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I Decided to Stop Using So Much Plastic at Home. The Results Were Controversial

My name is Yulia, and I, like a majority of people, have never been really obsessed with cleaning up the world. However, the challenge #Trashtag, that has inspired people to collect tons of trash, made me think about this problem. I decided to check how much plastic my family of 3 people throws out daily and the size of our waste was so significant that I dared to try this experiment.

Especially for Bight Side readers, I would like to describe how I reduced the amount of plastic in our everyday life and how it all ended.

I decided to remove the following things from my life:

An approximate amount of my plastic waste for one day before the experiment.

When going through my garbage, I chose the items that I buy personally and thought I could give up. These items included:

  • Plastic bags (grocery bags from the supermarket, garbage bags, and tear off small plastic bags)
  • Food wrap
  • Kitchen sponges
  • Cotton swabs
  • Sanitary pads

I didn’t get rid of all these things simultaneously. I did it gradually, so I had a chance to realize all inconveniences and come to my own conclusions.

I replaced plastic bags with fabric bags.

I usually used about 12-15 plastic bags a month which is 140–180 a year. Now I have 4 bags which can be used for at least 2 years.

  • Problem: It turned out that I lose or forget the bags all the time. There is also another downside of fabric bags: they tend to unroll inside my bag.
  • Solution: After I had forgotten them a few times, I bought a few other fabric bags. This turned out to be a really good solution. Now at least one of the bags is always with me. I also found fabric bags with a rubber band attached to the bottom which helps to keep them rolled at all times.

Conclusion: I realized that it’s really convenient. I’ve been using fabric bags for a few months and during this time I haven’t forgotten them even once.

I don’t use garbage bags any longer.

Our family used around 120 bags a year. Currently we use zero.

  • Problem: I was concerned about time expenditures. When you use garbage bags you just take them to the dumpster and that’s it. When you take out your trash in a garbage can, you have to come back and wash the can.
  • Solution: While I was thinking over the problem, I ran out of garbage bags. I just decided not to buy new ones.
  • Conclusion: I can live this way too. I’ve already been throwing out trash in a garbage can for a few weeks. The undeniable benefit of it, is that it’s free!

I replaced tear off plastic bags with reusable ones.

I’ve reduced the monthly number of tear off plastic bags from 100 pieces to 20, thanks to mesh bags.

  • Problem: Supermarkets offer a replacement for big plastic bags with fabric bags, but it’s not that easy with small tear off bags.
  • Solution: I found out that there are almost weightless mesh bags. You can make them yourself or buy them in eco-shops or from AliExpress.
  • Conclusion: Mesh bags are really convenient, but small plastic bags still haven’t disappeared from our life completely. You can find them in literally every grocery store, so they end up in our house from time to time.

I tried to find a replacement for plastic wrap.

Yearly, I’ve reduced 130 feet of plastic wrap by 10 times.

  • Problem: It’s really hard to give up on plastic wrap. Without it, you have to keep your food in containers or cover your food with lids or plates that you have to wash afterward.
  • Solution: The only solution I could find was IKEA silicon lids. However, there are only 3 lids in a package, and they are pretty small.
  • Conclusion: I use IKEA lids where possible, and the remaining food I keep in containers. The usage of plastic wrap was reduced by almost 10 times.

Synthetic sponges disappeared from my life.

35–40 synthetic sponges used to be sent to the trash from my kitchen every year. Currently, zero.

  • Problem: The main problem was to figure out what a regular kitchen sponge can be replaced with.
  • Solution: It turned out there are a few options:
  1. Eco-sponges, for example, like these. Their price is 3–5 times higher than regular ones but they are more durable and you can wash them in a washing machine.
  2. Tawashi. They are scrubbing brushes for wet cleaning. Originally, they are made of thick natural threads. They are pretty easy to knit or hook.
  3. An old rug made of pieces of old clothes. It’s not convenient.
  • Conclusion: I bought eco-sponges. However, I really liked the idea of tawashi. When I have time and inspiration I will try to make one of those. The main thing is that I’m done with synthetic sponges.

Cotton swabs that are made of natural materials do exist.

I used approximately 300 cotton swabs a year. Currently I use the same amount but they are made of natural materials.

  • Problem: Once again, I couldn’t figure out what I could use instead of regular cotton swabs. The only thing I could come up with was a match with a piece of cotton wrapped around it.
  • Solution: It turns out that there are eco-friendly cotton swabs made of paper. Unfortunately, you can’t buy them everywhere. They seem to be absolutely similar to regular cotton swabs. It is a perfect and painless replacement.
  • Conclusion: This was the easiest part of my experiment.

There are a few options to replace regular sanitary pads.

My yearly 50 regular pads were replaced with 50 biodegradable pads.

  • Problem: Here my problem was too much choice when it came to possible replacements.
  • Solution: I had to choose between menstrual cups, special panties, and reusable and biodegradable pads. Finally, I chose the latter option because I was more accustomed to this format.
  • Conclusion: Biodegradable sanitary pads are good, but they are 3 to 4 times more expensive than regular ones, and you can’t buy them in supermarkets. I will try a menstrual cup in future.

How did my experiment end?

Actually, it didn’t end. Once you start thinking about environmental problems, you just can’t stop. The positive side of my experiment is that the amount of my plastic waste was reduced, though not significantly.

Why not significantly? The problem is that the majority of my plastic waste consists of food packaging, without which, you can’t buy food at the supermarket. Unfortunately, there are no Zero Waste stores in my city. But I really hope they will emerge soon.

What I realized:

In the beginning, this experiment was kind of fun for me. But in the process, I realized that I used to live with my eyes shut and that I hadn’t really seen the big picture. Only now do I understand how much plastic we have around us.

I’m sure that if people follow my example, the demand for some plastic essentials will drop and manufacturers won’t find it profitable to produce them any longer. This is just one way that we can reduce the amount of plastic in the world. Even this small effort can make our world cleaner and safer for us.

Have you ever thought about environmental problems? Which of these replacements would you use in your everyday life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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