IKEA just committed to phasing out all single-use plastics in their home furnishings department by January 1, 2020.
The products being phased out are plastic straws, plates, cups, freezer bags, garbage bags, and plastic-coated paper plates and cups.
The issue with these convenience items is that they never fully decompose. Single-use plastics last and leach toxins for up to a thousand years where they then break down into micro-plastics that further pollute the planet.
We already witness the consequences of this convenience consumption on the environment. Waterbodies around the world are saturated with single-use plastics that disrupt natural ecosystems and pose a threat to all species.
You see, when plastics enter our oceans, they become covered in algae that, upon damage or death, release a natural sulfur compound. That compound attracts aquatic life and seabirds who mistake the plastic for food. These plastics can choke or strangle or build in the critters’ stomachs and lead to death.
The problem is growing, too. Such plastics profoundly change the composition and quality of our water and, by 2050, it’s predicted that there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.
Obviously, we need to do something, and I commend IKEA for taking a step in the right direction.
But what about us? Most of us grew up with single-use plastics in our lunches, at our parties, and in our schools and offices. We’re accustomed to the convenience and ignoring its consequence. I’d even venture to argue that we’re a bit self-obsessed and don’t like change that seems forced upon us, but maybe that’s just this one millennial’s humble opinion.
Change is hard, I know, but staying the same is suicidal. Our planet is at stake and alternatives do exist, I promise.
With a few quick switches, you can get ahead of IKEA and ditch single-use plastics well before 2020. Doing so means you’re contributing to a more sustainable future for all species.
Alternatives to plastic straws
IKEA isn’t the only one ditching plastic straws. Seattle outright banned them and the European Union is following suit. Companies like Starbucks have also redesigned their lids to be straw-free. So what are the alternatives at home?
Naturally degradable straws in paper or bamboo varieties. Now, even though every paper straw site claims theirs won’t disintegrate, I’d still bet on bamboo for longevity’s sake. Amazon sells endless options, like this one from Buluh Straws—assembled in Canada.
Glass straws from companies like
Stainless steel straws from companies like Green Munch or Fenigo.
You can learn more about ditching plastic straws at The Last Plastic Straw.
Alternatives to plastic plates and cups
Plastic plates and cups won the hearts of party planners, home hosters, and college kids alike. These disposables save a ton of time on dishes, not to mention they’re lighter to pack around and won’t shatter if dropped.
Will we ever have such cheap luxury again? Well, yes. In fact, options already exist for disposables that actually decompose over time.
Eco Dinnerware from Ontario is made from fallen palm leaves that are then heated and pressed into plates, bowls, and more. They have options for biodegradable disposables or longer lasting dinnerware.
Amazon sells bamboo, sugar cane, and wooden options as well.
During my searching, I also came across plant-based plastics, like those that LEGO intends to use in their company’s green makeover, but the processing on these is much more resource-
Alternatives to freezer bags
Freezer bags are useful for storing meats and meal prep portions, but afterward, they tend to get tossed without much thought.
I use to wash out the bag with soap and water and reuse. Then I learned about plastics leaching toxins and I figured re-using these single-use items was a bad idea. So what else is there?
Silicone freezer bags come in different
You can find a variety of options that ship to Canada from Modern Kitchen on Amazon. While you might wince that these bags are over $10 a piece, keep in mind they’re engineered to last forever.
Alternatives to garbage bags
The Blue Ocean Network reports that “more than a trillion plastic garbage bags are used by people around the world each year and many of those end up in the ocean where they can impact marine life.”
Like other single-use plastics, these bags leach toxins into the environment and into the animals in the ecosystem—including humans. These poisons are stored in our fat cells, leading to a whole host of health complications.
Bad for the planet, bad for the animals, bad for us… Yeah, it’s time to ditch these, too. But how?
Well, to be honest, this is probably the most difficult single-use to find an alternative for. Sure, you can use 100% recycled plastic and reduce your
You can reduce your reliance on plastic garbage bags by recycling and composting, leaving less overall trash to dispose of. When you have less trash, you can use smaller bags—like those from your bread purchase. This isn’t a perfect solution (those don’t exist anyway), but it is free and prevents you from tossing plastic food bags into larger plastic bags.
And yes, you could use bio-bags made from plant starches and fossil-based plastics, but these will run you a pretty penny and are still not 100% plastic-free.
As more consumers and companies shift to eco-friendly options, our choices will expand and such plastic-free practices, ideally, will become the norm. It’s my hope that one day, future generations will look back at this time with disbelief we were ever silly enough to use single-use plastics in the first place.
Cover image credit: Plastic Free Ocean