How to cut down on single
There's no better time to try your hand at lower-waste living than this month, during what the Plastic Free Foundation has dubbed "Plastic Free July." The challenge encourages consumers to refuse single-use plastics and work toward reusable products.
As a city that produces up to 2.6 million pounds of trash during Carnival season alone, New Orleans has a major waste problem. It’s easy to get into the habit of convenient single-use plastics, but every simple swap is a change that counts.
Single-use plastics are defined as the type of plastics that are used once and then thrown away. This includes items like straws, plastic water bottles, plastic bags, disposable cutlery and food containers. A study done in Australia in 2023 found that the supply and demand for single-use plastics from 2019-2021 was higher than ever, and showed no signs of decreasing.
Single-use plastics harm nature, the climate and humans. Using reusable products instead is a small step to reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in a landfill.
Reusable water bottles and mugs are a good place to start. Americans purchase about 50 million water bottles every year, and a reusable bottle is a simple switch. Personal and portable, reusable water bottles are one of the more widespread sustainable options. Popular brands can be found at most grocery and department stores.
Hey! Coffee Co. has a clever solution for avoiding plastic straws, which are a main culprits of wildlife and ocean endangerment. The coffee shop offers biodegradable bucatini pasta instead of traditional metal or paper straws. (I’ve found paper to disintegrate far too quickly).
"We started with a fettuccine stir stick, and then discovered how well the noodles work as straws," said Tommy LeBlanc, founder of Hey! cafe. "We try to eliminate packaging and waste wherever we can, roasting our own coffee and baking in house."
Other reusable or biodegradable cutlery options have been made more widely available, such as bamboo or birch wood forks and knives.
Bottles and cans are scooped up from the grass along Orleans Avenue.
Plastic grocery bags are also easily replaceable with fun and fashionable reusable options. Try remembering to pack a tote bag or reusable shopping bag whenever you go out (I like to leave one in the trunk of my car).
It might seem like a small impact, but committing to these changes can drastically reduce the amount of plastic that we throw away in a lifetime. Every bit counts.