As we become more aware of the unintentional damage we do to our environment, it makes sense that we want to make positive changes in our lives to lessen the negative impact of our actions. For many, addressing microplastics is a great place to start.
Microplastics are everywhere. At this point, it feels impossible to slow the consumption of plastic.
The food we buy, as well as other products we purchase, all use plastic.
This plastic degrades over time and becomes microplastics. Also, sometimes plastics are small enough to be microplastics from the beginning.
These microplastics have devastating consequences to the plant and life.
Fortunately, despite it feeling overwhelming, we can make small changes with how we use and reuse plastics that positively impact our world but won’t make us crazy.
What Are Microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny little chunks of plastic that are smaller than 5 millimeters. Unfortunately, microplastics are everywhere, including our rivers, oceans, and even our food and drinking water.
They are small enough to get into anything, and the World Health Organization is sufficiently alarmed to review the negative impact of microplastics.
There are two different types of microplastics, including primary and secondary.
Microplastics considered primary are small in the first place, like those microbeads in body wash.
Secondary microplastics are larger pieces of plastics that degrade over time. As these large pieces of plastic disintegrate, they turn into smaller pieces—these smaller pieces are microplastics.
Since we are so heavily reliant on plastic products and materials, the tremendous amount of plastic thrown away every day is creating a microplastic pollution crisis.
How Are Microplastics Harmful?
There are several ways microplastics are harmful to both humans, animals, and aquatic life.
As microplastics work into our oceans, it damages aquatic creatures. While some might think there is no way this is harmful to humans, there is a tremendous risk to humans as we harm our oceans.
Microplastics block the digestive tracks and disrupt the feeding behaviors of aquatic animals.
Then, as species do not reproduce or starve to death, there is a significant disruption to our food chain.
Also, humans eat fish and other aquatic animals that have microplastics in their systems.
Furthermore, as we harm our oceans, we must understand the cycle of life and the food chain in the oceans impact land-based animals.
For instance, birds that eat aquatic animals often carry what they eat to land. Then, what birds leave behind other, land-based critters rely on for food. This continues up the food chain.
Also, it is critical to understand microplastics have chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals either in the plastic or stuck to the outside of plastics.
These pollutants cause liver damage and reproductive issues with marine life.
Chemicals in or on plastics are known endocrine disruptors, which cause problems with how humans deal with hormones.
We do not know the long-term impacts of humans consuming microplastics, but it is problematic enough for the World Health Organization to feel a sense of urgency to figure it out.
When you think of the thousands of tons of plastic thrown out in the trash regularly, it might seem impossible to make a difference.
However, you can make small changes that do make an impact. Plus, you can make these changes slowly and over time, so you do not drive yourself crazy or feel overwhelmed.
1. Reducing kitchen microplastics
The kitchen is an excellent place to begin making some small changes that have a big impact.
Also, these changes are easier than you think.
Wrap it up
Plastic wrap is impossible to recycle, so it is an end-of-life plastic, which means it gets thrown away.
Consider switching out your plastic wrap for beeswax wraps. Beeswax wraps are an eco-friendly way to wrap your food and containers without the use of plastics.
Beeswax wraps are reusable and last a long time, and are biodegradable.
Another way to help in the kitchen is to swap out your nylon cleansing brush and sponges with natural options. Even your name-brand sponge companies are on board and provide plant-based biodegradable options.
Next, avoid plastic-based dish and hand detergent containers. There are several options on the market that come in biodegradable was packets that you add to water.
Also, find dish detergents that come in pouches that use less plastic. You can fill up reusable containers that house hand or dish soap.
If you want to go full-on with no plastic, try a dish soap bar. We use one and have great success with how well it cleans.
Just say no to the bottle
Plastic water bottles are convenient, but they are so bad for the environment.
Plastic water bottles take a whole lot of water just to create, and they end up being one of the more common plastic waste we have.
However, there are options.
Buy one of the many refillable water bottles available and fill them with tap water.
If you do not trust your local tap water, consider purchasing a 5-gallon water cooler for your home.
We figured out a five-gallon jug holds almost 640 ounces of water. For perspective, for every five gallons of water that we buy in a reusable jug, we eliminate nearly 38 water bottles.
2. Reducing bathroom microplastics
Your bathroom is another area you can make small changes that have positive benefits.
First, stop buying body wash and facial scrubs with microbeads. Those quickly end up in our water.
Consider switching to bars of soap in the shower. There are so many options for good-for-your-skin bars of soap. Check your local farmers market for a local soap maker and try some different scents and ingredients
Also, shampoo and conditioner bars have come a long way over the last several years. Plus, you eliminate a lot of plastics by making this switch.
Don’t forget to brush and floss
We get only a few months of use out of our toothbrushes, and our dental floss is a one-time-use situation.
Consider swapping to biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes. Often, the bamboo toothbrush will have nylon bristles, but it is a step forward.
Also, there are practical options for dental floss, as well. You can find biodegradable dental floss in reusable containers that work just as well.
3. Reducing microplastics in the laundry room
There are so many ways to reduce plastic in your laundry room.
While some people go all out and learn to make their own laundry soap, this is not for everyone.
However, you can take a look at your laundry soap and make sure it is recyclable.
Also, know that you must clean out the remaining soap from your laundry soap container before sending it to recycling. The chemicals from the remaining soap can mess up and contaminate the recycling process.
If you know you do not want to wash out your laundry soap containers, look for brands that use less plastic for their soap containers.
Also, there are several zero waste options out there, as well.
We really like the washing strips. They are eco-friendly, and the cardboard can go in recycling.
While you are at it, consider switching to wool dryer balls.
While dryer sheets are not technically plastic, they are still wasteful. Plus, you can drop a few drops of essential oils onto the dryer balls if you want a specific scent.
4. Reducing microplastics out and about
Now that we can emerge into the world again as the pandemic (hopefully) winds down, we can make practical choices regarding plastics that positively impact our environment.
We rely a lot on grocery delivery services, but now that you can go into the stores with more confidence, don’t forget to grab your reusable grocery bags.
Since you are at the grocery store, look and see if they have the plastic grocery bag recycling bins.
While grabbing your reusable shopping bags, grab your stockpile of plastic bags and drop them off for recycling.
You cannot put plastic shopping bags in your regular recycling in many areas because they tend to mess up the sorters at recycling centers.
Also, since you need to remember your reusable bags when you leave the house, grab your reusable cup.
As the world opens back up again, you can refill your coffee or soda in your personal cup instead of relying on styrofoam or plastic.
5. Reduce and reuse
Eliminating the use of some plastics is a great start. However, you can also reduce and reuse many plastic items.
I need to go grocery shopping
We noticed when grocery shopping, a lot of the food we bought came in plastic containers. We had tons of plastic waste from sour cream to ice cream buckets when we came home from the grocery store.
Instead of just rinsing and recycling many of these plastic items, take a page from your grandma’s playbook and reuse the containers.
You can never be sure if the cottage cheese container has cottage cheese or leftover spaghetti in our house. However, we buy fewer plastic food storage containers these days.
Let’s order to-go
We reuse the containers we get from ordering food to-go a few times before washing and recycling.
If you do weekly meal prep, you might be shocked to realize how helpful those containers are for a few extra uses.
Speaking of to-go food, be sure to tell the restaurant you do not need the plastic silverware. Many places will not recycle plastic silverware, so skip them if you can.
While you’re at it, skip using a straw or bring a reusable one.
I am here for the cheese
When we decided to eliminate plastic, we started paying attention to the shredded cheese bags.
Some of the bags are not recyclable, but we quickly realized how practical the bags are.
We typically save the plastic cheese bags after washing them out. Shredded cheese bags and other zip-top bags that hold food make fantastic freezer bags.
We reuse them several times before recycling or throwing them away. We rarely need to buy plastic storage bags.
Small Changes Equal a Big Impact
Clearly, we cannot save the world from plastic consumption and singlehandedly fix the problem. Changing the course we are on will take a united effort to change how we move around in the world and consume products.
However, if we all individually start making small changes, it will snowball into more significant changes in the future.
It feels possible to be a part of the solution when you make small changes.
Minor changes are as simple as using reusable grocery bags and swapping out items in your bathroom and kitchen that are eco-friendly and biodegradable.
Related Read: 10 Ways To Becoming An Ethical & Conscious Consumer
Also, making small changes in habits as we are out and about create a positive difference.
Lastly, it is vital to remember the value of reusing plastics. There are alternative uses for a lot of what we automatically throw away or recycle.
By getting a few more uses out of plastics, we avoid buying new products and end up with less trash in our landfills.
What steps have you taken to reduce your plastic waste? Tell us in the comments below.