Plastic was considered one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. Available from the early 1900s, plastic was an absolute hit by the 1960s. It’s hard to imagine what the modern world would look like without plastic. But it turned out too good to be true. Different kinds of plastic take anywhere between 400 and 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill. About 91% of it isn’t recycled. This means that most of the more than 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic products that have ended up as trash are still around. So much plastic is thrown away every year that it’s enough to circle the Earth four times.
We are not only hurting the environment by using so much plastic, but we are also damaging our own bodies and sea life. Chemicals in plastics interact with hormones and may lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease (these are the states with the most heart disease) and diabetes (these are the warning signs you might have the condition). Plastic fragments from bags, bottles and other items that are laced with chemicals can be ingested by marine animals and poison them.
In addition to governments and companies, individuals are thinking of ways to reduce the need for plastics. They are coming up with sustainable products – from straws to bins, bottles and even dishwashers – that change the world one piece of plastic at a time.
Stainless steel straws
Plastic straws are everywhere. Up to 8.3 billion plastic straws are lying on shores all over the world, often ending up in the digestive systems of marine life. These items have become such a huge problem, more and more countries and cities are banning them altogether or restricting their use. Reusable metal straws could help replace disposable plastic ones.
Vinyl ponchos are arguably a lot more comfortable to wear on a rainy day than carrying an umbrella. The problem is that most of these ponchos will be thrown away after a few uses, but will not decompose for millions of years. So one man with a biology degree from Indonesia created ponchos, bags and food packaging from cassava, a common vegetable found across the country.
Silicone food bags
Just imagine how much trash you would avoid accumulating if you didn’t have to throw out plastic sandwich bags. Made from 100% pure platinum silicone, these storage food bags are fully functional, self-sealing, and, most importantly, non-plastic. They are airtight as well as leakproof.
Edible water bottles
At first glance, this is not intuitive. Eating the packaging of the product? It’s possible. After all, it’s made from plant-based materials. Ooho is made from seaweed-extract. The material degrades in a natural environment in six weeks on average – as opposed to 450 years for plastic bottles – unless you eat it.
Edible forks, spoons, and chopsticks
Another type of popular plastic product you no longer have to worry about — because you can eat the alternative — is cutlery. Bakeys spoons, forks, and even chopsticks are made of sorghum, rice, and wheat flour. They are baked in molds and sometimes flavors are added, too. You basically don’t have to buy dessert anymore — it’s already in your hands.
Considering that a person is supposed to use a new toothbrush every three to four months, it’s disheartening to think how much plastic waste we add to landfill sites from toothbrushes alone. Plant-based toothbrushes have been around for several years. All components, even the box and packaging, are made from bamboo or compostable castor bean nylon.
Store bags made of starch
Bags that can become food for animals after use and thus serve a double purpose? This may sound too good to be true but it’s a reality. EnviGreen is an Indian company that, as a result of many cities banning plastic bags, has found an alternative. Its solution is bags made of starch and vegetable oil derivatives. If animals don’t eat them in the end, the company says the eco-friendly bags will dissolve within a day.