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ENVIRONMENT | Plastic waste

You CAN make a difference: Here's how to cut plastic waste

Sydney Borton
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 8, 2018, 11:53 AM - Plastic follows us everywhere. It’s at every fast food restaurant, grocery store, and workplace imaginable. According to US non-profit organization Plastic Oceans, more than 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in our oceans every year.

Plastic that is not recyclable winds up in landfills and oceans, where it can take hundreds of years to decompose. In oceans, plastic waste can injure and kill sea creatures that mistake it for food. Even when these plastics do decompose, they can release harmful chemicals into the Earth’s atmosphere and cause additional pollution.

So, what can we do to help prevent this from happening?

It all comes down to planning and investing a few dollars in long-term plastic replacements. But don’t worry – these solutions won’t break the bank! Here are a few cost-effective options to help you cut down on your plastic waste.


Reusable water bottles and travel mugs

Metal drink containers have a bonus of keeping your beverage cold or hot for longer than plastic water bottles or disposable coffee cups. Pick one up from your favourite café and remember to bring it with you when you head out for your pre-work coffee.

BYOS – Bring Your Own Straw

Cutting down on your use of plastic straws can actually make a difference! According to The Last Plastic Straw, an organization encouraging restaurants to reduce their use of plastic straws, the United States discards 500 million plastic straws per day. There are many different types of reusable straws to suit your needs out there, including glass and stainless steel.

Bring reusable bags to the grocery store

Most grocery stores sell inexpensive reusable bags at the checkout counter. Stores like Whole Foods offer paper bags, which are easily recyclable and better for the planet. And – if you bring your own bag – you can get up to 10 cents taken off your total per bag! Reusable bags are also more sturdy than plastic bags and can hold much more.

Do you really need that extra packaging?

Next time you’re in the produce section, try not to grab those thin plastic bags for your vegetables. If you have the option to buy produce wrapped in plastic or produce with no wrapper, go for the plastic-free option. If you’re really concerned about protecting your veggies on the trek home, pick up some reusable produce bags instead!

Pay attention to recycling symbols on plastic containers


Manufacturers divide plastics into 7 groups, with those labelled 1 and 2 the most widely recyclable.

Some communities are not set up to recycle all forms of plastic, according to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), an organization that touts itself as the nation-wide advocate for plastic use in Canada.

"CPIA completes an annual “Access” study of about 400 recycling programs across Canada to find out exactly what plastics municipalities collect for recycling," The CPIA says on its website.

"In the most recent study, we characterized 24 types of plastics containers and non-containers and found 70% of Canadians have access to programs that accept most plastic packaging containers – HDPE, PET, LDPE, polystyrene and PVC. More than this, 95% can recycle PET bottles (like pop, water and juice) plus HDPE (detergents, milk jugs and other cleansers) ... it's important to find out what you can recycle and check back because this can change.".

Find out which types of plastic your municipality doesn't recycle and try to cut back on using those!

Avoid plastic bottles

If you’re on the go and looking for a quick drink, try opting for a drink that comes in a glass bottle instead! Glass is easier to recycle (and you’ll feel fancier drinking from a glass bottle).

Keep utensils in your bag

If you’re grabbing a bite to eat at a fast food restaurant, say no to the plastic fork and bring your own instead! Keep it in your purse, car, or backpack for easy access.


Have any other tips for reducing your plastic waste? Let us know in the comments below!

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