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Life without plastic: environmentally friendly alternatives

The seas are scattered, everywhere in the cities and even in areas where no one lives far and wide, garbage piles up on the streets and in the bushes. The garbage cans are still overflowing or the garbage is being thrown carelessly into nature.

The problem: Ecosystems suffer from all plastics, eg. B. Birds and sea creatures mistake food for plastic and eat it. Plastic triggers inflammatory and toxic reactions, causing the animals to die in agony.

This also has consequences for humans: edible fish are already full of plastic and microplastics, the smallest particles of plastic have also been found in groundwater and spring waters. This is how plastic enters the human body. What’s particularly scary is that a straw takes about 200 years to completely decompose. A plastic bottle also needs 450 years! But then the plastic didn’t just disappear. It buzzes through the environment like tiny particles.

Ban on plastics from 2021

Not anymore! In 2018, the decision was taken in Brussels to ban single-use plastic products in the EU from summer 2021. Affected:

  • cotton swab
  • Plastic cutlery and plates
  • straws
  • Stirrer (something for the coffee cups)
  • balloon sticks
  • Polystyrene glasses and containers for take-away food

The ban also applies to plastics that break down into tiny parts, so-called microplastics, as a result of a reaction with oxygen. The ban will apply from 3 July 2021.

Garbage is everywhere

The products that will be banned represent about one-tenth of the volume of waste on roads and in municipal waste bins. In individual cases up to a fifth, said the vice president of the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU), Patrick Hasenkamp. According to the Federal Environment Agency, Germany’s coasts are also polluted. Last year, the authority said 390 litter was found every hundred meters in the North Sea. There were 70 of them in the Baltic Sea. Most of them were plastic.

Sustainable alternatives

cotton swab
There are now cotton swabs available that don’t have a piece of plastic in the middle. Instead, this is now made of cardboard or bamboo. There are 1000 True Nature Q-Tips, eg. B. already for about 9 euros. Another alternative are cotton swabs, which are reusable. The differently shaped ends are made of silicone and are therefore easy to clean. Elekin’s wands are a one-time purchase and cost just under 7 euros.

Plastic cutlery and plates
If you order something to eat or drink on the go, food and drinks are often served on plastic plates or with plastic cutlery. From 2021 these will be replaced by cardboard and wooden cutlery, for example. But if you want to avoid it, you can also bring your own cutlery. For this purpose, camping cutlery made of stainless steel with matching case, for example from Teamfar, is suitable. The 9-piece set is available for around 11 euros. Our lunch boxes help against disposable tableware. Those in stainless steel are ideal, for example from Urbavo for 25 euros. The cutlery can also be used as a substitute for stirrers, eg. for coffee.

straws
There are now many alternatives to straws. Whether it’s stainless steel with a beautiful engraving, glass of different sizes, silicone or bamboo, everyone will find their favorite straw here. On average, a set of six to ten straws costs between 5 and 15 euros. There is also a cleaning brush and often a bag for storage or transport.

Polystyrene cups and takeaway coffee
Coffee cups in particular have unleashed a real waste problem in cities. It is good that there are cups that can be reused. You can refill it every time and then wash it off with water and dish soap. Just make sure you don’t use bamboo mugs, as according to Stiftung Warentest harmful substances can be released from the material. Instead we recommend insulating and thermal cups made of stainless steel, eg. B. from eppikan for around 16 euros.

plastic bags and fruit bags
There have been no plastic bags at the checkout for several years. Instead, paper bags, cloth bags, cardboard boxes or permanent shopping bags are offered there. Fruit bags are also disappearing from the shelves. An alternative are cotton fruit and vegetable nets, for example from Achilles. 6 pieces cost around 12 euros. They are pesticide free and can be washed.

shampoo
Off with the plastic bottles and towards the solid shampoo. The shampoo is often only packaged in cardboard so that no further waste is produced. It is easy to use, foams when washed and takes care of the hair like a normal shampoo. Solid shampoo is available from alverde (dm), Foamie or Lush.

Cotton pillows
Remove make-up or glaze in the evening: cotton pads can be used for many things in your daily beauty routine. But instead of absorbent cotton pads, many rely on washable textile pads. The Vandeep brand, for example, offers 20 pieces for around 14 euros. If you can handle the fabrics and sewing thread a little, you can also sew reusable pads yourself. A strong cotton fabric fits well for one side and a microfiber cloth for example for the second side. The latter removes makeup residues on the face particularly accurately.

Scrub and shower gel
Peels and shower gels often contain small particles that should gently remove dead skin. Often, however, these are tiny plastic particles that enter wastewater treatment plants via the wastewater. These usually cannot filter out all the particles, so they enter the environment. The alternatives are natural cosmetic shampoos – tested here by ÖKO TEST – or homemade scrubs based on coffee grounds or Dead Sea salt.

toothpaste and toothbrush
Say goodbye to the plastic toothbrush and hello to the bamboo toothbrush. The handpiece and bristles are made from 100% renewable bamboo, use no synthetic materials and are BPA-free. The brushes are available in packs of 4 for only 9 euros, eg. by outdoor fanatics. Not much more expensive than a traditional toothbrush. There is also an alternative to toothpaste – so-called toothpaste tablets, eg. B. of Denttabs, 125 pieces for about 5 euros. One tablet is chewed in the mouth. The tablet takes a pasty form through saliva. Then brush your teeth normally.

drinking bottles
Plastic bottles don’t have a good image. Refillable glass bottles are much better. But even better are your glass and metal bottles, which can be refilled over and over again. There are nice bottles for drinking, eg. B. of Chillys Bottle, different sizes from 25 euros. These are made of stainless steel and keep hot drinks hot for 12 hours and cold drinks cold for 24 hours.

buy food
When shopping, it is often difficult to find alternatives to conventional groceries. Department stores are a real alternative. Unfortunately, these are often only found in large cities. However, supermarkets now offer fruit and vegetables without plastic packaging and at the deli counter you can put sausages and cheeses directly in the lunch box. Some markets even have their own filling stations for pasta, rice and muesli or even detergent.

pots
Whether it’s salad cutlery, wooden spoons or spatulas – next time you buy something new, check if the kitchen utensil is also available in wood or metal. This also applies to eg. B. bowls – also available in metal – or wooden cutting boards. However, you shouldn’t have to sort out all the plastic dishes right now. It is more sustainable if you use them until they have served their purpose and break.