4 Kitchen Items That Harm the Environment (and What to Use Instead)

home items that harm the environment
Alyssa Rosenheck Photography, Design by Elsie Larson

Did you know that an estimated 80% of the single-use plastic water bottles Americans use each year are not recycled and end up polluting our environment? If so, maybe that's encouraged you to switch over to a reusable water bottle for your daily hydration needs (we like Bkr, $50). But there are opportunities besides toting around a reusable water bottle to keep our single-use plastic consumption in check. Take the items we use every day in our kitchen, for example.

Since only a handful of these items below are properly recycled, they’re ending up in our natural bodies of water, in addition to polluting the air during their manufacturing and production processes. And all of that plastic pollution won't just go away overnight. A 2019 article by CNBC reported, "Plastic can take hundreds of years to biodegrade in the ocean, according to research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration." And as it turns out, even our best intentions to recycle single-use plastics may be futile. Beginning in 2018, China (one of the countries including Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam the U.S. pays to recycle our plastics) started turning away plastic waste, CNBC reports. As a result, there have been numerous reports of cities across the country turning to burning our excess.

Some states, including California, have passed or are working on further legislation to curb the use of single-use plastics. According to CNCB, in 2018 the state became the first to ban the use of of plastic straws in restaurants. In 2019, California has now taken on the fight to ban single-use plastic food containers. Additionally, large organizations which represent plastic makers like the American Chemistry Council, set a goal in 2018 of "100 percent of plastic packaging being recycled, reused or recovered by 2040."

To do our part at home, Mindbodygreen outlined several environmentally friendly, reusable home supplies we should consider investing in. Read on to see the top four kitchen items most households use regularly, and what to use instead.

Sandwich Bags

American families use an estimated 500 billion plastic sandwich bags a year, per Mindbodygreen, most of which end up in the dumpster instead of being recycled. A better choice? Invest in reusable glass Tupperware or silicone containers (that are dishwasher, microwaveable, and freezer-safe) that you can use again and again. 

Plastic Cling Wrap

There's no need for a roll of plastic wrap if you have proper reusable containers on hand (see above).

Disposable Utensils

Go into your Seamless settings and click on the "no utensils" option. Next, vow to only use reusable forks, spoons, and knives—they're way better than the flimsy plastic version anyway. Mother Jones thinks it's time to make BYOF (bring your own fork) a thing, as even utensils marketed as compostable may not be entirely so.

Plastic Straws

In 2018, Seattle became the first U.S. city to ban the use of plastic straws. Other cities, including Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, California and Miami Beach, Florida have also followed suit, with more on the way, says National Geographic. For some people however, including people with certain disabilities, the use of a straw is a necessity. But for the rest of us who can easily opt out, drinking from the rim is totally doable. Reusuable straws have been cropping up at restaurants across the country, and you can even purchase your own online. 

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