The word plastic, which stood for cheap, light and durable material until not too long ago, has begun to weigh heavily upon the minds of even the least responsible citizens of the planet. Most Facebook newsfeeds today likely carry at least one story on the amount of plastic that is littering the oceans and killing animals.

Reportedly, more than 40 % of the plastic produced is single-use plastic (news.nationalgeographic.com) that is used just once before it is discarded. Studies also say that over five trillion pieces of plastic are floating through the oceans, which, as is apparent from the news, have begun regurgitating them. At least a few such occurrences have been recently reported in locations spread as widely as Mumbai and the Dominican Republic.

Plastic production in the world has also, reportedly, grown, from nearly 2.1 million tonnes in the 1950s to over 405 million tonnes in 2015 (nationalgeographic.com.au). The importance of cutting plastic from everyday life has never been more obvious. Here is a guide to help you begin:

General guidelines

With rising incomes and purchasing power (despite all the talk of inflation), consumerism is probably at an all-time high, especially when anything you could ever crave for is just a click or a swipe away. One of the best ways to cut down plastic is to simply not buy any. Most items that are purchased, especially on e-commerce portals come packed in plastic and stuffed with thermocol or bubble wrap. So make what you can. When you need to buy something, look for biodegradable or at least recyclable alternatives and avoid single-use plastics.

While shopping

When you go out to shop, carry your own bags, preferably a recycled cloth or newspaper bag. The textile industry is known to be the second most polluting industry, especially for our water resources. Eco-conscious portals such as ecocorner.com are offering cloth bags made with recycled cloth and PET bottles.

“Plastic, in any case, misbehaves with fresh fruits and vegetables. It is not sensible to carry or store fresh produce in plastic,” says Amish Mody, founder and managing director of Eco Corner, which has recently introduced areca leaf-based disposable cutlery including bowls and plates.

Look for more responsible, local online shopping portals such as Salebhai, which promote eco-friendly products and packaging. “We are working to minimise our plastic waste, by packing with paper as much as possible. We promote and tie-up with brands that share our concerns, as much as we can. We have products made with eco-friendly or recycled material, including reed bags and wooden crockery that will gel better with the environment," says Purba Kalita, cofounder, salebhai.com.

While dining out and in the kitchen

Store your ingredients in glass, steel or heavy-metal free ceramic containers. Ditch plastic mugs or disposable cups. Use steel or safe ceramic mugs. Carry steel lunch boxes or steel bento boxes.

If you are ordering in, request the restaurant not to send plastic cutlery and carry your own straws or spoons wherever you go, if you are outside. You could also opt for edible cutlery by organisations such as Bakeys or the recently-launched Bengaluru-based startup EdiblePRO, which is offering edible spoons, forks, soup spoons, ice-cream sticks, and bowls (customisable). If you are looking to carry reusable straws, you could opt for Bamboo India’s bamboo straws (shop.bambooindia.com).

“Bamboo grows abundantly in India and in any case, if it is not cut after a certain period, it dies a natural death. It is a sustainable material, says Yogesh Shinde, founder-director, Bamboo India, which seeks to replace plastic with bamboo, in everyday life. “So far, bamboo has largely been perceived as a material that is used to make furniture or for art and craft. It will also help double farmers’ incomes and help create jobs.”

Remember, the pizza saver, the little table that is placed in the centre of pizza boxes for home delivery, are significant contributors to plastic pollution. Request for the table not to be used while ordering in pizza.

In everyday life

Bamboo India also makes toothbrushes, combs, earbuds, speakers, keychains, and other such objects that are usually made of single-use plastic. Their bamboo toothbrushes, claims Yogesh, eliminate 97 per cent of the plastic used in toothbrushes. This means, the nylon bristles, once the dentist-recommended period is crossed, can be removed and recycled and the bamboo handle, composted.

“We have saved over 1.2 lakh kgs of plastic waste from coming into the market, in the last 20 months,” adds Yogesh.

There are also several alternatives to sanitary napkins and diapers, which, too contribute significantly to landfills, being single-use plastics. Opt for cloth pads or diapers, menstrual cups, or biodegradable sanitary napkins such as Hey Day or Carmesi.

Avoid buying personal care and beauty products that contain exfoliator beads, which poison water bodies and marine creatures. Opt for package-free soaps and shampoos, there are several options from Lush to Juicy Chemistry.

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