Nexant’s 20-Day Challenge

Mar 4, 2020

 

Let’s think big picture for a second. Plastics have saved many lives through devices like pacemakers, incubators, helmets, seat belts---far too many things to name. It’s also been essential in safe travel whether it’s to outer space or across a state. Unfortunately, many plastics---especially those related to consumer products or their packaging---are polluting our oceans and waterways, threatening ecosystems, and affecting over 700 species of animals. Plastics cannot and will not disappear entirely from our lives (Nexant reports on various plastic and polymer markets), and the challenges of recycling are quite complicated. But, there will always be some choices and habits that we can address at an individual level and share in our communities. 

Nexant is invested in finding sustainable solutions in plastics and we have efforts underway, as well as a training course. (Read more about Nexant’s commitment to Sustainability as a company here.) For our company’s 20th Anniversary, we’ve decided to challenge our staff to reduce their use of single-use plastics over 20 days. By reducing single-use plastics we’re hoping to drastically change the waste we produce on a daily basis and create lasting habits that can be shared with friends and family. We welcome our readers to join the challenge and tag us on social media @Reimagine_Tmrw or Nexant LinkedIn with any tips or tricks you’d like to add.

What are Single-use Plastics? 

Single-use plastics are items that you use once and discard (garbage or recycling). This includes things like plastic forks, plates, and cups that are used at events or in take-out meals. It can also include ziplock bags, trash bags, dog waste bags, grocery bags, and more. Sometimes these bags can be recycled, but typically (over 90% of the time) they are not. Of course, some single-use plastics will always be needed for hygenic reasons (like syringes) and bendable plastic straws are a necessity for many individuals with disabilities. Plastics are surely a complicated issue with many pros and cons, so different people will have varied opinions on what they are able to change. Below, we list out what we consider on the table for our challenge and some tips on how to succeed. 

What’s the Challenge? 

We asked Nexant Staff to sign a pledge to reduce their single use plastics for 20 days in April to honor our 20th Anniversary. (Note: Due to COVID-19 the challenge has been postponed until Fall 2020). We’re focusing on single-use plastics because we believe that small changes can make a big difference. We encourage reducing waste and the need/use of these items because consumers have power and can help reduce the demand for plastic production. In addition to your individual efforts, voicing your concerns to your local representatives can lead to your city/state/country to enact a ban on single-use plastics like straws or grocery bags. This has already happened in Malibu, Miami, Berkeley, Seattle, New York, and Hawaii. The results show that these bans reduce waste by an incredible amount: “California’s bag ban, which was passed in 2014, has been shown to have reduced plastic bag usage by 85 percent (with some customers opting to pay a 10 cent fee for thicker plastic bags) and has reduced coastal pollution”(source). With a little innovation and commitment to these habits, we can all make a difference. Our suggestion is to 1) do what you can and 2) do what feels right to you. 

Single-use Plastics in the Kitchen

Forks/Spoons/KnivesPlates/Bowls/CupsCups
Straws/Stirrers
Plastic bags (grocery, ziplock, dog/cat waste, garbage)
Plastic cling wrap
Plastic drink bottles (soda, bottled water)
Food containers (for humans, like kid’s yogurt drinks, food pouches)
Food containers (for pets, like individually-portioned wet food)
Six-pack rings
Plastic individually wrapped snacks

Single-use Plastics in the Bathroom

Single-use flossers
Single-use razors
Disposable diapers (Did you know disposable diaper recycling programs are being tested in Europe?!)
Feminine care products
Product/Beauty/Make-Up Products (Toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, soap dispensers. These are actually multiple-use, but are still a big source of plastic pollution.)

Other

Glitter (Glitter is forever, except the brands that are biodegradable.)
Tape (There are plastic-free options made of paper or biodegradable products.)
Gum (Yes, gum base is made of polymers, plasticizers, and resins.)
Cigarette butts
Plastic Cigarette lighters
E-cig cartridges
Dry-cleaning bags
Coffee cup tops
Take-out containers (Styrofoam is a plastic.)
Balloons and their strings

It’s Time to Go Shopping! (Or Not?)

Reusable bags aren’t just for groceries, they can be used in department stores, dollar stores, and everything in between. The kicker is to remember to bring it in AND hand it to the cashier when you’re checking out, which can be easy to forget. This challenge is about starting new habits, so give it a try! Most smart phones (iPhone, Android) have location-based reminders you can set if you need a nudge.

In general, shopping LESS and buying LESS will reduce your environmental impact significantly. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before making a purchase to help decide if you really need it: 

  1. Do I have anything like this already?
  2. Could I get it used or second-hand instead?
  3. Is this item high quality and will it be used multiple times?
  4. Online Purchases: Will I look forward to receiving this package and remember what it is when I see it delivered?  

If you’re still comfortable with the purchase after that, march onward. 

How to Reduce Single-use Plastics in Your Life

Here are some products you can find online (most even have eco-friendly packaging!) that can help you on your journey to reduce single-use plastics. Note: Nexant is not receiving any benefits or kickbacks from linking to these products.

Solutions for Storing Food and Eating/Drinking

  • Shop at your local bakery, farmer’s market, fishmonger, or butcher to reduce the need for plastic packaging and plastic trays that you typically find in supermarkets.
  • Silicone storage bags to swap for zipper baggies - Stasher 
  • Zippered Cloth bags to swap for zipper baggies - Reusable Sandwich Bags or Snack Bags or Produce Bags
  • Wax Wraps to swap for cling wrap - Bee’s Wrap 3-pack
  • Reusable straws to swap for plastic ones - metal, bamboo, or high-quality plastic shapes can be straight, curved, extra wide for bubble tea, etc. 
  • Reusable Cutlery -- Bamboo, or simply use some flatware from home. 
  •  Silicone covers to swap for cling wrap - Food Huggers
Reusable silicone food huggers replaced plastic wrap for things like this in my kitchen.

Solutions for the Bathroom

  • Nearly everything in the bathroom comes in a bottle, so if you can, use bar soap, bar shaving cream, and bar shampoo---check out Lush for options.
  • Avoid individual teeth-flossers and dental floss made from plastic. 
  • Avoid exfoliation products with microbeads (did you know these are plastic?), which end up in the ocean and in the food chain. 
  • For the women reading, think about trying some reusable feminine care products like Thinx and Diva Cup. Remember that cardboard applicators or applicator-free tampons are a more sustainable choice. 
  • Garbage bags can be swapped for a biodegradable version, just in case they end up somewhere besides the landfill. Garbage bags made from recycled plastic are another option.
  • Toothpaste comes in some forms without the disposable tubes. 

Solutions for Random Places and Challenges

  • Gum has plastic components, try mints instead. 
  • When walking your dog, use Biopolymer Dog waste bags instead of plastic ones.
  • On the go or on vacation? Bring your own cutlery set (checked baggage only), water bottle, and straw. 
  • Couldn't finish your meal at a restaurant? Keep a clean food container in your car to avoid the styrofoam takeout containers.
  • At someone else’s party? BYOWB (water bottle) to avoid bottled water. If you’re bringing a dish or contributing, use it as a chance to show off your plastic free purchases like bee’s wax wraps or silicone covers, etc. 
  • Need a host or house-warming gift for a party? Bring a new set of beeswax wraps or Stashers. These make good gifts and can help people try new things without having to purchase first. It’s a much more positive alternative to lecturing others on plastic use. 
  • Picking up from the Dry Cleaner? Next time provide your own labeled garment bag along with the clothes you need washing. Plastic bags like these can also be recycled.

How to Form the Habits - Things to Remember!

  1. Buy less stuff. Ask yourself tough questions before a purchase.
  2. Be mindful of the seemingly-minor stuff you have (like headphones, hair ties, pens, etc.) and take care with them so that you don’t have to throw them out and buy them again.
  3. Bring a water bottle, reusable straw, reusable cutlery, and at least one reusable shopping bag with you any time you leave the house. (Or keep them in your car.)
  4. When you turn in for the night make sure you’ve cleaned anything you need for the next day like the straw and water bottle. Here’s a tiny brush that easily cleans straws. You can even keep full water bottles in the fridge ready to go. 
  5. Keep an extra empty water bottle in your car in case you need it.* 
  6. If you get stuck and can’t find something reusable, see if there is a version of it made from recycled plastic, which has a better carbon footprint than virgin plastic.
  7. Please share this blog if you’d like to spread the word about our challenge. You can use the SHARE links above, located under the title of this blog.

Let us know how it's going on social media! What has been hardest to eliminate? What other products are helpful? We'd love to hear from you.

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*Note: Keeping filled water bottles in hot cars is not recommended because 1) if made of certain plastics, they can leach chemicals 2) if made of clear glass or plastic, sunlight can magnify through them and cause a fire, and 3) hot water can breed bacteria.