Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Practical Steps to Using Less Plastic

"Plastic is a brilliant invention" you say?
      Why yes, yes it is.

"Why would you throw away perfectly good usable plastic?"
      Well if you have any sense you wouldn't!

Like anyone who has recently embarked on the perilous journey to avoiding plastics, I have a heap of plastic-ware in my kitchen and around my house. So what should I do with it, I mean I must be a hypocrite if I'm still using all this plastic stuff while telling others we need to avoid it, right?
Well not quite. If I was to throw away all the plastic things I've accumulated I would only be perpetuating the problem of plastic polluting the environment. And besides a lot of the items still have a long and useful life ahead of them, why would I be so wasteful as to throw them out?

All Rights Miyazaki City Koho Publication

It's easy to get caught up in appearances and making sure you 'look the part' of the eco-warrior. Especially when you are 'guilt tripped' into buying the latest plastic alternative items. I'm in a few plastic-free/ Zero Waste support groups on Facebook, and if I had a dollar for every time that people are chastised for using reusable plastics or heaven-forbid suggesting an item that contains even a shred of plastic, well I'd be one rich lady!

There are however some real health implications of using plastics for food storage, so phasing out their use is certainly desirable. Knowing the different types of plastic can be useful when deciding on how to reuse or re-purpose plastics.

It may be possible to cutout all plastic items, but unfortunately it's not convenient, practical or fun. You can compromise. Here are some really easy things you can do which will make an impact and also make you feel good about refusing and reducing plastics, particularly single-use plastics:

  • REFUSE. Take your own reusable shopping bag. I have two rolled up in my handbag and a couple in the car. Get in the habit of telling the cashier that you don't need a bag. If you live in Japan you can say 'fukuro ga arimasu' I have a bag. Or 'biniru bukuro ga iranai desu', I don't need a plastic bag. To refuse the produce poly bags say 'pori bagu mo iranai desu', I don't need a poly bag either.
    Reusable produce bags
  •  Stop wrapping things in clingfilm! You can use plates and bowls to cover things. Or make use of all those Tupperware containers you're NOT going to throw away. There are also wrap alternatives such as beeswax wraps, that are pretty easy to make too.
  • Take your own containers to the supermarket/ butchers/ grocers. Yes they can be plastic just make sure they're clean and reusable. So far I've had no trouble at my local shops. The takoyaki guy even graciously squished all the takoyaki into my container last Friday! And your own containers are much easier to handle than some of the ones offered at the deli section of the supermarket.('koreni irete itadakemasuka?' Can you put those in here for me?)
  • Ditch the straw and ask for real cups. If you're dining in at a cafe skip plastic lids and straws and cutlery ('futa to sutorou ga iranai desu'=  I don't need a lid and straw), and ask if they have real mugs/ glasses (futsuu no magukapu/garasu de onegaishimasu'). Or if you can be bothered, take your own reusable cup. If you really need a straw (do you really need a straw?) there are glass, steel, or paper ones available too.
    Take your own cutlery/straw
  • REDUCE. It's near impossible to refuse all plastic in this day and age. Start small, every little bit counts. Plan meals to avoid using ready made sauces. Eat more fresh fruit and veges and less processed stuff. Source items packaged in glass/paper/tin.
    Plastic package free sunscreen, shampoo/conditioner, facewash

  • REUSE. It doesn't matter how many bags I refuse I still somehow manage to accumulate them passively from friends and relatives via gifts etc. So if I give you something in a plastic bag, don't judge me, I am reusing it and would be most grateful if you would do the same. Find an alternative use for plastics that aren't recyclable and that would otherwise end up in landfill/ incinerated. You can also save empty spray bottles to make your own cleaners as well as jars and containers to re-purpose.
  • REPAIR. Self explanatory. Like your grandparents used to do!
  • RECYCLE. When you have no need for a plastic item anymore make sure it's recycled properly in your city's garbage collection, or better yet give it to someone who has a use for it or donate to a second- hand shop.
Now go forth my friends and rid the world of disposable plastic one piece at a time!


  1. I have a two year old now, and at restaurants when they bring the first glass of water they often bring her drink with a straw. I never think to say no straws please, what would you do if you get a straw you didn't ask for in this kind of complementary drink?

    1. Abbie I feel your pain, I've been caught out myself. I try to preempt by saying as soon as they come over to take orders, but sometimes as you've pointed out it's nearly impossible, and staff often forget too. If I can remember for myself most of the time I'm happy with that. If you remember the places that automatically give straws you can always let them know as soon as your seated that you'd like no straw.