5 clever alternatives to single-use plastics

With single-use plastic bags at supermarkets pretty much banned around the country now, the alternatives are not only better for the environment, they can improve the way you shop.

When plastic became popular with consumers in the 1940s, the world was a different place. Post-war, plastic was the new way forward: cheap, convenient, modern. We decked out our homes with shiny new things. The last thing on anyone’s mind was the environmental impact of synthetic petrochemicals.

Years later, the effects of our poor management of plastic materials are truly devastating. Plastic manufacturing, consumption and disposal contribute to climate change, pollution and ecological devastation. Plastic bags in particular pose one of the biggest threats to marine wildlife. According to the Clean Up Australia website, Australians use 5 billion plastic bags each year, usually only once.

The cultural shift from a disposable lifestyle to a reusable one won’t happen overnight, but the Australia-wide ban on single-use plastic bags in major supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles is a great step forward. What are our alternatives to the less-than-ideal plastic bag? Plenty, it seems. The alternative choices are fashionable, forward-thinking and food loving.

1. Fruit and veggie produce mesh bags

Usually made of recycled materials or cotton, mesh bags are especially handy for your fruit and veggies. Rather than tearing off a small plastic bag from those giant rolls in the produce section of the supermarket, reusable produce bags can be used again and again. Plastic bags often need to be torn open to get at your goods, whereas mesh bags have a drawstring or slide closures for easy access.

They also keep your shopping neat and your fruit and veggies easily identifiable. You can pop them straight into the fridge and then they’re ready to go when you need to restock. Reusable produce bags mean no more purchasing of pre-wrapped produce (individually wrapped bananas, really?). Try these Reusable Mesh Produce Bags from the Australia Post Online Shop.

2. Trolley bags

For larger, weekly shopping visits to the supermarket, trolley bags will come to the rescue. To use, hang the bags by their rack handles at the back of your trolley and slide a new bag open once you’ve filled one up. With the bags spread out, you can sort your purchases as needed (it might even stop you from buying things you don’t need). Unloading your groceries into the car is easier too, just lift your trolley bags up and slide them straight into the boot.

3. Reusable food storage wraps

Made of cotton and beeswax, reusable food wraps are an excellent alternative to single-use cling wrap. With decorative prints available, they look much prettier in the fridge as well. Heating up leftovers for dinner is suddenly much more exciting—it’s like unwrapping a present. Try this Reusable Beeswax Food Wrap from the Australia Post Online Shop.

If you’re the crafty sort, you can even make your own reusable food wraps yourself—they’re actually pretty easy to make. Cleaning them is simple—just use some lukewarm soapy water and a cloth. Reusable food wraps are also really versatile—wrap your lunch in one of them instead of using a plastic sandwich bag.

4. Reusable sandwich bags

Banish the plastic wrap from packed lunches with these reusable sandwich bags from the Australia Post Online Shop. Pack lunches using a two pack of reusable snack and sandwich bags that come with a fun Mickey Mouse design. The bags can easily be rinsed and reused to avoid unnecessary single-use plastic like plastic wrap. They’re also freezer safe which can make lunch box prep a breeze.

5. Recycled shopping bags

If you’re in the market to invest in shopping bags, why not choose ones made from recycled materials? Not only will you be using them in replacement of plastic bags, the product itself is made from recycled materials helping to keep the environment clean and green. These Lucy King Recycled Shopping Bags from the Australia Post Online Shop are available in three different patterns including a classic polka dot, a flower design or a dog design. They’re lightweight and machine washable so you know they'll last far more shopping trips than a plastic bag.

6. Cane baskets

Woven baskets are very durable and versatile. Use them at the beach, on a picnic, at home for storage—just to name some scenarios. Baskets are especially great for market shopping when you just need a few items; with their wide opening you won’t squash your bread or produce.

Natural doesn’t always mean better—everything has an impact on the environment when it’s created. However, if we think about our environmental footprint by disposing less and reusing things more, we’re making a big difference.

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