From daunting news reports to the removal of straws from restaurants and the five cent bag tax, awareness around the impacts of plastic pollution is increasing. More than one billion tons of plastic have been produced over the past fifty years, and less than nine per cent of that has been recycled. As it takes centuries for plastic to decompose, most of that plastic ends up in the natural environment — including our oceans and lakes. This type of pollution is now present all over the world, contributing to overflowing landfills and the death and contamination of many aquatic species.
The amount of plastic products in your kitchen alone (often used for eating, drinking and transporting and storing food) is staggering. One trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. In 2016, there were more than 480 billion plastic bottles sold worldwide—that’s nearly two million every minute. There are also several other plastic waste producers in your kitchen that you might not think about, such as plastic containers, food wrap, and storage bags.
There are some simple and cost-effective switches you can make to create a more sustainable kitchen, however. Reusable fabric grocery bags and water bottles made of metal or glass can help you cut back on your plastic consumption. While the bottles may take more energy to produce initially, they are generally reused more times than a single-use water bottle and are more sustainable in the long-run. If you choose bottled water over tap water because you’re concerned about the water quality, you can always purchase a water filtration or reverse osmosis system to treat your water. Tap water, however, is generally of excellent quality and is required to meet strict provincial safety standards.
Saving leftovers in the fridge is another great way to reduce food waste and save money, but it’s also important to look at the sustainability of your food preservation system. Consider shifting from plastic to glass containers, for example, and replacing plastic food wrap with a natural and compostable product, such as beeswax wraps or bags. Another perk to using beeswax is that it allows for produce and fresh food to breathe, which will prevent it from spoiling as quickly. All you have to do to reuse your beeswax wraps and bags is to wash them with cold water and mild soap, and then dry them thoroughly. These products are becoming more readily available and affordable, and can be purchased on the internet, at your local farmers’ market or in certain grocery stores.
If possible, buying in bulk can also help reduce the amount of disposable containers and plastic waste that you are purchasing. In some cases, doing so can also save you money.
These are just a few great examples of how you can reduce our footprint and reduce waste. Small actions play a big role in climate action, and it is crucial to find sustainable alternatives for everyday use in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our contribution to climate change. The suggestions listed above are affordable and easy ways to begin reducing plastic use at home, move toward a circular economy, and practice the 5 R’s: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and lastly, recycle.
The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Caption: Glass containers, beeswax wrap and food storage bags are a few of the many sustainable alternatives to plastic for kitchen use.