Ten simple tips for avoiding single-use packaging and plastic in everyday life

It is now undeniable that our plastic consumption has a significant impact on the environment. Plastic is simply ubiquitous in our lives. Plastic as a disposable product is particularly worrisome: used as packaging, we encounter masses of the plastic every day. Often without us being aware of it. It’s not that hard to reduce your own plastic consumption.

Here are our tips on how to easily cut down on plastic or even avoid plastic altogether.

1. Ban superfluous disposable products from everyday life

Plastic plates and cutlery, straws and stirrers: They are only used for a few minutes and then end up in the trash. Does this really have to be? Wouldn’t it make more sense to have a little more washing up after the picnic or party, thereby protecting the environment and, incidentally, our wallets?
Alternative: Use reusable tableware or offer only those drinks and snacks that do without the superfluous plastic. If you are too lazy to wash up after the party, you can ask the beverage supplier for glasses. Many offer the delivery of glasses and even the washing up afterwards as a service.

2. "Unpackaged"-Stores

Unwrapped cereal filler © Zazamaza / iStock GettyImages

Supermarkets and discount stores: Here, as a customer, you often hardly have a chance to buy unpackaged foodstuffs. Often the product is wrapped in a lot of plastic to make it look better.

Alternative: If possible "Unpacked-Support stores. In many larger cities, these stores already exist – containers brought along are simply filled up here. On the Internet, too, there are so-called zero-waste stores that ship their goods exclusively in already used cardboard boxes. Otherwise, the weekly market and stores with fresh produce counters can be an alternative to avoid plastic.

3. Reusable carrier bags

Disposable carrier bags: Whether made of plastic or paper – the eco-balance of disposable carrier bags is abysmal. Fortunately, plastic and paper bags are now much less common at supermarket checkouts in Germany, or are only available for a surcharge.

Alternative: Often reusable carrier bags are offered in stores. It’s best to bring your own backpack or grocery bag for shopping right from home.

4. Buy fruit and vegetables in bulk

Variety of fruits and vegetables © Thinkstock Photos

Fruit and vegetables in plastic film: The fruit is quickly filled into the small, transparent plastic bag, because you don’t want to put the shopping loose on the conveyor belt. Even organic fruit is often shrink-wrapped in plastic at the supermarket. That’s where environmentally conscious shopping can get you down.

Alternative: Most of the time, the plastic around it is completely unnecessary, because often fruits and vegetables have their own protective wrapper or just need to be washed well. Bring your own reusable bags for mushrooms, cherries, lettuce, and the like, or at least use plastic bags that have already accumulated at home multiple times.

And what about bio-plastics? Unfortunately, bio-plastics are not the solution. Recycling is much more recommended. Recycling at least preserves the energy that was once used to make the plastic. First, be careful with the term "bio-plastic." Bio-plastics can be plastics made from renewable raw materials such as corn starch – or they can be biodegradable. A bag made from renewable resources does not necessarily have to be biodegradable. Conversely, a degradable bag is far from being sustainably produced. You can read more about this on the WWF blog.

5. Reusable instead of disposable

Disposable beverage bottles and cansQuick to take along when shopping or at a snack bar to quench thirst, but they also quickly create a waste problem.

Alternative: As a general rule, reusable bottles are more environmentally friendly than the disposable version. But the issue is complicated: Reusable glass bottles are only more environmentally friendly than plastic bottles if they have not been transported long distances. It’s best to always have your own reusable bottle with you, filled with your favorite tap water.

Bastard turtle in the Pacific © naturepl.com / Solvin Zankle / WWF

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6. "To stay" instead of "To go"

Coffee and food to go: Who does not know this? Quickly grabbing a cup of coffee on the go or taking food with you instead of eating on site.

Alternative: Almost all stores accept reusable cups or cans that you bring in. In many cafes, commitment to the environment is even rewarded and coffee in reusable cups costs less. Or simply take your time and drink your coffee in peace at the cafe – that’s an even better way to avoid plastic.

7. Pay attention to ingredients in cosmetics

Shampoo bottles © JackF / iStock / GettyImages

Shampoo bottles © JackF / iStock / GettyImages

Liquid soap, scrubs, shower gel or mascara: Microplastics are hiding in many of these products – under various names. Behind names like polyethylene (PE) or polyquaternium (PQ) can hide the small particles. Liquid synthetic polymers, i.e. substances that are difficult to degrade in the environment, can also be hidden in cosmetics.

alternative: Certified natural cosmetics are completely free of petroleum-based ingredients. Also, solid soap for personal hygiene can be a good alternative. Shampoo and hair conditioner also come in soap form. Coffee grounds, sugar or sea salt can be used for peelings. And most importantly, pay attention to ingredients when shopping for cosmetics and read the fine print. (More info in the BUND shopping guide)

8. Use clothes for a long time

Clothing made of synthetics: Often sports and outdoor clothing are made of synthetic materials, from which small plastic particles, so-called microplastics, are released with each wash. These cannot be completely filtered out in the sewage treatment plant and thus end up in our waters. Also our closets are always filling up with new (often not very high quality) clothes, because you don’t like to see the old ones anymore.

Alternative: Clothes swap parties with friends can be completely waste-free, but a lot of fun – giving older clothes a second life and avoiding plastic as well. Second-hand stores and higher-quality products also promote the reuse of clothing. And if you don’t want to keep the clothes, donating to local charities is the best choice.

9. Separate garbage

Waste separation can be a small contribution with a big effect in every household. © Sasha Suzi / iStock / Getty Images

Waste separation can be a small contribution with a big effect in every household. © Sasha Suzi / iStock / Getty Images

Waste incineration produces greenhouse gases: If all the garbage ends up in the same garbage can, it is burned as residual waste and generates greenhouse gases. Recycling can also be energy-intensive, but is still better because it uses raw materials such as plastic and metal several times over.

Alternative: Even if it is sometimes tedious in everyday life: Consistent waste separation makes perfect sense. If you take glass and paper for recycling and turn organic waste into compost, you will hardly find any trash in your residual waste garbage can.

10. Collecting trash

Plastic waste in the ocean: On the beach, on the lake, on the riverbank – plastic waste in nature is a sad sight and yet omnipresent. In the end, much of our trash ends up in the stomachs of fish, whales and seabirds.

Alternative: Roll up your sleeves and collect trash! Each piece of garbage collected can no longer clog an animal’s stomach. You can also meet nice people on days of action like Coastal Cleanup Day, which takes place annually in mid-September. Please follow the protective regulations (e.g.B. Wear gloves) inquire.

Support WWF in the fight against the plastic flood

With 15 € a month you make a lasting commitment to stop the plastic flood. Support WWF’s work now and become an ocean rescuer!

Becoming an ocean rescuer

For example, €80 will fund trash carts and bins for WWF’s model projects in Vietnam to enable better recycling.

With 150 € you make an important contribution to educate the population in Vietnam, to create pressure on governments and companies.

This is what the WWF has to say about plastic

Plastic bags are a threat to sea turtles © Troy Mayne / WWF

Petition: Let’s end the plastic flood in our oceans

Sign the petition now and ask world leaders to take responsibility and commit to a convention against plastic waste in the ocean. Read more .

Stop the plastic flood © WWF

Stop the plastic flood

Our oceans are increasingly drowning in trash. Plastic is mainly discharged from land into the oceans via rivers. Countries in Southeast Asia are a major focus here. Support our model project on the Mekong River in Vietnam. Read more .

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