Close-up of woman's hands holding soapy sponge and dish over sink

When you think of plastic waste, kitchen sponges might not readily spring to mind. But the brightly colored sponges and scrubbers that are popular today are made of petroleum-based plastic. Are there better alternatives?

The old-fashioned sponges that Mom used to buy in the supermarket were natural cellulose, a form of wood pulp that could be composted. But today, most cellulose sponges contain chemicals that I wouldn’t want in my compost pile.

The brightly colored plastic sponges and scrubbers common today are even more problematic for the environment. And with no recycling options, we just throw them away when they turn “yucky” and smelly — adding to the tons of plastic waste in the landfills.

What can we do? Well, we can extend the life of the sponges we already have by letting them dry out between uses and cleaning them in the dishwasher or microwave. But are there sustainable alternatives to these throwaway plastic sponges and scrubbers in the first place?

I found a few good ideas on the internet, like using a wooden veggie brush as a scrubber or cutting up an old towel into hand-sized pieces to scour and clean. Also, Earth911 has a great guide that offers some eco-friendly alternatives to sponges.

And I got the idea to cut up used nylon tights into squares instead of towels. The nylon is easy to rinse out and I leave it draped over the faucet to dry. It dries quickly and seems to wear like iron, so this is a good solution for me.

Here’s another alternative to plastic sponges and scrubbers that I really love: scrubbers made with plant fibers like the walnut fiber scouring pads from Public Goods or the coconut fiber scour pads from Well Earth. They are made of fibers that would mostly go to waste and they are completely compostable at the end of their use.

I can’t wait to get my coconut fiber scrubbers. It feels good to check off another way to reduce plastic waste. Bit by bit, we can strive to remove as much plastic as possible from our lives!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.