Plastic Free Living: Ditching These 4 Plastic Items for Maximum Impact

Plastic Free Living: Ditching These 4 Plastic Items for Maximum Impact

Trying to live a plastic free life can seem daunting and almost unachievable. There’s plastic almost everywhere we look and that can feel very overwhelming before we even start to look for more eco-friendly alternatives. However, there are four particularly bad offenders among single use plastic, that make a huge difference when replaced by reusable products – the so-called Big Four of Plastic!

The biggest portion of the globe’s plastic pollution is made up by single-use plastic products. Plastic bags, plastic bottles, disposable coffee cups & plastic straws are leading this list and are commonly known as Plastic’s Big Four. All four items are convenience items, we all have been using out of habit and because it is easy. The good news: It is just as easy to ditch them and replace them with reusable products and new habits!

In comparison to other lifestyle changes you can make on your eco-journey, these four swaps are not just very straight forward, but also give you the feeling you are making a huge difference. And every once in a while we can all do with little motivation boosters like that! So, let’s have a look at how much of a problem Plastic’s Big Four really are and how you can make these four small plastic free swaps for maximum impact!

1. Plastic Bags

They are light, they are readily available in every supermarket and they are just so convenient! However, they are also one oft he biggest offenders when it comes to global plastic pollution. Every second 160,000 plastic bags are used worldwide. According to each of those bags is only used for about 12 seconds on average before it is thrown out. Just 1% off all the plastic bags make it to a recycling centre – the majority of them get dumped in landfill where they take up to 1,000 years to break down and even then they still hang around in the environment as micro-plastic!

The Alternative: Bring Your Own!

It’s that simple – when you go shopping bring your own shopping bags and also have a few <a href="" target="_blank">reusable produce bags</a> at the ready for your fruit, veg and also baked goods and loose dry foods. These are perfect, as they are made from very light cotton so when your shopping is weighed at the checkout, they will not add on any cost! You could also use an old clean pillowcase or one of the <a href="" target="_blank">stasher bags</a>, which are particularly handy when shopping in the loose food aisle or in refill shops, as your food can be stored in them until its being used.

The trick with this is to get into the habit of actually bringing the bags to the shop. Find out what works for you. If you are shopping with your car, make sure to place the bags back into your boot as soon as you have unpacked them. Keep them in the basket of your buggy or bicycle if you are walking or cycling to the shop. Soon this will be just one of things you always do and you won’t get caught out shopping without your bags! Bye bye plastic bag pollution!

2. Plastic Bottles

We have probably all been there: Out for the day and our thirst leads us to the nearest shop or petrol station to pick up a bottle of water. How handy! Only that bottle of water is one of 1 million plastic bottles sold every single minute on this planet. Research by Euromonitor found that this number has not yet reached its peak and by 2021 the total yearly amount of plastic bottles used worldwide will rise to 583.3 billion! For comparison, in 2016 a staggering 480 billion bottles made from plastic were sold. As scary and unimaginable those numbers are – we have the power to directly impact them and make sure they will not rise anymore but actually decline!

The Alternative: Refill & Reuse!

Not contributing to the worldwide plastic bottle problem is really easy and only a matter of getting used to it and forming the habit of always having your own reusable water bottle with you. I am at a stage where I never leave the house without at least one bottle of water, not even if we are just popping out for a casual stroll. In the past I have been caught out too many times, so this really works and prevents me being in the situation where I just have to buy bottled water.

When choosing a reusable water bottle, you will find a huge range of sturdy plastic bottles out there, which are an OK option. At least they are reusable and as they are made from sturdy plastic they are often recyclable. However, I have completely converted all our reusable bottles to stainless steel, for a number of reasons.

Why invest in a reusable stainless steel bottle?

Longevity: Stainless steel is virtually indestructible. Especially with kids, this is worth it alone. Your bottle might end up with loads of dints, but that’s about the worst that can happen. Often their plastic tops can be replaced easily if broken as well, which is another plus!
No Leeching: Did you know, that plastic can leech undesirable substances into your water? Primarily thin, flexible plastic (like most single-use water bottles) are prone to leeching, especially when they get hot (like in the sun). Stainless steel leeches nothing and is completely taste-neutral and safe - even for hot beverages!
100% Recyclable: Even if for some reason your stainless steel water bottle comes to the end of it’s life or does no longer fit your needs, you can rest assured. Stainless steel is 100% recyclable! Also: If a stainless steel bottle doesn’t make it to a recycling facility and ends up in landfill instead, it will not leech any chemicals into the environment, like its plastic counterpart!


The Klean Kanteen ticks all the boxes here. Their bottles are amazing quality (including the bottle tops) and they come in a lot of different sizes. The best part for me though, is the fact that you can get different bottle tops to suit your needs. You can use them from baby with a teat, to toddlerhood with a sippy cup spout and then with a sports cap or screw top for older kids, teenagers and adults! Always the same bottle, just change the top – it doesn’t get much more sustainable than that!


3. Disposable Coffee Cups

Just a quick cuppa on the go before the madness of the day really starts. How bad can it be, when coffee & co is sold everywhere in the convenient little take-away cups! However, those little cups with their inner plastic lining and their plastic lid are not recyclable. This means, every single one of those cups ends up in landfill where they take up to 30 years to decompose! In Ireland every single hour of every day we dispose 22,000 of those cups. This amounts to a gigantic mountain of 200 million disposable coffee cups going to Irish landfills every year!

Alternative: Bring a Reusable Cup

Luckily there is a very simple way to reduce this number significantly, which again just requires forming a new habit: Bring your own reusable cup. In many coffee shops you will even get your brew a bit cheaper when you have your own cup. Depending on how much take away coffees & teas you are used to, this could safe you a nice bit of pocket money!

When choosing your reusable cup, you have a few different options. There are the cups made from glass, like the KeepCup Brew which comes with a cork sleeve so you won’t burn your hands holding it when freshly filled. Others are made from durable and recyclable plastic like the KeepCup Original. Both of these options are light and perfect for your morning coffee on the way to the office.

My favourites however are the insulated Klean Kanteen TK Wide Cups as they keep your drink warm (or cold) for ages which as a mum of three is a lifesaver every day. They are also one of the only insulated cups on the market that have a 100% spill-proof lid. Anything that I can just throw in my bag or in the basket of the buggy without having to worry that its contents will be spilled everywhere is a winner in my eyes! They are also super handy for days out and picnics – imagine going exploring in nature and always having a warm sip of coffee at hand! You could also fill it with soup for a picnic or add some ice cubes to your water and the Klean Kanteen will keep your drink nice and refreshing for the entire day!

If you forgot your cup at home, you could always have your coffee to sit in and not to go. In most coffee shops you can ask for your brew to be served at drinking temperature, so it won’t cost you too much time when you are in a hurry. Sometimes a few minutes to sit down and enjoy a coffee or tea the old fashioned way from an actual mug is always a good excuse to take a few deep breaths before continuing your day.

4. Plastic Straws

The often colourful drinking straws have been a staple in restaurants, bars and pubs for many years. They were served up with your drinks as a matter of courtesy and often appreciated by customers, especially by children who enjoy the novelty of drinking through a straw. However for the last five decades those straws are predominantly made from a soft plastic, which is not recyclable. In most cases a straw is used for just one drink, before it makes its way into the bin and eventually ends up in landfill where it stays for the next 200 years when it will eventually break down into microplastic!

There are no clear numbers out there when it comes to how many straws are used worldwide. However, it is estimated that in America alone people dispose of up to 500 million straws a day! A mindboggling number that adds up to an unimaginably huge pile of plastic straws in our landfills. Plastic straws are among the single-use plastic items to be banned in Ireland by 2021, which means: now is the perfect time to check out some alternatives!

Alternative: Say No to Plastic!

When out and about and ordering a drink, the easiest way to avoid plastic straws is asking for your drink to be served without a straw. If you or your family members like drinking through straws or are depending on straws for medical reasons you have the choice of so many reusable options made from food safe, durable and eco-friendly materials. Yet again, it’s a little change of habit, that will allow you to have your straw in your bag for whenever you need it when you are not at home.

The Klean Kanteen Mutli Coloured Reusable Straws are the perfect set for a family. While the bottom part of the straw is made from stainless steel, the tops are silicone. Which means the piece that comes in contact with your mouth is nice and soft, almost like a plastic straw. The different colours are handy when you want to make sure everyone knows their own straw. The top parts are removable, so you also have the options of using just the stainless steel part as a straight straw, if you wish.

EcoLiving offer an all silicone alternative with their set of six reusable straws! The set doesn’t just include the different coloured straws, but also a cleaning brush which is handy to use when handwashing or just for a quick rinse before placing them in the dishwasher!


Plastic’s Big 4: Choose to Reuse


Starting off or continuing your own personal journey towards a plastic free life really doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not about giving up the things you like and changing the way you live entirely. In fact, in most cases it’s just a small change in your habits and using alternative products. While it might seem like a bit of an effort at first, I promise you, as soon as you have gotten used to it, you will not look back – you will want to keep going!


Have you replaced any of the Big Four with reusable alternative recently? Let us know how you got on!