Head to Instagram and you’ll see over 500,000 posts on #plasticfreeliving. There’s a movement taking place that you can’t afford not to participate in. From 2010 to 2016, global plastic production increased 26% from 334 to 422 million metric tons. Unfortunately most of this is sent to landfills or littered on land and in oceans. The EPA estimated that in 2018 less than 9% of plastic produced was recycled. With that much plastic and waste in the world, it’s daunting to even think a plastic-free kitchen is possible.
As long as we keep buying and using it, they will continue to make it. If you’re ready to do your part to decrease plastic consumption and waste, your kitchen is the perfect place to start. The amount of plastic in your kitchen may seem overwhelming. But with these 8 steps, you’ll be on your way to a plastic free kitchen in no time!
8 Easy Steps to a Plastic-Free Kitchen
1. Buy in Bulk
One of the biggest culprits to plastic in the kitchen is food packaging. You see plastic containers for everything from bread to milk to even tomatoes and other fresh produce. Buying food in bulk is a great way to cut down on plastic waste.
Instead of buying pre-washed spinach stored in a plastic box or cucumbers wrapped in plastic, take a look at the bulk produce section. You might have to wash that lettuce, but let’s be honest, you should probably be doing that anyway.
If you have a store near you with a bulk bin section, bring reusable bags or containers and purchase just the amount you need sans packing. Buying in bulk saves plastic and also food waste and money.
2. Buy Food in Glass or Cans for a Plastic-Free Kitchen
Not everything will be available to purchase in bulk. When you can, opt for more readily recyclable materials instead of plastic. As far as recycling rates go, 34.9% of all aluminum made in 2018 was recycled. Glass is recyclable and easily upcycled in your own home as well. You’ll be surprised at the options you have for packaging containers when you look for them.
3. Use reusable shopping bags and produce bags
Since we’re talking about shopping, let’s look at how you’re getting those groceries home. Instead of using flimsy plastic shopping bags or produce bags you can’t open anyway, opt for reusable versions. Bring your own bags to significantly cut down on your plastic consumption each time you shop. Plus, it’s easy to open a mesh or canvas produce bag. That’s just mother nature telling you you’ve made the right choice.
4. Skip the Plastic Storage Bags
You won’t need 100s of flimsy plastic storage bags when you have a stash of reusable ones on hand. Opt for silicone based bags that hold up well in the freezer, microwave, and wash up easily. This is one of the simplest ways to get to a plastic-free kitchen
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5. Cling Wrap Doesn’t Stick Anyway, Use Reusable
I’m not sure I’ve ever covered a pan with cling wrap successfully. Its fate is crumpled up and tossed in the trash in a fit of frustration. The less frustrating and more sustainable options are beeswax wraps or silicone food covers.
Beeswax wraps are cloth coated in, you guessed it, beeswax. You can wash it and reuse it several times over and the sticking power is phenomenal. With just the heat from your hands, the wax melts enough to hold onto whatever container you’re covering.
Silicone food wraps are stretchy covers that can fit containers of various sizes. They’re microwave and freezer safe and don’t contain chemicals that can leach into your food.
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6. Reuse Food Containers For Food Storage
Instead of recycling your glass peanut butter or spaghetti sauce jar, upcycle it! Glass food jars are great for storing homemade sauces in the fridge and nuts or seeds in the pantry. You can also use them for meal prep and get a week of “mason jar” salads ready for your workweek!
7. Make Dishwashing Plastic-Free
You may not think of dishwashing as a big plastic culprit, but it’s one of the worst! Every bottle of dish soap, dishwasher detergent, and sponge you use adds up to major plastic waste.
Here’s some ways to cut down on plastic use in your sink and get close to a plastic-free kitchen:
Dish soap: Use bar dish soap, concentrates, or powders.
Dishwasher detergent: Swap liquid in plastic bottles for powder or tabs in boxes.
Sponges: Swap regular sponges for compostable dish brushes, cotton cloths, or an alternative sponge made from hemp, loofah, or cellulose.
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8. Reusable Cups and Straws
Stop with the red Solo cups, styrofoam coffee cups, and plastic coated paper plates. If you entertain often, get yourself a stack of reusable, durable party cups and plates. For coffee on the go, treat yourself to a couple of insulated cups that will actually keep your coffee hot. If you often find yourself sending visitors off with a hot cup of joe, save and wash the to-go cups you brought home from the drive-through.
I find that I drink more water throughout the day when I have a straw handy. Instead of flimsy plastic straws, buy a small stock of metal or silicone ones that will last.
How to Make the Switch to a Plastic-Free Kitchen
Don’t stress about doing everything at once. One of the best ways to make a switch is to wait until you would need to buy more. If you have plastic storage containers that work well, don’t toss them for glassware. Wait until you would need to replace them, and then replace them with a more sustainable option.
Taking it one step at a time helps create less waste, save money, and is less overwhelming. A year or two from now, you’ll be cooking in your plastic free kitchen doing your part to help the environment.
Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian, freelance writer, and plant focused food blogger. She’s passionate about making plant focused eating accessible, fun, and delicious. In addition to geeking out over nutrition science, Kelsey is an herbal enthusiast and loves to experiment with homemade and natural alternatives in the home and spending time with her two small kiddos and husband.