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Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
plastic pollution

Original photo: Rob Sinclair

All the plastic ever made still exists.

Let that sink in for a minute. Every single piece of plastic made in the past century is still around in some form. So how can we go about reducing the amount we use?

One million plastic bags are used per minute. That’s 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. In total, 300 million tons of plastic was made in 2018.

91% of plastic is not recycled. Instead, it is clogging up landfills or being dumped into the ocean. Find out more about plastic by taking the GVI quiz.

According to the latest WWF Living Planet Report, 90% of the world’s seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by weight.

Banning plastic straws and using reusable bags is a positive step, but we need to do more about reducing our plastic consumption. Recycling is not enough.

Here’s how you can make small changes in your daily life to cut down using plastic:


plastic consumption

A GVI participant works at a recycling centre in Dawasamu, Fiji.

Rise and shine

Your morning routine may be sacred. But even bleary-eyed, we can still make better decisions. Try using:

  • natural exfoliants over microbeads (which are now banned in the UK) found in scrubs
  • package-free soap, solid shower gel and shampoo (they really exist)
  • metal razors or electric shavers instead of plastic disposable ones
  • a bamboo toothbrush, which lasts longer than the plastic versions
  • makeup without glitter.


plastic trash

Original photo: David Slater/NOAA PIFSC CREP


Waking up ten minutes earlier means you can make breakfast at home, rather than buying something packaged on the go:

  • Have tea or coffee at home to avoid using a disposable cup.
  • Use plastic-free biodegradable tea bags or loose leaf tea.
  • Some stores allow you to buy cereal in bulk using your own containers. By stocking up on your muesli using reusable tubs, you won’t be wasting excess packaging.
  • Read the news online instead of getting a newspaper, which is sometimes sold in plastic wrap.


single-use plastic

Original photo: Hat4Rain


Your working day is hectic, but here are some easy ways to change up your routine to reduce your plastic consumption:

  • Pack your food using beeswax wrapping instead of plastic wrap.
  • Use glass Tupperware, which lasts longer than plastic.
  • Take a reusable cup when visiting a cafe to avoid using throwaway cups.
  • Invest in a bamboo or metal straw. Both are reusable alternatives to plastic straws.
  • Bring your own cutlery to avoid plastic disposable ones.


plastic consumption


Have you ever been at the checkout and kicked yourself for forgetting to bring a reusable bag? Here are some more handy hints to avoid using single-use plastic:

  • If you forget, ask to reuse a cardboard box for your groceries instead of taking a plastic bag. Most grocery stores or market stalls use these for food delivery.
  • Avoid excessive plastic wrap and stick fruit and vegetables straight into the basket.
  • Buy in bulk to reduce packaging and unnecessary single-use plastic.
  • Try to buy products in glass bottles or jars where possible.
  • Purchase clothes made from natural products to avoid the microfibers found in viscose, nylon and polyester.


plastic waste

Original photo: Elph

Host a party

If you’ve got social plans, you can still reduce the amount of plastic you’re using while getting into the party spirit:

  • Choose traditional wooden toys over plastic when buying gifts.
  • Replace plastic goody bags with homemade vouchers or cupcakes.
  • Avoid decorating with glitter and use non-polluting water-based pens or paints.
  • Use metal cutlery and non-disposable plates.
  • Give out metal or bamboo straws to replace single-use plastic straws.
  • Make paper decorations instead of buying plastic banners.
  • Retro brown paper with string is better than using plastic-coated wrapping paper, which is not always recyclable.
  • Make home-cooked dishes or ask friends and family to bring plates to avoid styrofoam.


plastic consumption

Go to bed

It’s been a long day, and it’s time to head to bed. Even at the end of the day, you can make a difference:

  • Read magazines on a device to avoid the plastic wrap that usually surrounds them.
  • Have a glass of water beside the bed instead of a single-use plastic bottle.
  • Wash your face at the sink rather than using disposable wet wipes.
  • Use a handkerchief or tissues in a box instead of plastic packaged tissues for any sniffles.


plastic waste


If you want to find out more about how plastic is affecting our oceans, join a GVI marine conservation project. All GVI projects are committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development (UN SDG) goal 12, working towards responsible consumption and production.

Last year, GVI participants cleaned four tons of plastic from coastal areas in six months. You could really make a difference and help reduce plastic consumption.

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