1. Single-use coffee pods
Coffee pods are a fast-growing contributor to Australian landfill. The energy output of manufacturing is so great, that no single-use item can compare to a reusable product - even if it’s recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. As a general rule of thumb, biodegradable or compostable packaging that looks and feels like plastic will need an industrial composting facility to breakdown. Even coffee pods made entirely of plant-based bioplastics (derived from corn or sugarcane) need industrially high temperatures, moisture levels, and UV light to decompose within any reasonable time frame.
Whether you keep a coffee machine at home or in the workspace, make the switch to reusable coffee pods as an eco-friendly alternative to single-use capsules. Like many reusable products, they'll save on waste and money.
2. Takeaway packaging
Single-use cutlery is used for a few minutes and discarded to remain in the environment forever. Even compostable cutlery has its limitations.
If you’re getting food to-go, pack a set of cutlery to take with you! Just a regular knife and fork from home wrapped in a cloth, pouch, or container will do the trick. You can also get lightweight bamboo cutlery sets designed specifically for use on-the-go.
When having food delivered or ordering from apps like Uber, let the restaurant or cafe know that you don’t need cutlery by adding a note at checkout.
If you have a favourite go-to for takeaway, it’s always worth finding out if they’ll let you bring a reusable alternative.
3. Coffee cups
Coffee cups are not recyclable in most locations. Even ‘compostable’ cups are rarely composted as they require very specific facilities and conditions.
Avoid takeaway coffee cups simply by bringing along your own reusable cup! Keep it in your bag, on your desk or in your car - wherever you’ll remember to use it. You don’t necessarily need to buy a special cup - bring a mug or jar from home. Just be conscious of using items that aren't food safe when heating or don’t travel well (if you’re going far or commuting). If you forget your cup? Opt to dine-in instead.
4. Plastic bottles
Plastic water bottle pollution ends up in landfills and impact millions of animals and habitats. Avoiding buying single-use plastic water bottles is as simple as carrying your own reusable alternative with you. Be sure to choose an environmentally-friendly material, such as stainless steel, glass, or safe aluminium.
If you do forget to bring your water bottle along with you, simply find a water fountain, ask a cafe for a glass of water, or purchase a glass bottle of water and reuse it.
5. Plastic bags
Plastic is fatal for animals who mistake it for food or become entangled in it.
What's more, plastic bags actually break up into tiny micro plastics and remain indefinitely in the environment.
By choosing to refuse plastic bags, you'll save around 500 plastic bags per year from entering our oceans and landfill. Reusable shopping bags are a simple, easy alternative to single-use plastic bags. Always keep a stash of reusable bags handy, like in the boot of your car or by your front door. Our tip: Get into the habit of writing a reminder to yourself at the start of each shopping list.
To make an even greater impact, you might consider making your own reusable shopping bags using repurposed fabric. Check out Boomerang Bags for info and inspo! If purchasing a reusable bag new, choose bags that are made from natural fibres such as such ethically-produced cotton, jute or hemp.
6. Plastic toothbrushes
Every year, Australians use and dispose of more than 30 million toothbrushes, which amounts to about 1000 tonnes of landfill.
For something a little kinder on the environment, switch to compostable bamboo toothbrushes. Use pliers to pull out the bristles (they are generally made from Nylon and are not suited to recycling) however the bamboo handle can go straight in your green waste.
7. Plastic straws
Single-use straws are used for a few minutes then discarded, where they’ll remain in the environment indefinitely. As they're lightweight, they end up blowing down drains, travelling into waterways, rivers and oceans. They can become stuck in the airways of animals, or if mistaken for food and ingested can be fatal.
If you can, request your drink is made without a single-use plastic straw before your drink is made. For those with accessibility issues or who prefer straws, bring your own sustainable alternative if possible - stainless steel, bamboo, and foldable options are available on the market.
8. Paper towel
Paper towels are not made of plastic, and are compostable (if you have access to home / council compost, AND if you don’t use them with chemicals). However if composting is not an option, they end up in landfill because they can't be recycled. On top of the natural resources used to produce paper towel, energy for manufacturing, transporting and the fact that they come wrapped in plastic means that the impact of this single-use product really adds up.
To make the switch, all you need is drawer full of kitchen towels and a bag full of rags in the laundry. Simply wash your used kitchen towels with bathroom towels, bed sheets etc. And wash your rags separately when you have a full load.
Not only will you save trees, energy and plastic, but you will also save money!