By Eden Shearer
Most of us down here on planet Earth are consumers and disposers of ‘single use plastic’. But what in fact is single use plastic? Well let me tell you.
Single use plastic is pretty much any plastic item that you purchase and will only get one use out of before throwing it away or recycling. That much you probably could have worked out for yourself, but I am here to give you some examples and maybe even some useful alternatives to our never-ending plastic needs. Items such as plastic bags, straws, bottles and wrappers are all prime examples of single use plastic. And where do they end up? Yep, that’s right… in the ocean. In the bellies of whales, strangling turtles. There is even a video out there of a plastic straw getting extracted from a poor turtle’s nose (if you haven’t seen the YouTube video, search it up, it will really get you thinking). Plastic is in the supermarket, in cafes, at events and generally in our homes. Basically, plastic is everywhere and can be difficult to avoid, especially when you’re living on a student budget.
I am about to list a few of my favourite reusable items I have accumulated over the past year or so. The price tag may be daunting but hey, if you add up how much you would spend on disposable plastic versions versus the lifetime of your reusable item, the price doesn’t seem too difficult to justify. If each of us make an individual effort to say no to plastic in our day-to-day life, then together we can really make a huge difference. Without further ado, here are my all-time favourite ‘ditch the plastic’ alternatives!
Keep cup - I am sure most of you are familiar with the very popular and oh so stylish Keep Cup. These cups are the perfect alternative to your daily disposable coffee cup from your local and a lot of the time you will get money off your coffee for being a tidy kiwi, how good is that? Keep Cups come in three sizes (small, medium and large) and their original range starts off at a modest price of $12. Not bad at all.
Reusable bags - It seems pretty standard, but it is so easy to make a quick stop in the supermarket and need about four plastic bags to haul your groceries back home. Reusable bags are very accessible, with most supermarkets and retail stores selling them. If you can’t afford sustainably made reusable bags from stores such as Commonsense Organics or other local businesses, start yourself off with a reusable bag from Countdown for just $1. One dollar. That is something we can all add in to our weekly budget. Fold it up and pop it in your everyday bag each morning, throw it in your car or simply cart your wallet and keys around in it, that way you’ll never leave the house without it!
Reusable produce bags - If you are an avid veggie-market-goer each weekend like myself, then you will know the hassle of carting around a million and one loose fruit and veg items. In an attempt to ditch the excessive plastic produce bags, you end up getting home to bumped and bruised apples. Not a real motivator to ditch the plastic. This is where the handy reusable produce bags come in! They come in a range of sizes, accommodating to all of your fruit and veg needs, and still remain small enough to pop in to your reusable bag which you then pop in to your everyday bag. Got it? Most organics shops should range these, but if Countdown is your go to, they stock the Rethink range which retails between $9.50 to $12.50 for a three pack.
Stainless steel straws - Okay, we may not all be straw fanatics here, but for those who are then listen up. I don’t know how else to put it but plastic straws suck. In my opinion, they’re unnecessary and are hurting the wildlife that make their home in the ocean. But alas, I am on your side! Stainless steel straws last a very long time, can be used for each and every beverage and really give off that enviro-friendly vibe. Good Housekeeping on Cuba Street, Wellington sell a three pack of these straws + a straw cleaning brush for $6. Otherwise, most organics shops sell them in sets for about $20-$25. Note that price difference!
Reusable drink bottle - I have decided to save possibly the most common until last. The good old drink bottle. I see plastic drink bottles everywhere. I do understand the convenience because that was me up until a year ago. Lose your drink bottle? No worries, it only cost a few dollars and a quick trip to the nearest Fix will see you to a brand new one. It is a hard habit to shake, but trust me, once you have invested in a good reusable drink bottle, you will never go back. Kmart do a double wall insulated 500ml water bottle for just $7. That, and it will keep your hot drinks hot and your cold drinks nice and cold. What more could you want?
All of these are great ways to begin your plastic free journey. It can seem overwhelming at first but if you narrow down what you would use most and tick one off at a time, then you are doing an amazing deed for the Earth. So, start thinking about the areas in your life where you could really reduce your single use plastic consumption/disposal and make those ideas a reality!