Our tips to avoid single-use items
100 years ago, single-use plastic items simply didn't exist. And yet now, it seems difficult to live without them. Take a minute to look around you. What can you see that will only be used once? Plastic and glass bottles? Packaging and wrapping? Sachets and bags? Paper cups with straws or stirrers? Pure-white sheets of paper? Ultra-strong paper towel? Eliminating single-use items from your life requires a lot of commitment and determination. After all, they're often very convenient and practical, so it's very tempting to buy them!
But we are facing an emergency. Our planet is suffocating. We have to stop the waste.
In this article, you'll find lots of easy and economical tips that will help you to avoid single-use items!
Why avoid single-use items?
Plastic is an environmental hazard
It's no big secret that plastic takes many many years to break down. We try to make ourselves feel better about using it by saying it will be recycled, but we tend to forget that recycling plastic is costly in terms of energy, and still generates pollution. And that's only when recycling is possible and actually done...
The majority of single-use items are plastic. After a birthday party, you could fill a whole bin with nothing but plastic items that were brand new a few hours earlier. Celebrating a birthday is not really a celebratory moment for the planet...
A threat to marine life
According to The Sea Cleaners (an association dedicated to reducing marine plastic pollution), 8 to 9 million tons of plastic make their way into the world's oceans every year.
Plastic bags, which float freely on the sea surface, are swallowed by turtles, who mistake them for jellyfish. Seabirds feed their chicks scraps of plastic that they've mistaken for crustaceans. The plastic in oceans breaks down into microparticles, which are ingested by fish. Toxins in plastic leach into seawater, polluting it. Our oceans are the second lung of the planet, and they are suffering in silence.
A ban on certain single-use plastic items since January 1st, 2020
France alone produces 3.3 million tons of plastic waste every year! And not much more than 20% is recycled (source: Planetoscope). The best solution is therefore to drastically limit the production of plastic. This is the aim of Article L541-10-5 of the French Environment Code – the same one that banned the use of plastic bags.
Since the beginning of 2020, numerous single-use plastic items have no longer been on the shelves in stores in France. These include plastic cups, plates, cutlery, straws, stirrers, trays, salad containers, disposable plastic boxes, ice cream cups and plastic cotton buds (Q-tips). Equivalent items that are compostable or made from biosourced materials are permitted. In fact, you'll find some alternative versions of these products on our website, such as our sustainable ear cleaner.
Practical tips from Lamazuna to help you keep plastic out of your life!
How to avoid single-use items in the bathroom
Let's start with the bathroom. For every product, there's an eco-alternative: a sustainable product or one without plastic packaging. The good news is that most of the time, these eco-friendly alternatives are cheaper – in the medium term – and look better. Another good reason to use them!
Stop using disposable cotton cleansing pads
You might think that because cotton is a plant, then using something made from cotton can't be bad for the environment. Unfortunately, it's not that simple – plus it's not true.
Conventional cotton isn't grown organically. To produce it, farmers use pesticides, mass irrigation and transport. Chemicals are used to process it, and synthetic fibres may be added. The environmental impact of cotton production is substantial – and all that for a small cotton pad that's used within seconds...
So it makes perfect sense to replace them with washable wipes, which are designed for exactly the same purpose. They can be used around 300 times and washed by hand or machine. And once they've reached the end of their lifespan, they can be recycled with Lamazuna! You can also get bigger reusable wipes for babies.
Opt for zero-waste menstrual products
Tampons and pads pose a hazard to the environment AND to your health! They're full of potentially toxic substances, and yet women use them directly in and on the most sensitive parts of their bodies.
You must have heard of menstrual cups, which can be reused for several years. They let you get through your period with no smell, no discomfort, and – of course – no waste!
But because all women are different, and not all women are comfortable with a cup, there are other zero-waste menstrual products available that you don't have to put inside your body, such as washable sanitary pads and period underwear.
All these solutions are eco-friendly, travel-friendly and economical!
Say goodbye to disposable razors
We will never understand why our parents decided to stop using safety and cut-throat razors. They work well, don't generate any plastic waste, and they look good (yes, that's important too!). There's every good reason to use them!
A cut-throat razor (also known as a straight razor) is a blade attached to a handle. It works like a knife, and should be maintained like a knife. Some artisanal straight razors are true works of art, and handed down from one generation to the next.
If you'd like an easier-to-use shaving tool, opt for a safety razor. The body of the razor lasts a very long time; you only need to change the blades. And you can use it with a solid shaving bar, which lathers up just as well as a shaving product in an aerosol can – and is much less polluting!
Stay away from plastic packagingShampoo, shower gel, deodorant, toothpaste... So many bathrooms are cluttered with plastic containers, many of which come in flashy colours, and it doesn't really make for a zen atmosphere... To make your mind feel more at peace, satisfy your green conscience, and give your bathroom a more calming feel, switch to solid products. You can buy them loose, without any packaging, or in compostable cardboard boxes.
Replace your cotton buds (Q-tips)
These little plastic sticks are shaped perfectly to float effortlessly down our rivers and out to sea. They're very skilled at avoiding obstacles and will happily drift with the tides. Many end up settling in seaweeds and algae, which turtles love to eat. The poor things don't see the treacherous sticks, which get stuck in their mouths. Fortunately, plastic cotton buds are no longer sold in France. But before you rush to buy a more eco-friendly, plastic-free alternative, why not try simply cleaning inside your ear with your finger when you take a shower? If your ears tend to secrete quite a lot of wax, then try the Oriculi. Made from bamboo, this ear-cleaning stick is easy to hold and use, gentle on the ears, and just needs to be rinsed with water.
Switch to an eco-friendly toothbrush
If you follow the recommendations of dentists, you should replace (i.e. throw away) your toothbrush every three months. For a family of four, that's sixteen toothbrushes that get thrown in the bin every year! The hard plastic used for toothbrushes cannot be recycled. But did you know that there are toothbrushes out there that brush your teeth just as well, but pollute much less? For example, there are toothbrushes made from biodegradable bamboo, and others made from recycled plastic, where the only thing you have to change is the head.
More and more people are buying produce loose these days – so why not join them? We recommend going to local markets where you can buy fresh produce directly from the producers. You can also go to organic or specialized stores for cereals and grains, dry food, oil, laundry products, etc.
Think about what you need beforehand. If you're going to buy things loose, you do need to plan ahead a little, but it's really not very complicated. Make sure you've got some shopping bags or large baskets, as well as some clean glass jars and fabric produce bags. You can buy fabric bags, make them yourself, or you might even find a zero-waste workshop that will teach you how to make them!
A little note about the biodegradable bags you can find in supermarkets: yes, they're definitely better than the plastic bags we used before, but they're often made from corn starch, and the monoculture fields of GMO corn are not so eco-friendly...
Drink from a water bottle or a glass jug
The bottled water market has a huge environmental impact. Worldwide, 2,822 litres of water are bottled every second! (Source: Planetoscope.) Yes, you can crush
and recycle the plastic bottles, but they're still made from plastic, which is made from petroleum that has been extracted, refined, processed and transported. Only too often, they end up in the sea, where they break down into small fragments of plastic that are swallowed by fish, then by man.
You could simply drink tap water, filtered if necessary, and served in a glass jug. If you're going to the gym or out for a picnic, don't forget your reusable water bottle. And if you often go hiking, it's worth looking into water-filter bottles. You can fill them with water from a river, lake or pond, and be sure that the water you're drinking is safe for your health.
Say no to paper towels and tissues
We'll be the first ones to admit that paper towels are very practical, but they're also a single-use item, and it's very easy to use something else instead. If you tend to use kitchen roll in place of napkins, switch to fabric napkins, with a different napkin ring for each member of the family so they'll always use the same one.
And now we come to a delicate subject... Paper tissues. 40 years ago, everyone would have a fabric handkerchief in their pocket. 60 years ago, when people didn't have washing machines, they would take the time to wash them by hand. So it is possible. We can use handkerchiefs to blow our noses and they can be perfectly clean and soft again after washing. And yet it still seems to be a bit of a taboo subject... We've called our fabric handkerchiefs Mochi-Mochis. It's a bit of a silly name, but maybe that will help people to take them a bit less seriously!
Give priority to rechargeable batteries
Batteries contain mercury or an equivalent that is toxic for the environment. This is why used batteries must be processed in a specific way. A battery that's thrown away and ends up in nature, or goes into landfill with the rest of our unrecyclable waste, contaminates the earth and water around it for decades.
Rechargeable batteries can be used for several years and are less polluting to manufacture, so they're a much better alternative for your battery-run items. However, all batteries – even rechargeable ones – pollute the environment. So it's worth taking a closer look at why you need them – and how you could need them less. For example, don't buy toys that flash and make noises, and opt for games made from wood, creative tools, or felt shapes.
Banish disposable wipes
If you've still got a half-used packet of disinfectant wipes, then keep them back for when you use public toilets. Once you've finished the packet, you can use a small disinfectant spray and a sheet of toilet paper in future.
Don't use wipes in your home anymore! Those days are gone! There is nothing good about the paper used to make them or the substances used on them. Instead, you can use a sponge (which lasts a long time) and a vinegar-based product to clean and disinfect, without any nasty effects!
As for baby wipes, you can use some water, balm, ointment, cream, etc. with a washable wipe; it will work just as well, and be even better for baby's delicate skin.
Do you sometimes use wipes to clean your hands? Maybe when you go for a picnic with the children, and there's no source of water? Here's a tip: take a little box with you with one or two wet washcloths inside, and use them instead!
Seek out alternatives to disposable tableware
In France, the new law means you won't find disposable plastic plates, cutlery, etc. in stores. But you'll find plenty of alternatives that are more or less eco-friendly. For picnics, we recommend using bamboo: it's compostable and light!
Sometimes we end up using disposable tableware when we have lots of people round to eat. But with all those people, you should be able to find lots of helping hands to do the washing-up! Just pluck up the courage and ask for help. You'll probably get lots of offers!
To avoid changing the plates three times during a meal, you could adapt the menu. Plan a starter that isn't too messy, and why not a dessert you can eat with your fingers?
When you go to work, make sure you take your cup, mug, or a small thermos flask, so you won't need to use the paper cups for the coffee machine.
But that's not all…
Every time you throw something in the bin, take a few seconds to think about whether there's a zero-waste alternative. You could use reusable food wraps instead of aluminium foil, Furoshiki wrapping cloths instead of gift-wrap, yoghurts made at home or held in recyclable glass jars, etc., etc., etc.
Depending on the kind of person you are, you could change your habits gradually or make a huge change overnight. Sometimes, when you become more aware of something, it becomes impossible to do things by halves, and a radical life change is the only way forward.
Whichever approach you choose to take, the most important thing is to take action!
PS: Give us your tips in the comments!
Zero-waste resolutions for 2020