10 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use

The Year of the Bird challenge for June is to reduce your plastic waste!

Why? Look around you—whether you’re at home, at the grocery store, at work, or anywhere else, you’re probably surrounded by plastic. This is a problem. Plastics are everywhere, and they’re filling our landfills, creating huge masses in the ocean, and as they oh-so-slowly photodegrade, tiny plastic particles are showing up in soils, fresh water, plants, and animals. Every plastic toothbrush you’ve used in your entire life still exists somewhere on the Earth. Shorebirds are being found by the dozen dead with stomachs full of plastic. It seems like everything is made of plastic these days, and it’s less recyclable than ever since China refused to continue taking the lower-quality plastics. What’s a bird-lover to do? We’re here to help with 10 Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use:

  1. Get a reusable bag—and don’t forget to use it everywhere you shop (this includes mesh bags for produce rather than those plastic ones)!
  2. Get a good reusable water bottle for all of your coffee and water needs.
  3. Say no to straws (if you can’t imagine drinking without one, get a reusable one!)
  4. Say no to plastic utensils—get a little reusable utensil kit and keep it in your car.
  5. Opt for fresh produce instead of packaged meals whenever you can.
  6. Swap out plastic products for non-plastic—bamboo toothbrushes, glass food containers for leftovers, reusable Beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap, reusable containers instead of plastic Ziploc bags, bar soap wrapped in paper rather than bottles of hand soap.
  7. Bring reusable containers and buy items in bulk instead of packaged in plastic (easy options are things like pastas and trail mix).
  8. Get in touch with your creativity and try some Do-It-Yourself recipes for things like shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, cleaning solutions, laundry detergent, etc. (Bonus: Remove a lot of toxins from your life!)
  9. Look for alternatives to buying something new—if you can get it used, borrow it, repurpose something you already own, or find a way to repair an item to give it a longer life, you can save items from the landfill.
  10. Lastly, knowing that plastic is unavoidable, know how to recycle it correctly. Batches of recycling get diverted to the landfill if they are 1% contaminated, so don’t contaminate it! Know the recycling rules in your area. In Flagstaff, only plastic items #1 and #2 are recyclable in the commingled recycling (rinsed clean!) with paper, cardboard, etc.; glass bottles (which are far more recyclable than plastic) are recyclable in the bins downtown. Sedona Recycles takes plastics #1, #2, and #5 as well as glass and other items at all of its drop-off locations in Sedona, Cottonwood, Oak Creek, etc. Almost everywhere in Arizona, plastic bags (including bubble wrap and plastic air pillows used for shipping—popped and flattened) are recyclable in bins in the entranceways of most grocery stores (Fry’s, Sprouts, Safeway, etc.). Any form of paper that is lined with plastic is NOT recyclable—this includes milk and ice cream cartons and almost all receipts.


Start small—try just one thing from the above suggestions, and make a difference for the birds and for everyone!

For more information on the Year of the Bird and to sign up for the challenge to do one small thing each month to make a difference for birds, go to https://www.audubon.org/yearofthebird

Previous challenges:
January—Take the Pledge
February—Create and Use an eBird Account
March—Plant Native Plants
April—Speak Up for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act
May—Participate in Global Big Day (or other bird surveys)
June—Reduce Your Plastic

~By Amy Zimmermann