Eco-friendly replacements for 50 plastic items in your life
About 300 million tons of plastic are produced from oil each year. Almost half of that is used for single-use packaging, such as plastic wrap on food, containers for personal care items, bottles for cleaning products, and other everyday purchases—including the plastic bags we carry them home in. Worse, only about 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled. And things are getting worse, not better: Almost half of all the plastic ever made has been created since 2000, the production of plastic is way up, and recycling alone can't stop the flow of plastic pollution into the world's oceans.
As more statistics come out about the volume of plastic ocean pollution (18 billion pounds annually from coastal regions alone) and the effect that is having on marine life (267 species worldwide have already been adversely affected), people have begun eschewing plastic products for zero-waste, eco-friendly options. Most global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, which has inspired thousands of companies to seek alternatives to plastic items from zero-waste personal care products and kitchen items to office equipment and ethically sourced, sustainable clothing.
Stacker has pored over the research and scoured product reviews and company backgrounds to compile this gallery of 50 easy, eco-friendly replacements for common plastic items in your life. Prices have been provided, and represent the cost for long-term use, except in the case of items that run out, like toothpaste. Those numbers should be compared to an individual's or family's spending on similar, single-use products over time for items such as sandwich bags or disposable razors. Wherever possible, products listed in this gallery represent less expensive options over time to their plastic, disposable counterparts.
In the interest of being most serviceable, Stacker has left two of the most ubiquitous, eco-friendly items—stainless steel drink canteens and reusable shopping bags—off the list in order to make room for items that may be less well-known. Wherever possible, products referenced come in zero-waste, plastic-free packaging, as well.
Continue reading to discover 50 easy alternatives to everyday, plastic items.
Stainless steel straws
Mason Jar Lifestyle stainless steel straws
$19.95 for four (includes cleaning brush, carrying bag, and plastic-free packaging)
It's nearly impossible to know exactly how many plastic straws Americans go through every day (one estimate puts it at 500 million), but it is known that single-use sippers are wreaking havoc on the planet by creating choking hazards for wildlife and polluting waterways and beaches. It's easy enough to order your next drink sans straw while you're out—and when you're home, a set of stainless steel straws should do the trick.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 2 billion disposable razors are thrown out in the U.S. each year. That's because on average, disposable razors only last about five weeks. Razors with disposable heads create less waste, for sure (and rechargeable razors less than that), but they still come wrapped in plastic packaging, the plastic heads still get thrown out, and rechargeables still require natural resources for their batteries, charging, and proper disposal. Instead of spending around $200 every year on something you throw away, safety razors offer a lifetime return on your investment at a fraction of the cost.
All Good Zinc Sun Butter
If it's not enough that the plastic packaging most sunscreen comes in never gets recycled and contributes to the waste in landfills and oceans, the majority of sunblock contains oxybenzone, a chemical that's toxic to reefs. Today, it's easy to find sunscreens derived from natural ingredients that are reef- and skin-safe, with packaging that's equally as harmless.
Stainless steel leftover containers
Mecete stainless steel food storage containers
$26.99 for three
Evidence shows plastic containers leach chemicals into the foods they store (and BPA-free plastic isn't actually any better). These containers also lose their durability over time—which means they're all eventually headed for landfills or recycling centers, where it takes massive amounts of resources to melt down and turn into more plastic. While dumping all your plastic in favor of lifetime-use stainless steel containers may seem counterintuitive to zero-waste lifestyles, as the need arises to replenish your existing containers, there are plenty of non-plastic options that cost more up-front but will never need to be replaced (and won't leach contaminants into the environment).
Fabric produce bags
Naturally Sensible mesh produce bags
$17.75 for five
You may remember to bring your eco-friendly, reusable tote to the grocery store, but what to do about produce? Those plastic bags that hold fresh fruits and vegetables are rarely used more than once. And, while the thin plastic wastes away faster than, say, plastic bottles, they're yet another unnecessary single-use option amidst a growing sea of reusable bags. Cotton produce bags are available in a number of styles and sizes and can be stowed in your fabric shopping bags so you never leave them behind.
Wooden kitchen scrub brush
Certain kitchen items are such a regular part of how people clean, we often forget the waste they're associated with. Dish scrubbers are no exception: The plastic base and nylon bristles get tossed as soon as the bristles fray. These days, it's easy to find scrub brushes made with sustainable materials like bamboo, and with bristles made of biodegradable items like the tampico plant.
Shampoo and conditioner bars
Silver Falls Sustainability Co. shampoo and conditioner bars
$8.35 for 3.75-ounce shampoo bar (up to 60 washes)
$13.50 for 4.4-ounce conditioner bar (up to 80 washes)
Half of all Americans don't recycle their personal care items, which results in around 552 million plastic shampoo bottles (among other items) winding up in landfills each year. Shampoo and conditioner bars can help de-clutter shower space, pass easily through airport security, and are usually free of harmful chemicals and dyes.
Beeswax food protectors
$18 for assorted three-pack (lasts up to one year)
Dow Chemical released Saran Wrap in 1949 as an easy way to protect leftover food, and Americans have been using the product in excess ever since. Today, however, as more is known about the effects of plastic leaching into food and the wastefulness of single-use items, there are a number of alternative options for storing food. These include eco-friendly, reusable food protectors made of beeswax that come in a variety of sizes and styles that last up to a year with proper care.
Silicone food bags
Stasher reusable silicone food bag
$11.99 for 7-inch container
It takes around 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags Americans go through each year. Of those bags, only 1% are turned in for recycling. While silicone doesn't organically biodegrade, it also doesn't leach harmful chemicals, absorb poisons, or off-gas toxins as it breaks down in nature. And silicone food bags are dishwasher- and microwave- safe—in addition to being reusable for years.
Ball Mason Jar
$13.85 for a set of four 16-ounce jars with lids and bands
Perhaps the most universal of plastic alternatives is the Ball Mason Jar, well-suited for storing dry or wet food, holding hot or cold fluids, canning, and countless other uses. In addition to being able to withstand extreme temperature changes and being much more resistant to breakage than regular glass, there are dozens of different kits to turn these universal items into sippy cups, soap dispensers, baby bottles, cocktail shakers, and more.2018 All rights reserved.