9 Ways to Cut Down on Plastic

Going plastic-free can mean anything from using cloth bags to making your own toothpaste. (Adam Amengual/The New York Times)

Drowning in plastic, but not sure how to set yourself free?

Plastic purgers say you can drastically reduce, if not eliminate, your plastic consumption by changing a few daily habits.

Here are nine steps to get you started.

1. Carry a Reusable Bag

This is Plastic-Free-Living 101.

Take a cloth bag to the grocery store, farmers’ market, drugstore and anywhere else you may be given a plastic bag.

2. Use Plastic-Free Containers

Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and body creams.

But don’t automatically purge all of your plastic containers; that creates unnecessary waste.

3. Pack a Travel Kit

Bamboo cutlery and a nonplastic food tray, straw and water bottle will eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on the go. “Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers,” said Jay Sinha, a founder of Life Without Plastic, an online store.

4. Buy in Bulk

To avoid food packaging, shop the bulk aisle at the market and bring your own glass containers.

Weigh the jar beforehand to avoid being overcharged.

5. Buy Used Items

Some household plastic is unavoidable, especially in modern appliances.

So until they make an all-metal vacuum cleaner, Beth Terry, who writes the blog My Plastic-Free Life, suggests buying secondhand, through Craigslist or at a thrift shop.

“I’m not buying new plastic,” she said. “I’m also avoiding the packaging.”

6. Recycle ‘Good’ Plastics

Clear plastic bottles, bottles for shampoos, yogurt containers, toys and reusable food containers have a higher probability of being recycled.

Disposable cutlery, cling wrap and coffee cups and lids have very low probability.

7. Wear Natural Clothes

Synthetic fibers from clothing “are an enormous plastic pollution problem,” said Sinha, because they are a key contributor to microplastic pollution.

Choose clothing made of fabrics like cotton, wool, hemp and silk.

8. Make Your Own

With so many toiletries packaged in plastic, Chantal Plamondon, a founder of Life Without Plastic, became a home chemist.

“We make our own toothpaste out of baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils,” she said. “We make body creams out of coconut or macadamia oil.”

9. Do Without

If it’s plastic or nothing, you can always choose nothing.