July marks the month of becoming plastic-free, and as environmental consciousness is growing in Singapore, July is an important month for all of us to become better Earth inhabitants.
For many of us who have had the opportunity to travel to other developed countries awareness, it may be a huge culture shock to not see a single plastic bag around and to see people putting their groceries straight into reusable bags or simply carrying things they bought on their hands. It almost looks offensive to not take the free plastic bags provided and sort each item into different bags before even placing them in the reusable bag. There is a reason for such discomfort: Singaporeans have not been actively reducing plastic use and see the convenience of plastic bags as an entitlement, not a privilege. This results in shameful statistics like how Singaporeans take 820 million plastic bags from supermarkets alone each year (from Singapore Environment Council). That is an average of 146 plastic bags per person! Our recycling rate for plastics is the lowest among our nation’s recyclables, with only 4% of plastics being recycled in 2018.
There is great urgency for us to play our part as citizens of the world and lessen our negative impact on our environment.
Some Tips this Plastic-Free July
1. Bring Your Own Bag, Straw, Container and Cup
The Bring Your Own (BYO) campaign sure knows how to tug at our heartstrings! Enjoy discounts, freebies and more when you simply bring your own! Cafes are also hopping onto the trend with discounts on beverages when you bring your own take-away cup. Some schools are also implementing a whopping $2 discount when the card is filled (5 stamps)! Here is the link to see what some retailers are giving (discounts) and taking (extra charges for single-use plastics)! With many food and beverage outlets joining in to go anti-straw, it is always a good idea to carry around a reusable straw!
My latte to-go in my KeepCup! (lid not in picture)
2. Join the Zero-waste Heroes
Pledging to live with zero-waste is admirable as it is a lifestyle that aims to keep pollution as low as possible. I call them zero-waste heroes because they are not tempted by the convenience that reusable plastic items may bring. Instead, they put our environment and marine life above these desires and go out of their way to reduce their waste produced! This is made harder to do in Singapore, where reusable plastics are almost unavoidable, hence their determination should be celebrated! To aid in your journey on reducing reusable plastics or your journey to zero-waste, here are some stores that perfectly cater to your needs! No matter what stage of reducing single-use plastics you are at now, you can always try to push your limits in the heroic act of saving our environment!
List of some zero-waste stores in Singapore:
- Scoop Whole Foods: Whole foods paid by the weight!
- The Social Space: Refill your cleaning supplies or toiletries, do your nails and enjoy some coffee!
- Vom FASS: Straight from the barrel for the alcohol connoisseurs!
- Eco.Le: Customize scented candles and more (BYO candle jar!)
- UnPackt: Singapore's first zero-waste store, sells superfoods!
- Avo & Co: Organic food and veggies with no plastic packaging!
- The Zero Ways: Package-free grocer!
- The Green Collective: Everything you need to go green!
Refill your soaps and cleaners at The Social Space!
(Image Credit: @thesocialspace.sg)
3. Say no to products containing plastic microbeads!
Microbeads were a popular exfoliant in personal care products such as shower gels, toothpaste, and facial cleansers as they were popular for its function of exfoliating the skin to remove the dead skin cells. However, they are one of the most deadly sources of plastic pollution today. Not only are they harmful to the skin (microbeads actually causes small tears in your skin during this process of exfoliation), they are also too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment filters. The microbeads end up in the rivers, seas, and oceans, contaminating the marine environment. The harmful compounds contain organic pollutants that cause conditions like cancer, which can be passed to humans when we ingest fish that are contaminated.
Alternatives for micro-beads
Instead of using these deadly plastic microbeads, try using natural exfoliants like dead sea salt, organic oatmeal or organic raw cane sugar! These substitutes have their natural benefits as well, and works especially well when you use it with other nourishing fresh ingredients! Here are some easy oh-so-good natural scrubs you can make for yourself (you can reuse your containers to store them!) for an honest, environmentally-friendly scrub!
4. Make Some Product Changes at Home!
The journey on cutting down single-use plastic does not always have to be outside! You can contribute with little steps towards the efforts even at home! Single-use plastic products may be too common (or hard) for us to spot, but there is actually a lot we can get rid of or replace! The following are some things we can do to replace the single-use plastics for plastic-friendly replacements:
- Opt for soap and shampoo bars or get refillable ones!
We may have hinted this when we promoted the zero-waste stores, but we tend to forget that our shampoo bottles, shower gel, facial cleansers, and even toothpaste are all packaged by plastic -gasp-! Rather than throwing bottles away and replacing them with new ones, we can convert to shampoo or soap bars or head to the zero-waste stores with our empty containers to get a new supply of liquid soap at an affordable price! Also, say no to one-use make-up wipes and switch to make-up remover cloths so you can save cost and the environment!
Natural ingredient soaps (best if unpackaged!) are the most eco-friendly!
(Image credit: https://thesustainabilityproject.life)
- Stop using tea bags containing plastic!
No tea no shade but there are way too many brands of tea that have teabags made of plastic! Try swapping them out for plastic-free tea bags or loose tea will be best! To help you out, here is a link that shows the brands of tea that contain plastic or brands of tea that does not here.
The zero-waste method is to make your own reusable teabags! You can learn from any website or video, get crafty and creative with your personalized reusable tea bag!
Reusable tea bags for your own tea blends!
(Image credit: https://www.jadewalker.com.au)
You can also use tea strainers and tea infusers!
The Dreaming Whale Tea Infuser, because who says tea infusers can't be fun?
- Use silicone reusable wraps instead of plastic ones!
The next time you need to refrigerate your leftovers or snacks, try using a reusable silicone wrap instead of plastic cling films! Plastic bags and ziplock bags should also be replaced with reusable containers when saving these leftovers!
Many of such silicone wraps are spill-free too!
(Image Credit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lL2w66xWc_w)
- Switch out your disposable personal care or cosmetic items for plastic-friendly ones!
Use wooden or bamboo toothbrushes, brushes, refillable dental floss, and makeup cloths instead of brushes made with plastic and are disposed of every few months.
Switch to plastic-free and reusable household and personal care items like brushes, tea bags, scrubs, soaps and use a reusable bag to replace plastic bags!
5. Learn the Correct Way to Recycle
Did you know that a single contaminated recyclable placed in the recycle bin can contaminate the WHOLE bin? We need to make sure our combined efforts are not wasted by learning the correct ways to recycle and knowing the difference between products that are recyclable and products that are not.
Recycling is not hard, and if you do encounter difficulties on understanding what to recycle and how to recycle them, there is a list set by the National Environmental Agency (NEA) Singapore that lists the items accepted and rejected for recycling and what you should do with it before placing them into the blue bin. Take note to not use plastic bags to contain them and make sure your recyclables are clean!
To some of us who recycle, did you know that there is an amazing machine that rewards us with cold, hard cash when we use it to recycle? The good news is there is not one but TWO types of machines in Singapore that you can go to exchange your clean recyclables for cash!
- Incon Green Reverse Vending machines
You may or may not have seen these big vending machines that look different from the “normal” vending machines you see around. These machines are only hungry for clean plastic bottles and clean empty cans (and more!) and will even pay for them when you “feed” them these recyclables! Hosay lah!
Incon Green Reverse vending machines are as hungry as us! Please feed them! (Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/incongreensingapore)
Here are the locations these machines are stationed at. They are located at really convenient places so don’t forget to give it a “treat” every time you visit them!
- Incongreen Reverse Vending Machines: http://www.incongreen.com.sg/reverse-vending-machines-rvm/rvm-locations/
- Cash-For-Trash Machines: https://data.gov.sg/dataset/cash-for-trash
We are greatly overdue in our efforts to reduce single-plastic use. Now that the government, retailers and other organizations are giving us all the resources and rewards to do so, let us start reducing our plastic waste and mitigate the harm we have done to our environment! Everyone has a part to play and any contribution, however small, will be greatly appreciated by Mother Earth!
Let’s All Try Our Best This Plastic-Free July (and Beyond)! 😊