Here’s a familiar sight in almost every Indian home – a plastic bag holding several other, neatly folded plastic bags. Our kitchens are overflowing with these plastic bags, containers and grocery wrappers. Plastic has become so common that it’s easy to overlook just how much space it occupies in our homes, and in landfills once it leaves along with the trash.
India generates 25, 940 tonnes of plastic waste every day. Around 40% of all the plastic generated in India remains uncollected, causing choked drainage and river systems, littering of the marine ecosystems, soil and water pollution, ingestion by animals, and open-air burning that leads to severe impact on health and environment.
It may seem difficult to eliminate plastic consumption, however, you can drastically reduce it by changing a few daily habits. Here are small steps to get you started:
The best option would be to avoid bringing ANY plastics into your home and opt for more eco-friendly alternatives like glass packaging. However, not all plastics are bad. If you check the bottom of any plastic container, you’ll see a number (between 1 and 7) inside a chasing arrows logo. Avoid the ones labelled #3 i.e. Polyvinyl Chloride. This is extremely toxic and contains dangerous additives such as lead and phthalates, and is used in plastic wrap, some squeeze bottles and toys. You should also avoid #6 i.e. Polystyrene, which contains a toxin for the brain and nervous system, and is used in Styrofoam, disposable dishes, take-out containers, and plastic cutlery. Also avoid #7 i.e Polycarbonate/Others, which contains bisphenol A and is found in metal food can liners, clear plastic sippy cups and ketchup containers.
Carry your own water bottle and travel mug wherever you go. Invest in good quality stainless steel, stackable metal tiffin boxes or Bento boxes to pack your lunch. Take reusable cloth bags to the market or wherever you’re shopping. This helps reduce the number of plastics coming into your home.
A lot of plastic-packaged material has a long shelf life, which means you can buy a bigger bottle and continue to use it for months together. Instead of buying several small packages, buy in bulk to save on money, as well as reduce the number of packages arriving into your home. You can also buy recyclable refill pouches which use 80% less plastic compared to bottles and cans. They are easier to transport and require less water for manufacturing - a total win-win for you and the planet.
Most convenience food packaging of items such as lentils, rice, wheat flour and frozen foods are made of plastics. These pile up in your homes month after month, and ultimately end up in the trash. Opt for more planet-friendly options like buying the non-packaged ones. Many stores have huge cans of grocery essentials and you can carry your own shopping bags to buy the same. Avoid buying frozen items and choose fresh foods.
Ditch the packaged cleaners and go green with natural options. Baking soda and vinegar can be used to clean, scour and disinfect the house, wash dishes while replacing plastic cleaning bottles. Apple cider vinegar can also be a great shampoo and conditioner replacement. Look for more options with natural ingredients to take care of yourself, and your home, while reducing plastic.
By choosing to live more consciously, you can reduce the number of plastics that you’re bringing in your home. The key to minimizing plastic is to weigh up the options and decide what works best for you and the planet. We don’t live in a perfect zero-waste and plastic-free world. However, we can do the best we can if we own up, act and change.