Save the Planet from Plastic Pollution, One Refill at a Time

Save the Planet from Plastic Pollution, One Refill at a Time

‘Reduce and Reuse’ are the Real Solutions to the Planet’s Plastic Problem.

It may surprise you, but the vast majority of plastic you toss into your recycling bin each week actually ends up being dumped in a landfill. 

According to a 2022 report from Greenpeace, an international non-profit devoted to raising awareness about environmental issues, only about 5-6% of U.S. plastics were recycled last year, down from a high of 9.5% in 2014 and 8.7% in 2018. 

Considering that the world now produces more than 380 million metric tons of plastic every year, it’s easy to see how quickly waste can add up.

Single-use plastics have exploded in recent decades. In the U.S. alone, plastic waste generation has increased 263% since 1980 – from an average of 60 pounds per person per year to 218 pounds per person per year in 2018, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Contrary to popular belief, not one single type of plastic food service item, including the polypropylene cup lids that Starbucks touts as recyclable, has ever been able to be recycled per the FTC Green Guide legal definition, according to the 2022 report, The Real Truth About the U.S. Plastics Recycling Rate.

Toxicity risks in recycled plastic prohibit “the vast majority of plastic products and packaging produced” from being recycled into food-grade packaging, the study further explains. 

Without radical action to curb demand, increase product lifespans, and improve waste management and recyclability, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimates plastic pollution to triple by 2060. 

In its report, Global Plastics Outlook: Policy Scenarios to 2060, several high-level solutions are presented to control the rising volume of plastics plaguing the environment, including:

  • Taxes on plastics and plastic packaging 
  • Incentives to reuse and repair plastic items
  • Targets for recycled content in new plastic products
  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes
  • Improved waste management infrastructure
  • Increased litter collection rates

While these solutions could make a significant impact, they could take years – if not decades – to come to fruition.

But fortunately, individuals can implement changes into their everyday lives right away that can help cut down on consumption and create a future less cluttered by plastics. 


What are Single-Use Plastics?

To cut single-use plastics out of our lives for good, we must first understand how it infiltrates our habits and households. 

The National Resource Defense Council defines Single-Use Plastics as “goods that are made primarily from fossil fuel based chemicals (petrochemicals) and are meant to be disposed of right after use—often, in mere minutes. Single-use plastics are most commonly used for packaging and serviceware, such as bottles, wrappers, straws and bags.”

The popularity of single-use plastics skyrocketed in the 1970s when traditional paper or glass packaging was overwhelmingly replaced with lighter or more durable and affordable plastic alternatives. Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics have been produced, half of that in the past 15 years alone.

While using a plastic fork on your lunch break may seem harmless, the total number of single-use utensils that end up in landfills each year is staggering – 40 billion plastic forks, spoons, and knives. On top of that, the U.S. alone tosses 500 million plastic straws every day, according to Habits of Waste.

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How Can I Cut My Dependency on Single-Use Plastics?

Changing habits isn’t always easy. However, the team at One Planet Life shares their personal journeys on how they shifted focus to living more sustainably, hoping to offer a few tips on how to make the switch. 

Lorie Buckingham, the founder of One Planet Life, started her journey by eliminating single-use plastic from her life. 

“It was easy when going to the grocery store, as I would keep my reusable shopping bags and my reusable produce bags ready to go in my entryway closet,” she said. “I grab the set and head off to the grocery store or farmers market. I love coming home with fruit and vegetables not covered in plastic and without a pile of waste.”

Making spur-of-the-moment purchases still plagued her with waste. “The problem was solved when I started carrying a foldable, reusable bag in my purse or backpack,” she said. “Voila, I pull it out and, once again, get home with my purchase – no single-use plastic bag needed.” Shopping weekly, Buckingham estimates saving at least 600 plastic bags per year.

Switching to a reusable water bottle, on the other hand, was a bit more difficult. “I am picky about the taste of my water,” she shared. “This was resolved with a countertop Berkey Water Filtration system, glass bottles that fit perfectly in the refrigerator, and several to-go water bottles. Now, I have great-tasting water at home and on the go.” Since changing her habits four years ago, Buckingham estimates saving over 4,000 water bottles from going to the landfill.

Yvonne Dwyer, One Planet Life’s Naturalist, switched to a refillable water bottle after seeing how many empty plastic water bottles ended up in her weekly recycle bin.

“It was time for a change,” she said. “I learned that not all plastic is recycled, and the expense of paying for bottled water just seemed crazy. Instead, I could use my reusable hard plastic tumbler cup, which I eventually changed to a Nalgene bottle, and then to Hydro Flask and Corkcicle bottles, which keep water cool. My Hydro Flask, Corkcicle, and Yeti bottles go with me on whatever adventure I pursue.”

Amy Bates, CMO of One Planet Life, reduced dependency on single-use plastics after seeing the sheer volume of plastic her family was throwing away. 

“I made three simple changes that significantly reduced our plastic waste and saved money and effort,” she said. “First, I switched to reusable k-cups to make our coffee. Not only could we enjoy any coffee, but it was also much less expensive. Second, I stopped buying plastic ziplock bags for snacks and storage. Now, I use reusable snack and storage bags, I prefer the Russbe brand, and they work great. I wash them in the dishwasher and enjoy another cost savings! Finally, we use our reusable water bottles daily, for travel, and while on our boat at the lake.”

Her family went from buying a couple of cases of water in plastic bottles each weekend to using quality, insulated bottles on their boating trips. 

“It’s much easier to know which drink is yours, and we significantly decreased the amount of waste to clear off the boat at the end of the day,” she shared. “These joyful changes were easy to make and delivered many benefits.”

As the OPL team shared, switching to reusable options often carries more benefits than just reducing waste. 

To help make this switch easier for those on their journey to live a more sustainable life, One Planet Life is launching its very own e-store.

Shoppers will find eco-friendly, reusable products to replace single-use options, including:

  • A Travel Utensils Set in Cloth Pouch, with a glass straw and brush, fork, knife, spoon, chopsticks, and a cloth napkin
  • Foldable and reversible Tote Bags
  • Larger Canvas Tote Bags 
  • Insulated Reusable Water Bottles
With a reusable water bottle alone, two fill-ups daily would save 720 plastic bottles per year or 0.63 pounds of carbon emissions. 

If communities worked together to lower their dependency on single-use everyday items by substituting reusable alternatives, the hope of a cleaner future unmarred by mountains of plastics could become a reality.

Written by Carley Kimball

Written by Carley Kimball

Freelance Journalist and OPL Content Contributor

“I’ve always tried to implement planet-friendly practices in my life but didn’t quite realize just how much of an impact individuals can make until I was introduced to One Planet Life. I’m so excited to be able to utilize my professional skills to contribute valuable information and positive personal experiences to help make the world a better place.”

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REFILL to Benefit the Planet

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and REFILL to Benefit the Planet

It’s time to add another R-action on your journey to living more sustainably. Refill your containers instead of purchasing new ones.

Buying package-free products and using your own containers is an impactful way to reduce your carbon footprint and minimize the amount of plastic and containers you send to the landfill. Shops selling bulk, package-free products as often referred to as “refilleries.” I’ll share my recent experience at a refillery near my home.

While watching the Pittsburgh nightly news one evening, a local commercial came on for a small woman-owned business called, The Refillery. The ad promoted a store where you bring your own plastic and glass containers and purchase personal care products such as shampoo and home essentials such as all-purpose cleaners and laundry detergent. I decided to visit!

Immediately upon arriving at this eco-friendly brick-and-mortar in Squirrel Hill, I was greeted by a friendly employee. She enthusiastically showed me around and explained how the whole process at The Refillery works.

The Refillery

Here is how the refilling process works:
  1. Bring clean and empty containers from home – there are also glass bottles and jars for sale.
  2. Before you fill your container, the bottle or jar is weighed, and that weight is deducted from the final weight after filling it with your favorite product.
  3. Fill your containers with the desired home and personal care products.
  4. You only need to fill in the amount you need. Then the filled container is weighed, and the container weight is subtracted from the total weight.
  5. Pay by the ounce.
Prices are very reasonable. You pay by weight, but your containers are weighed empty first and deducted from the total. 

With my mason jars In hand, I went for a laundry detergent, an all-purpose cleaner, and lemon sugar scrub. All the products are made locally with clean ingredients using the least amount of chemicals and preservatives. There are several familiar products to choose from, including Kaylaan toothpaste tablets and Hibar solid shampoo/conditioner, which I already use and love.

By adding refilling as one of your new sustainable actions, you help the environment by reducing plastic usage, and you also save money! 

I was fortunate enough to meet the founder and owner of The Refillery, Lorissa Russo. We had a great conversation regarding her zero-waste startup, available products, and her mission and passion for reducing single-use plastic and packaging with locally, ethically, and sustainably made affordable products. During Covid quarantine Lorissa, an engineer at the time learned about refilleries in Europe and other areas of the United States through TikTok videos. The more she thought about reducing plastic packaging and climate change she decided that she needed to take a personal stance to make a difference. She resigned from her engineering position and created The Refillery.


Explore our OPL INSIGHT interactive map to locate similar stores in your state.
Package Free Shopping By State and City
OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer

This experience was shared by OPL Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer.

Learn more about Yvonne.

Reducing Plastic for Water’s Sake

Reducing Plastic for Water’s Sake

We all know intuitively that water and all the living things that depend on it are precious. At the same time, we create tremendous waste in the form of single-use plastic which harms the planet. Reducing our use of single-use plastic aligns our actions with protecting life and the planet.

Since 1950, 8.3 Million tonnes of plastic containers have been produced. Only 9% gets recycled and the rest ends up in our landfills and litters our land and waterways. Plastic is problematic in many ways. It degrades slowly, lightweight bags are eaten by livestock and wildlife, and plastic bags are among the most common types of marine litter. At our current pace oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050.

Plastic bottles, straws, shopping bags, cups, and food packaging are pervasive in our society. But we can change. Switch to reusable options for liquid containers, shopping bags, straws, and more. It can be rewarding as you notice the dramatic reduction in waste. Begin with one reusable substitution, then add the second and so on.

Every reduction makes a difference for our planet. We hope you join us. One Planet Life.

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