Banning the plastic drinking straws recently in many cities in USA seems like a feel good move, just like sometimes recycling can be – when you buy more things, but then use the fact that you put your things to the recycling or donation bin to justify for buying more. Lots of people use the drinking straws, not just for “lazy habit” but because it makes drinking easier. And when you need a tool to drink, replacing the straw with a paper version just doesn’t work. It disintegrates too fast.
I’m all about serving turtles (what seemed to have caused the social media hype then resulting in the straw bans were some photographs circulating online, where sea turtles had plastic drinking straws stuck in their nose), but there are way more useless things than the straws that we should consider banning or getting rid of/not producing to make any dent in the massive mountains and trash islands of plastic waste that we produce, consume, and waste. Here are some ideas to get started; comment to add your ideas to the list.
- Plastic single-use water bottles! Excluding maybe disaster areas where potable water and bring your own bottle scenarios are applicable, those things should be reserved to very few usage cases. If your tap water tastes terrible, find alternatives. Water purifier, or use a brita and drink your water in fridge temperature
- Plastic applicators for single-use internal menstruation products (aka tampons). There is no reason why the applicator tube should be made of plastic (or composite plastic). Use flushable cardboard. Or choose a product that you can use without the applicator. At least one major brand, o.b., does not need either. Oh, also… the cords of tampons apparently have nylon (which is a plastic) in them. Why?
- Multi-use thick plastic bags at grocery checkouts. These are supposed to be more durable than the single-use ones – guess what? They end up littering the same places where the single-use bags were. Why not offer a better range of options? Canvas bags last for years of use, and are easily washable. Cardboard boxes grocery produce arrives in is also a good alternative for getting your foods home, then just flatten the box and receycle it. I wish Instacart offered carboard boxes as an alternative for those wasteful heavy plastic bags
- Diaper underwear for toddlers. Everyone poops, I get it. And not everyone that has an infant is willing to use washable and reusable diapers. Fine. Maybe consider potty training your infant a bit earlier then… in several other parts of the world it’s normal to to have the infant potty trained by the age of 18 months. If your 4 year old has learned to walk and run fine, why hasn’t it been taught how to use their sphincter yet? Try to imagine the mountain of plastic diapers a child produces in their first 4 or how many years they tend to wear diapers these days… that’s a huge mountain. And it’ll be polluting the nature hundreds of years after said offspring. Even reducing that mountain of trash by a year or two will make a huge difference
- By default added plastic cutlery at take out restaurant meals. Add the napkin, hold the plastic. Make the plastic cutlery separate, paid add-on. Lots of those don’t get used, so they accumulate for years, or just get straight tossed to trash. Or used once, then trashed… we can do better
- Styrofoam packaging for foods. Takeout, coffee, raw meat products… we can do better
- Plastic envelopes for junk mail. No, we don’t really need a replacement for that either
- Plastic window for mail envelopes. Why not make some compostable plastic alternatives for them? In many places those plastic windows in the envelopes aren’t welcome in paper recycling
- Individually plastic wrapped everything, for the sake of just wrapping them. Some things still make sense to have them packaged in smaller portions, e.g. gluten free crackers for portion control or not usually glutendree household, or some portable products for healthcare or snacks. But why does everything seem buried in so much plastic? Oh, and the irony – having those straws made out of paper, wrapped in plastic…