The Plastics: 5 ways to reduce your dependency

If only “The Plastics” were just a pack of odious, mean girls making high school unbearable.

Unfortunately, the reality is much worse.

It’s no secret that single-use plastic can be detrimental to our environment. According to the EPA, 33 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2013, only 9 percent of which was recycled. Greenhouse gas emissions are gradually increasing as a result of plastic production, leading to higher sea levels, more acidic oceans, changes in precipitation patterns and more.  Plastic also ends up in the digestive systems of unsuspecting critters, is costly to produce and even more costly to recycle.

Most of the products that we consume are packaged in some form of plastic, making a plastic-free lifestyle difficult to maintain. However, there are many ways to reduce your dependency on single-use plastic. Here are five ways to start your transition to a more eco-conscious lifestyle.

1. Reusable water bottles – Did you know that 1,500 water bottles are being used every second in the U.S.? Although many single-use water bottles can be recycled, 80 percent of recyclable bottles end up in landfills. Instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars per year on single-use water bottles, try using a refillable bottle. This metal bottle by Klean Kanteen holds 27 ounces–way more than the average single-use water bottle. Additionally, the metal helps keep the water extra cold, which is a huge plus in this sweltering Texas heat.

Classic 27oz

2. Biodegradable plastic cups – Toby Keith did an exceptional job explaining how crucial that red solo cup was to “proceed to party.” However, he failed to mention that a single-use plastic cup can take up to 80 years to decompose. Paper cups are another alternative, but they can lose their shape easily and tend to leak. Dart Solo offers cups that are the lesser of two evils: They are biodegradable, compostable and made of recycled materials.

3. Biodegradable pet waste bags – There is nothing more unpleasant than having smelly bags filled with your pet’s… gems. Even worse, some waste baggies are made of plastic that isn’t biodegradable, leaving an unsavory slew of organic and inorganic waste. Opt for more sustainable options such as these Pet Waste Eliminator Doggie Bags. They are also thick, which helps prevent unwanted contact with your pet’s waste.

4. Washable garbage bags – Garbage bags are a huge source of waste. Reusable bags are a great way to reduce the amount of waste that your household adds to landfills. Planet Wise offers a variety of machine-washable garbage bags, ranging in capacity from five to 13 gallons. The bags are also seam-sealed, which prevents leaking and foul odors. If you prefer a disposable option, Glad offers compostable trash bags.

5. Reusable shopping tote bags – According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans use 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year. Many grocery stores including Target and Whole Foods Market offer reusable tote bag incentives. Some grocery stores such as Aldi don’t even offer plastic bags, which forces shoppers to bring their own bags. Contact your local supermarket to find out if they offer tote bags for all of your shopping needs.

Tote Bag


Resin Identification Codes

Not sure if a plastic product is biodegradable, compostable or can be recycled? Look at the Resin Identification Code.  At the University of Houston, numbers 1,2,3,4,5 and 7 are recyclable. For more information about what can be recycled on campus, visit our website.


To learn more about how plastic is affecting our planet and ways to get involved in the plastic-free movement, check out the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Make sure you participate in this year’s RecycleMania competition by recycling your trash on campus! For more information about UH RecycleMania, view our calendar of events.

-Gabriela Contreras

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