubber-like, plastic has many uses. Plastic packaging, for example, protects our food from transport damage or germs, making it last longer.
There are, however, good reasons why we should reduce our plastic consumption.
Up to 400 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide every year. Conventional plastic is made from petroleum. Its production releases greenhouse gases and other harmful substances into the environment.
Unfortunately, most of the plastic produced does not get recycled. On the one hand, it is economically cheaper to keep producing new plastic from crude oil. On the other hand, many plastic products cannot be recycled at all.
Instead, the plastic is dumped in landfills or incinerated. Incarceration releases more CO2 into the atmosphere. However, a not insignificant portion of the plastic ends up directly in the environment, where it slowly decomposes into smaller and smaller pieces.
It can take up to 450 years for the plastic to decompose into so-called microplastic. These microscopic particles can now be found almost everywhere in nature, even inside the human body.
Plastic is a problem not only for the environment, but also for our health. To make plastics pliable or water-repellent, for example, manufacturers add chemical additives to them.
These additives are not firmly bound to the plastic and can escape into their environment over time. From there, they enter our bodies, where they can damage our immune and hormonal systems or even cause cancer.
The growing amounts of plastic waste are causing more and more problems. That is why it is important that we become aware of and reduce our plastic consumption as much as possible.
Reducing our plastic consumption is particularly effective in two cases: when the plastic is only used for a short period of time and when it cannot be recycled.
Apart from PET bottles, most food packaging is made of single-use, non-recyclable plastic. This means reducing packaging waste, especially when grocery shopping, has a particularly big impact.
You may think that this will be very difficult. After all, most food in the supermarket is wrapped in plastic. But with just a few small changes, you can reduce a lot of waste during your weekly shopping:
This is probably the easiest way to save on single-use plastic: Make sure to always take a tote bag, backpack or basket with you when you go shopping.
Paper bags, by the way, are no more environmentally friendly than plastic bags. Their production requires almost twice as much energy and a large amount of chemicals. In addition, paper is neither tear-resistant nor water-repellent and therefore usually has only a short life.
Most fruits and vegetables such as carrots, bananas, apples or zucchini are already protected by their peel. There is no need to pack them individually in plastic bags. Just make sure to wash or peel them before you eat them.
For smaller fruits or vegetables, you can buy reusable produce bags in many supermarkets already. They are sturdy and can be used again and again. You can even wash them.
Many products, such as cleaning agents or salt, are sold in refillable containers. These refill packs save a lot of plastic waste.
As a general rule, large packages contain less packaging material per content. Particularly everyday items, such as toothpaste or soap, are worth buying in bulk. These economy packs also save you lots of money.
Many products, such as yogurt or milk, can be bought in glass bottles. But are glass bottles really more ecological than plastic bottles?
The advantage of a glass bottle is that it can be reused: A reusable glass bottle can be reused up to 50 times. However, glass bottles are heavy to transport, which increases their carbon footprint. So the eco-balance of glass bottles is better than that of plastic bottles only over short distances of transport. So if you prefer glass bottles, you should also make sure that their contents have been produced as regionally as possible.
Unfortunately, it is still difficult to buy unpackaged food in the supermarket. So-called package free stores offer a possible alternative. You can already find them in many larger cities.
As the name suggests, the products in these stores are not packaged. Instead, you can bring your own containers and fill up exactly as much food as you need.
However, many package free stores primarily sell organic and Fairtrade products. For families or people on a budget, they might therefore not be an option.
Fortunately, more and more supermarkets also offer bulk sections where people can fill up reusable bags or containers. Some supermarkets even offer the option of bringing your own containers to the meat or cheese counter.
For hygienic reasons, however, your own container must not go behind the counter. Instead, it can be filled on or in front of the counter. Not all supermarkets allow you to bring your own containers. It is best to ask in the store.
Ready-to-eat meals also generate a large amount of disposable plastic. Many convenience foods also contain additives such as sugar or preservatives.
Instead, cook your own food. Not only will you save on packaging, it's also cheaper and healthier.
Lacking ideas for what to cook? No problem: In the Bring! App you’ll find new mouth-watering recipes to try out every week. And with just one click, you can add the ingredients to your shopping list. Go ahead and try it out for yourself: