On Earth Day, take the time to think about and reduce the environmental impact of your daily choices. Use your Earth Day to start inventorying the items you have in your home. Identify non-biodegradable items like plastic, which litter our landscapes and oceans and can spend centuries in landfills. Your list will help you make more sustainable choices when it’s time to replace those items.
Globally, we produce 400 million tons of plastic waste each year. Around 8 million metric tons of it ends up in our oceans and this amount is projected to grow to 53 million tons by 2030 if we don’t take the action necessary to reduce our plastic waste output. The U.S. is the biggest contributor to the global plastic pollution problem, disposing of more tons of plastic waste each year than all the EU countries combined.
“The world is producing twice as much plastic waste as two decades ago, with the bulk of it ending up in landfill, incinerated or leaking into the environment, and only 9% successfully recycled,” according to a 2022 OECD report. In 2021, 40 million tons of plastic waste was generated in the U.S. and only 5% to 6% was recycled while 10% was incinerated and the remaining 85% was sent to landfills.
The movement to ban single-use plastic is slow and we will not be able to stop its production overnight. However, we can take the initiative to be more conscious of what we choose to buy and use in our daily lives.
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Taking Stock of Non-Biodegradable Personal Care Products
You can start your plastic inventory in one of the most frequently visited rooms in your house, the bathroom. There are so many personal care products in the bathroom that we use and dispose of regularly that are not biodegradable, such as disposable plastic razors and plastic toothbrushes.
Identify the items in your bathroom that contribute to our plastic pollution problem. When you’ve used them up, take the necessary steps to recycle them responsibly using Earth911’s Recycling Search and switch to a more environmentally responsible solution by reusing, repurposing, or refilling. Once you start the process, you can gradually replace items to reduce your impact.
The best option is to replace your products with an alternative made of a renewable, biodegradable material, if it exists. Failing that, look for durable bathroom items you can reuse for as long as possible to delay their end-of-life journey to the landfill. It may not always be possible or practical to reuse some items for sanitary reasons but take note of what you can reuse or refill and aim to purchase goods with a longer useful life.
Refillable Glass Containers To Replace Plastic Bottles
There are many options for replacing or reducing plastics with more sustainable personal care products. Some brands, like Common Good, promote the use of refillable glass containers for liquid products like hand soap, dish soap, and laundry soap. They have refill stations at their stores that allow you to bring your own containers or refill and reuse the pouch or bottle you purchase from them. Though completely eliminating plastic from the packaging design is a challenge, their refill pouches use 83% less plastic than a bottles and can be recycled. Each pouch contains enough liquid for two glass bottle refills. Their products are plant-based and free of sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.
Need refillable glass bottles for other personal care products, such as shampoo and hand lotion? Church Street Designs has a selection of bottles with pump dispensers for all your liquid formulas and they’re available in amber or clear glass. This allows you the flexibility to buy various types of refill formulas for all your hygiene needs.
As for dental care, you can replace your plastic tubes with toothpaste tablets in a refillable glass bottle. Weldental’s Chewtab tablets make brushing your teeth simple and plastic-free. They’re made with natural ingredients, including non-GMO xylitol for sweetening, quillaja saponaria extract for foaming, and calcium phosphate for healthy tooth enamel.
Organic and Natural To Reduce Plastic
Another option to consider in replacing plastics in your bathroom is to buy the product in a different form. For example, instead of shaving foam in a non-biodegradable dispenser, consider a shaving soap in a solid bar with no plastic packaging. Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve Company offers bar soap for your face and body made of natural ingredients like avocado oil, organic soap nuts, and bentonite clay. Its ingredients are certified as organic by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
Another product that’s popular in the shower is the plastic body scrub. Instead of buying dollar store plastic body scrubs, opt for an organic loofah, like the ones by Eco Beige, made from a gourd in the cucumber family. Unlike plastic scrubs, loofahs are 100% biodegradable and compostable. You can even grow your own loofah gourds for a truly sustainable alternative.
Bamboo as a Sustainable Option for Personal Care
Choosing personal care products made of bamboo is another way to replace plastics. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth and extremely versatile. One of the most obvious and easiest ways to reduce our plastic waste is to replace plastic toothbrushes with bamboo ones.
According to National Geographic, if each American replaced their toothbrush every three to four months as the dental association suggests, about 23 billion toothbrushes would end up in landfills each year. Retailers are flooded with big-brand dental care products made with plastics. But you can find sustainable replacements for both your floss and toothbrush.
EcoLuxe offers FSC Certified products, such as a bamboo toothbrush with a replaceable bristle that’s made with organic castor bean oil and available in four shapes. By replacing only the biodegradable bristle every three to four months, you extend the life of your toothbrush. When it wears out, you can responsibly dispose of the bamboo handle and bristle head in an industrial composting facility (if accepted) without leaving microplastics in the environment.
Another dental product you can easily replace is your dental floss. Most of the products available to us through retail channels are made of synthetic materials, such as non-biodegradable nylon, and come in hard-to-recycle plastic boxes. Seek a floss made of bamboo fibers, such as that offered by EcoLuxe. It’s coated in natural candelilla wax and comes in a refillable glass container.
Another culprit to the plastic problem is the disposable razor. By 2024, it is estimated that 160 million disposable plastic razors will end up in U.S. landfills. Replace them with a reusable bamboo razor, like the one offered by Public Goods and reuse them for as long as you have hair on your body. All you need to do is replace the blade cartridge. Unfortunately, there is currently no solution for a 100% biodegradable version but a reusable razor made of bamboo and metal helps divert plastic waste from landfills.
Your Earth Day Commitment
Your journey to a more sustainable lifestyle is a long-term commitment that won’t happen overnight. Think about your purchasing decisions and how they impact our environment. By making responsible choices, such as plastic-free and sustainable personal care products, we can slow the tide of plastic pollution.
About the Author
Chanelle Dupre is an entrepreneur and blog writer who writes about single parenting and sustainability. She is focused on exploring new innovation that fuses technology and sustainability to support the movement towards a circular economy.