Paper towel and plastic bag are convenient items that the modern world can hardly live without. Meanwhile, those two and aluminium foil won’t do any favor to the environment despite being compostable (paper) or recyclable.
Foil and plastic can biodegrade, but it takes from 50 to hundreds of years. Science Advances has published a journal that stated about 60% of plastic produced in the 1950s is still lying dormant in landfills all around the world. They also noted that, “None of the mass-produced plastics biodegrade in a meaningful way.”
Because of sanitary reasons, most recycling programs won’t accept aluminium foil. Which is a shame, since recycling aluminium only takes about 5% of energy that it usually takes to produce it from raw materials. One thing you can do is wash it and crumple it together into a big ball like in this article.
But enough about recycling and landfills, let’s talk about how you can break free from constantly using these things.
This thing is, again, convenient but too much of it makes it wasteful and not environmentally friendly. Better Planet Paper stated that each year in USA, all people use 13 billion pounds of paper towels. Those only end up as waste. If each home begin to use fewer rolls of paper towel, we can eliminate an estimated 120,000 tons of waste each year.
You can eliminate more than three rolls of paper each year by using rags and cloth instead of the disposable paper towel. Get yourself some rags in kitchen and bathroom that you can make from ripped dish towels or old t-shirt and other water absorbent clothing that you can’t use anymore. Don’t forget to wash the rags and hang them dry instead of machine drying them.
In the kitchen, use tea towels to keep your produce fresh and dry. Tea towels are usually very thin and smaller than a hand towel. Usually, people use paper towels to keep their veggies fresh. For example, you buy some lettuce, then you wash and cut it for salad or other food. Instead of using paper, use tea towels to dry the lettuce.
And when you put it in a container, fold a tea towel on top to extend the life of your greens and you can say bye-bye to waste. Don’t forget to always hand-wash tea towels because they’re usually very delicate and you can easily ruin them by machine washing it with all other dirty laundry.
It’s okay to take a break when: you have a party with big crowd. If you do this, it’s okay to put out paper napkins or paper roll. This will make easier or other people who want to help you in the kitchen or clean up some spills. They won’t worry whether the rag is clean or dirty. Just make sure to dispose of it properly.
If you’re away from the house or on vacation and you really need to use paper towel or napkin, then it’s okay to do so. But it’s always best to go prepared with napkins or handkerchief. Oh, and for toilet matters, you do need paper towel. The best, eco-friendly alternative for that is bamboo paper towels.
Read also: Things that should and shouldn’t be recycled.
In US only, people use about 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year. That’s not including the rest of the world, especially in developing countries where plastic is so important in daily life. According to Conserving Now, the bag becomes useful for only 12 minutes most of the time. So after the cashier lane, the bag goes straight to home and get thrown away.
What you can do to reduce that is using reusable grocery bags. It might sound so obvious, but when each of us use this every time we go shopping, we’re going to contribute to a small decrease in plastic use.
So each time you go on shopping some groceries, produce, clothes, and even stuff at pharmacy, take the reusable bags with you. And remember to clean them regularly, particularly the ones that hold produce or food that go bad or decay quickly. Also, get reusable (or make it yourself) produce bags for fruits and veggies so you don’t need to use plastic bags in the market or produce section.
But of course, you’re going to end up with plastic grocery bag once in a while. There are times when you’re not prepared or simply forget about it. So when you’ve got plastic bags with you, make sure it will get recycled. You can also take a bag or two on purpose to use it as trash can liners, pet waste disposal, or some other appropriate way.
Plastic wrap and aluminium foil
Chefs or regular cook absolutely can’t live without these two. And unfortunately, it’s really hard to break free from this habit. What you can do is wash them clean and throw them in specific container/bin or make them into a big ball so that recycling programs can process them (small ones can’t get recycled and mostly get overlooked).
But don’t worry, there is an eco-friendly alternative for plastic wrap. There are wraps out there which are made from beeswax, but it doesn’t work like your usual wrap. This alternative are made from beeswax-coated fabric, so it can’t stick to surfaces like a glass bowl. You need to mold the fabric around the top and sides and fold the edges in order to make a good seal.
Therefore, it might be a bit awkward to use at first. But once you get used to it, it works really well and you can wash it in cold water. In fact, don’t wash it with hot water unless you want to melt the wax. And don’t forget to put non stick label to let you know what’s inside the wrap, because it’s not see through.
As for aluminium foil, you can use it less. But if you really can’t live without it, you can throw it only after you reuse it in different ways. First of all, you can sharpen scissors and garden shears with this. To do this, fold used foil into six or eight layers, then cut through it a few times with your dull scissors and you’ll sharpen them instantly.
If you’ve got animals who behave quite bad, like for example using your fireplace instead of litter box to urinate or defecate. You can put some sheets of used aluminium foil around the fire place to deter them. Most cats and dogs don’t like the feeling of foil and that’ll make them learn the lesson.
Do you like growing plants? Then you can utilize your used foil to protect young plants. Make a collar that loosely fit around the stems of any plants that you’re growing. This will keep pests, insects, and cutworms at bay.
Got some other ideas to break free from aforementioned things? Do you have tips to really stop using them altogether? Tell us in the comments down below. Don’t forget to click this article for related reading!