It’s hard to imagine going a day without using plastic, yet we use many single-use plastics for a few minutes before they get tossed. Scientific research showing the environmental harm of disposable plastic is piling up faster than landfills. An estimated 8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste enters the earth’s oceans annually , threatening nearly 700 species of marine animals who swallow or get entangled in floating debris. North Americans toss an estimated 557 million straws per day — that’s more than 203 billion bits of plastic every year. While we’ve made strides, researchers estimate that only 9% of the 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic generated around the world since the 1950s has actually made it to recycling. Imagine what the world might look like in 2050, when experts estimate that an additional 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic will have accumulated in landfills or our natural environment.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to reduce single-use plastics once you decide to pitch in to help ease the climate crisis. Here are six ways to stop using disposable plastics:

#1 Bring your own water bottle

Bottled water facts are staggering but not surprising to anyone who’s ever watched cases of water flowing out of grocery stores or a music festival strewn with empty water bottles. An estimated one million single-use plastic water bottles are used every minute — and just 9% of those are actually recycled. Bottled water takes up to 2,000 times more energy to produce than tap water. And, like diapers or the strap on a six-pack of beer, disposable plastic water bottles can take an estimated 450 years or more to break down and decompose.

Why not stick to local tap water? Blind testing shows people prefer the taste to bottled, and tap water is more heavily regulated for safety than bottled water. If you’re not a fan of the taste, try using a filter. Invest in a set of refillable water bottles or jars to keep in the fridge so you can quickly grab one with your keys before you head out the door.

#2 Carry a cup

You’re in good company if you love a coffee or three every day. Although those takeout coffee cups look like they’re made of recyclable paper, they’re actually lined with plastic so they can’t be recycled or composted. At best, they end up in garbage cans and landfills; at worst, they’re strewn on sidewalks, streets, parks and waterways.

Fortunately, you can keep your java habit without disposable coffee cups. Bring a thermos or portable mug to your favourite coffee or tea shop — you might even get a discount for bringing your own cup. Or budget a few extra minutes, plan to stay and sip your coffee from a real mug (remember to ask for a mug when you order). If you’re short on time AND your travel mug, take your coffee to go and forego the plastic lid.

#3 Shrink your lunch’s footprint

If you cringe at the mound of zippered plastic bags, waxed wrappers, takeout containers, disposable cups and cling wrap generated by your midday meal, it’s time to put your lunch on a waste-free diet.

Hit up your grocery store or local eco-friendly shop for a huge selection of washable, reusable containers for packing lunches for work or school. Bento-style boxes come with separate compartments. Mason jars of various sizes can carry grain bowls, soups or salads. Stainless steel containers tend to have a longer shelf life than plastic and they weigh less than glass, but anything is better than plastic bags or takeout containers that can’t be reused or recycled. Look for plastic wrap alternatives made of washable, reusable beeswax or little machine-washable snack bags that close with a zipper or Velcro.

#4 Stash your own shopping bags

Most of us are happy to carry home food in reusable grocery bags — when we remember to bring them! If you’re always forgetting yours, here are a few tips to get in the habit. If you shop the same day each week, set a reminder on your phone to pack your bags. If you routinely bring them to the store, unpack at home and forget to return them to the car, consider stocking up on twice as many so you’ll have better odds of having them when you need them. Even better? Buy washable produce bags to fill with anything from apples to zucchini. Look for different sizes to hold herbs versus potatoes. We like reasonably transparent styles so you — and the cashier — can quickly see what’s inside.

Not a fan of clunky grocery bags? Look for slim, lightweight bags that fold down into a small pouch or clip to your keys. These are also great for unexpected shopping pit stops: keep a folding tote bag in your purse, backpack, laptop tote or gym bag.

#5 Let go of “convenient” disposables

The inconvenient truth is that single-use products are bad for the planet because they often can’t be recycled and they won’t biodegrade until long after we’re all gone. Here are a few reusable alternatives:

  • Straws: Look for washable straws made of glass or stainless steel, or compostable styles made from corn-based plastic.
  •  Wipes: Those “flushable” cleaning wipes? Most are actually not flushable according to scientists who tested them. Toilet paper broke down in pieces after a 30-minute agitation period that simulated a typical journey into the sewage system; none of the 23 brands of cleaning wipes tested by a Ryerson University research group fully disintegrated . Instead of disposable wipes, invest in a soft microfibre cloths for washing your face or removing makeup.
  •  Razors: Would you believe we throw away an estimated 2 billion plastic razors and disposable blades each year? Instead, invest in a quality safety razor like the one your grandfather had. Dry the metal blade after each use and it could last for a month or more depending on how often you shave; the metal base should last for years. Dispose of old blades in a sharps container and return to a pharmacy or selected municipal recycling depots.

#6 Get tough on packaging

Did you know that nearly 40% of plastic is generated for packaging? Try putting loose mushrooms in a reusable paper bag or bulk nuts in a Mason jar instead of buying packaged versions.

Caseco is a leader in reducing waste in the electronics industry. We’ve eliminated single-use plastics from our packaging and switched to recyclable paper boxes without plastic wrappers or inserts. Our packaging is printed with biodegradable, plant-based ink. We use recyclable materials whenever possible, and no animal products, in responsibly manufacturing Caseco products. By minimizing the size of our packaging, we’re also lowering shipping emissions and keeping costs low for you, our customers. Plus, every purchase you make at Caseco makes our world better by supporting 1% for the Planet and Plastic Oceans.