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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Fostering Accessibility in the Zero-Waste Movement

Simple Alternatives

Part 2 – Simple Alternatives

By Kait Spielmaker

Nearly half the plastic that has ever been made was produced after the year 2000 (National Geographic). That fact has really stuck with me. A healthy planet is crucial for the health of its inhabitants.

As I dive further into this project, the auspicious technologies that innovators are crafting to combat plastic pollution are unprecedented. There are seemingly endless options out there, and we are living through history, in a time where more and more individuals want to be part of a change. Bright people with bright ideas use their resources to fix this problem and come up with reusable and biodegradable products that improve the livelihood of our future selves. That is truly remarkable and it leaves me with a sense of hope and willingness to contribute.

Simple Household Swaps

Where does one start? For those who don’t know already, I exhaust the notion that I am an average millennial; in that weird limbo between trying to figure out where I’m headed and actually being there. I am a graduate student with two jobs, crippling student loan debt, a forever renter, and little disposable income. So if this project is anything, it’s practical.

By now, most of us have reusable shopping bags and water bottles. In my opinion, those are the two easiest transitions you can do to make a difference, eliminating plastic bags and water bottles from your day-to-day life. Furthermore, I have been using compostable trash bags and reusable paper towels around my home for a few years now and they work really well. The towels eliminate the waste of conventional paper towels and the need to purchase new rolls since they are machine-washable.

What to Look For When Purchasing Environmental Household Items

Something I have learned during this plastic purge: be aware of labels that claim to be biodegradable, as I have been subject to false claims. I bought “biodegradable” dog bags from Amazon and never bothered to do research because it’s “biodegradable” – or so I thought.

In reality, some plastic companies claim to be biodegradable because they use a degradable plastic additives in their product to help it break down. These products are called oxo-biodegradable. When using this additive, known as EPI, micro-organisms will eat away at the additive but not the plastic itself, leaving tiny pieces of microplastic behind. One study tested three different plastics in different environments and came to the conclusion that even if the plastic is labeled oxo-biodegradable, it doesn’t change the lifecycle of the plastic itself when compared to the material with no additives at all.

Once the decision is made to start spending money on a more sustainable product, definitely research it first. Something to look for is BPI Certified, which stands for Biodegradable Products Institute. This means your product is certified compostable and complies with global guidelines. I now buy dog bags from a company out of Royal Oak, Michigan; they are made from corn starch and break down in 90 days.

Read other articles from this series here.


Kait is a Michigan native who recently relocated to Phoenix and is the administrative coordinator for Green Living Magazine. She is an avid hiker with a sense of adventure. She is currently working on her master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.

Photo by Kait Spielmaker

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