Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic

Over the last few years, Hawaii has made great strides in reducing its use of plastic bags, including a plastic bag ban, which was recently amended on January 1, 2021. We’re now moving towards eliminating single-use plastic, the leading cause of pollution world-wide. Single-use plastic is a cheap and convenient option for restaurants, grocery stores, on-the-go lunches, and more, but using them is harmful for the environment, both on land and in the ocean.

Common single-use plastics include:

  • Shopping/Grocery Bags
  • Cutlery
  • Coffee Cup Lids
  • Straws
  • Water Bottles
  • Takeout Containers

Single-use plastics, especially smaller items such as bags, cutlery, or straws, are often not accepted at recycling centers because of their small or odd sizes. When left unrecycled, plastic breaks up into smaller pieces to form ‘microplastics’.

It’s estimated that nearly 50 trillion microplastic pieces, or about 236,000 metric tons, are floating in the ocean. Microplastics are extremely dangerous for marine life, often mistaken for food. It’s also harmful to humans as they may enter our food chain.

Here are some easy ways to reduce or even eliminate single-use plastics from your daily life and help keep Hawaii trash free:

Learn which type of plastics are accepted at recycling centers. Look for the recycle symbol and know what each of the numbers mean. #1 and #2 plastics are recyclable; #3, #6, and #7 aren’t recyclable and should be disposed of properly in trash bins; and check with the recycling center for #4 and #5 plastic to see if they accept them.

Trade up to reusable insulated mugs or tumblers to take with you to your favorite coffee shop. With a wide variety of styles, sizes, and colors, there’s an option for everyone.

Invest in reusable shopping bags. Stash them in your car, office, purse, and backpack to always have them on hand.

Pack your own reusable straws and cutlery for to-go options or look for ones made from biodegradable material, like bamboo.

Swap plastic storage, freezer, and sandwich bags for reusable ones made from silicone. They’re washable and easily go from freezer to microwave.