The new year is upon us and with the rollercoaster ride of a turbulent year that we all have had, it’s the perfect time to reflect on and decide which positive changes we could make in 2021. Being sustainable and choosing reusable items and recycled paper packaging should be at the top of everyone’s list in the year ahead. With Covid-19 safety measures in place across North America in 2020, it meant that the supply of personal protective equipment like disposable masks and gloves skyrocketed. Many initiatives aimed at reducing plastic waste (like refilling your cup at a local coffee shop) were paused to protect us against the virus. The disruptive events of 2020 have diverted consumer attention away from the problem of plastic waste. With Canada and many states still set to ban some single-use plastics in 2021, we have the opportunity to disrupt consumer behaviours once again and think more consciously about our plastic and foam waste. When writing your goals for the year include being less wasteful and more sustainable. Start with these recommendations:

Use a reusable shopping bag.

One of the best things you can do is to purchase a reusable shopping bag for your groceries and essential goods. The item on the top of Canada and many state lists to ban are single-use plastic bags. The average family takes home about 1,500 shopping bags a year. Look for bags that are cotton as these do not contain any plastics and can easily be recycled properly. The average reusable cotton bag is used 7,800 times before worn down. By choosing reusable, you save so many plastic bags from our landfills and waterways.

Invest in a reusable stainless steel or bamboo cutlery set.

Another item on the top of the single-use plastic ban list is disposable cutlery. Forget using plastic utensils at restaurants and birthday parties in 2021, pack your own set and simply take home to wash after. There are also plenty to choose from online or at your local store, they make a great gift for a foodie or parent as well.

Invest in a stainless steel straw set

Along with cutlery, Canada and many parts of the US are also set to ban single-use plastic straws. 7.5 million straws pollute US coastlines annually and make up 1% of plastic pollution in the sea. These can be harmful to the ecosystem, animals, and fish. Invest in a stainless steel straw set so you have one to carry with you if you prefer drinking soft drinks and water from straws.

Purchase drinks without plastic six-pack drink rings.

Drink rings like these are set to be banned across Canada as well. They are likely to be replaced with a more sustainable option like biodegradable paper six-pack rings. Start thinking ahead now and choose brands that are ahead of the curve and already switching to these solutions.

Avoid to-go containers.

Cook at home or if possible, bring your own containers when bringing a meal home for takeout. In 2021, Canada is set to ban single-use styrofoam and plastic takeout containers. Start to look for restaurants that already have alternatives or ask them now what their solution will be in 2021.

Avoid food items in any plastic or styrofoam packaging.

When shopping at the supermarket, start at the perimeter of the grocery store, items found here are typically fresh foods and beverages without any excess packaging – like fruits and vegetables. If you are shopping for items in the middle aisles of the store, look for food in recycled paper packaging. When shopping for things like eggs, choose eggs in 100% moulded fibre packaging – these are 100% recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable. Let’s start by putting pressure on brands and supermarkets to lead the way in what products they carry. You can find our downloadable email template here to write to your local supermarket and ask them to carry brands with sustainable packaging.

Do an audit.

That’s right, an audit! Take a look in your kitchen and bathroom and inventory the products you use. Anything from shampoo bottles to soap dispensers to egg cartons and milk bags have an alternative to plastic and foam packaging. Start small and replace items slowly. Choose a packageless shampoo bar over the bottle or recycled paper milk cartons over the bag next time you’re out shopping. Every small change by many people can make a big difference in 2021. Once you start one habit consistently, you’re also more likely to ask yourself “what else can be done?”

Prioritize shopping locally.

Not only is this good for a boost of our local economies but you are more likely to find alternative products to plastic and foam ones. Choose local stores that carry bulk items and that allow you to bring your own containers and reusable bags. There are also many refill stores popping up across North America. These are shops that allow you to refill shampoos, soaps, lotions, laundry detergent, and more from larger containers. We love this option because it helps save on wasted products and packaging.

Create a capsule wardrobe.

A capsule wardrobe allows you to minimize the clothes in your closet by having only a few select, high-quality pieces. This eliminates unnecessary new clothes and simplifies your wardrobe and life. If you do need to purchase something new, shop for clothes that are sustainable – like cotton, silk, and wool. They do not contain plastics and last longer. Avoid fast fashion and sending clothes to the landfill. Thrifting is also a great option for building your wardrobe.

From building a sustainable wardrobe to choosing reusable shopping bags, these are just some suggestions to get you started in reducing plastic and foam waste in 2021. Start here by looking for bamboo, paper, glass, and stainless steel alternatives to single-use plastic and foam packaging and products.

Are you ready to write your resolutions with sustainability at the top of your list? We’d love to hear what else is on your goal checklist! Share your solutions with us by using #ditchplasticpackaging on Instagram and Twitter. We are ready to reduce plastic and foam waste with you in the New Year!