Plastic is everywhere. It is used in a wide range of sectors including packaging, construction, agriculture, automobiles, electronics, textiles, and healthcare.
Plastic pollution is a key environmental issue worldwide. Of the 4 million tonnes of plastic waste that is thrown away in Canada every year, only 9% is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills and the environment, littering parks, beaches, streets, and other places of value.
Plastic pollution harms wildlife and damages habitats. It is found across the world in the air, water, soil, and even in the foods we eat. By reducing plastic pollution and improving how we make, use, and manage plastics, we can:
- Strengthen sustainable economies
- Create jobs
- Help fight climate change
- Protect biodiversity and the environment
So, what can we do? As part of the solutions to plastic pollution, we can rethink how we use plastic in our daily lives and take the #BeatPlasticPollution Challenge!
Step 1: Start today! Pick from the 30 practical everyday challenges below. Every action counts!
Step 2: Share these challenges with your friends and family. Show us what you are doing in your social media and tag us using #BeatPlasticPollution.
Challenge #1: Avoid single-use plastic checkout bags
Single-use plastic checkout bags litter parks, waterways, and oceans, and they harm marine and other wildlife. You will not find them at the checkout in stores starting this December. So why not start using sustainable alternatives now?
- Get some reusable bags secondhand or make some yourself
- Keep reusable bags with you or in your car for your next grocery store visit
- Use up your existing stash of plastic bags
Challenge #2: Avoid single-use plastic drink bottles or cups
Did you know that over 2.4 million bottles of water are sold in Canada every year? That is a lot of plastic bottles!
- Find a reusable bottle or jar for your “on-the-go” beverages
- If you have to use a single-use plastic bottle, recycle it according to your local waste programs
Challenge #3: Get your “to-go” coffee in a reusable cup or mug
Canadians love their coffee, drinking on average just over 2 cups per day.
- Bring a reusable cup from home to your favourite coffee shop (some shops offer a discount for using a reusable cup)
- Take some time to enjoy your coffee in a reusable mug
- Take your home-brewed coffee or hot beverage on-the-go in your favourite reusable mug
- If they don’t already, ask your coffee shop to offer reusable mugs for drinking in-store, or to fill reusable mugs brought from home
- If you must use a single-use cup, avoid using a plastic lid and dispose of the cup according to your local waste programs
Challenge #4: Stop using plastic produce bags at the grocery store
Do you really need to put your fruits and vegetables into that plastic bag?
- Skip the plastic bag — a lot of produce, such as oranges and bananas, comes with its own “packaging”
- Bring your own washable and reusable cloth produce bags to keep your produce organized
- Use up your existing collection of plastic bags
Challenge #5: Skip unnecessary plastic packaging and try the bulk bins for dry goods, cleaning products, or more
Cut back on packaging and help move toward zero waste by buying in bulk.
- Find bulk stores in your community or use the bulk section in your grocery store
- Make a list of the items available in your bulk stores or bulk aisles
- Shop bulk with your own reusable containers to avoid plastic packaging and reduce waste
Challenge #6: Say no to single-use plastic cutlery
Did you know that single-use plastic cutlery will not be available starting this December? So why not start using sustainable alternatives now?
Instead, carry a set of washable and reusable cutlery with you for when you need them. Eco-friendly options are widely available.
Challenge #7: Replace worn toothbrushes with an earth-friendly alternative
According to Statistics Canada, almost 40% of Canadians brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day. If toothbrushes are replaced every 3-4 months, this can add up to millions of toothbrushes being disposed of every year.
- Use your current plastic toothbrush until it wears out and dispose of it according to your local waste programs
- Reuse it as a home cleaning tool after you’re done with it
- Consider an eco-friendly option, such as a reusable toothbrush with replaceable tips
Challenge #8: Trade plastic bottles of body wash and shampoo for bars
Did you know that many soaps, shampoos, and conditioners come in solid form?
- First, use up your body wash, shampoo, and conditioner in plastic bottles and recycle them, according to your local waste programs
- Look for bars of soap, shampoo, and conditioner in your local grocery or health food stores (pro tip: many soap and shampoo bars are sold with zero-waste or plastic-free packaging!)
- Look online for a soap recipe
Challenge #9: Say “no” to disposable straws
Single-use plastic straws will not be available starting this December (except for those who need them due to disabilities or medical needs). So why not start using sustainable alternatives now?
- Go without a straw, if you can
- Use your own washable and reusable straw
- Suggest to your favourite restaurant that straws only be given out on request
Challenge #10: Buy second-hand items to extend the life of products and avoid waste
It’s easy to find well-made and affordable second-hand goods in person or online — the hard part is deciding how to choose what’s right for you! Make a list and explore!
- Avoid buying new items, if you can
- Swap items with friends, or try local and online marketplaces to buy used goods
- Donate your gently used goods, where accepted
Challenge #11: Drink tea? Try loose leaf
Most tea bags are made of bleached paper, plastic, and nylon. A single standard tea bag could release over a billion microplastics and nanoplastics into every cup of tea.
- Consider having ethically sourced loose leaf tea in a reusable or recyclable container
- Try tea bags made with organic materials or reusable strainers
Challenge #12: Shop at your local farmer’s market
As farmer’s markets grow in popularity, the opportunities to find plastic-free packaging or re-fillable containers are also growing.
- Find your local market and shop with reusable bags and containers
- Encourage your favourite vendors to cut down on plastic packaging and waste
Challenge #13: Get your community involved! Organize or join a neighbourhood cleanup event
Is there a better sense of accomplishment than when you've cleaned your house? Imagine what it would feel like doing the same for your community!
- Get your neighbourhood, school, work, or friends involved and work together to clean-up your surroundings or favourite areas
- Search online or check your local community news to see if there are cleanup groups or upcoming events in your area
- Check out the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup to lead or join a cleanup
Challenge #14: Host a plastic-free party and skip the balloons!
Balloons, while not always made from plastic, are a form of litter that can harm wildlife. Find sustainable ways to celebrate.
- Use homemade decorations from recycled paper, wildflowers, and non-toxic candles
- Strive for a zero-waste event — use reusable napkins, cutlery, plates, cups, containers, and more
- Skip the plastic tablecloth and use a washable and reusable cloth
- If you can’t go without balloons, stop them from being released into the environment and dispose of them according to your local waste management programs
Challenge #15: Grow your own food
Instead of purchasing fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic, try growing your own food!
- Repurpose an old storage bin. Drill some holes at the bottom and add small branches or rocks for drainage before throwing in garden soil. Plant your herbs and vegetables! A 30-gallon bin can hold one cucumber plant and one tomato plant
- Search for community gardens in your area
- Plant your soon-to-be-rotten veggies to grow new ones. It’s possible to do this with almost every fruit and vegetable
- Compost your food and yard waste, and use the soil for your garden
Challenge #16: Simplify your cleaning products
Cleaning supplies often come in plastic containers.
- Make your own cleaning products and store them in a reusable container. Hot water, white vinegar, and dish soap can do wonders! Using baking soda is also a safe and affordable way to remove tough stains and unwanted odours
- Recycle and dispose of your cleaning products and containers according to your local waste management programs
Challenge #17: Phase out disposable razors for a reusable one or other methods
Certain razors are another form of disposable plastic that is found in many homes.
- Once you are ready to change your old disposable razor, replace it with an eco-friendly reusable option
- Participate in company take-back programs, or dispose of razors according to your local waste management programs
- Think about skipping a shave or 2 from time to time
- Consider other hair removal methods that have less plastic waste
Challenge #18: Buy meat from a local farmer or butcher
Meat packaging is often made from polystyrene, which can pollute the environment.
- Talk to your local farmer or butcher about using reusable or locally recyclable containers
- Bring your own containers
Challenge #19: Replace disposable plastic wrap with a reusable alternative
Did you know that plastic food wrap is hard to recycle?
- Make your own, or try food wrappers using beeswax and repurposed fabric, like old napkins or tea towels
- Store your lunch or leftovers in washable and reusable containers with lids
Challenge #20: Support and say thanks to businesses phasing out single-use plastics
Businesses with eco-friendly practices are growing in popularity, and you can influence what companies do and sell through your purchasing power.
- Say thank you by purchasing products that can be reused, repaired, repurposed, or recycled
- Talk to your favourite stores about what they are doing to reduce plastic waste
Find out which Canadian and international businesses signed the Ocean Plastics Charter.
Challenge #21: Put a lid on it!
Did you know that wind and animals can contribute to unintentional litter?
- Put a lid on your garbage and recycling bins, so the wind doesn’t blow away your waste and to keep animals from spilling or moving waste
- Live in the countryside? Add a bungee cord to your bins, so bigger animals can’t open the lid
Challenge #22: Reduce plastic waste at restaurants
Some fast-food restaurants use a lot of single-use plastic items to package their products.
- Instead of eating out, try making meals at home and storing them in reusable food containers. Most recipes can be frozen!
- If you do find yourself on the go and needing/wanting to eat out, choose a place that offers sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics, like reusable or locally recyclable containers
- Refuse cutlery, straws, and individual packets when ordering food for delivery or take-out, if you don’t need it
Challenge #23: Clean up your laundry habits
Did you know that every time you wash your clothes, plastic microfibres — small plastic thread like pieces — are released and enter the wastewater stream? The average household in Canada and the United States releases over 500 million microfibres from laundry every year. Up to 99% of that is captured by wastewater treatment plants but a lot of microfibres still enter our water.
- Wash your clothes in colder water, and wash less frequently
- Try a front-loading washing machine
- Consider using a filter for your washing machine to catch microfibres
Challenge #24: Phase out disposable menstrual products for reusable alternatives
Menstrual products are often made of or packaged in plastic. In recent years, companies have started going green and now offer more options than pads and tampons.
- Period underwear
- Menstrual cups
- Tampons without a plastic applicator
Challenge #25: Be mindful of how your drinks are packaged
Single-use plastic ring carriers can entangle and harm wildlife. You will not find them in stores starting this December. So why not start using sustainable alternatives now?
- Avoid purchasing packs that use single-use plastic ring carriers. Buy your favourite beverage as a single item and carry it in a reusable bag
- If you’re buying in bulk, choose beverages that are packaged in a locally recyclable tray or box, or use a reusable carrier
Challenge#26: Make space for eco-friendly baby products
Even the youngest members of the family can help Canada to #BeatPlasticPollution.
- Use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers
- Opt for washable and reusable baby wipes
- Consider a natural-fibre pacifier
- Try buying second-hand items to extend the life of products and reduce waste
Challenge #27: Stir it up with a reusable spoon
Starting December 20, 2023, the sale of single-use plastic cutlery and stir sticks will be prohibited. Now is the time to pick up good habits!
- If given a choice, choose reusable cutlery and avoid single-use plastic cutlery and stir sticks
- Keep a washable and reusable spoon, spork, or chopsticks in your bag
- Ask a friend or a colleague if you can borrow their reusable cutlery
Challenge #28: Go green while doing your laundry
Say no to plastic jugs for your laundry soap and softener.
- Purchase laundry detergent strips or boxed laundry powder instead of liquid detergent in a plastic bottle
- White vinegar, baking soda, Epsom salts, and wool dryer balls are effective alternatives to dryer sheets and laundry softener
- Buy in bulk and bring your own reusable containers
- Participate in your local recycling and waste management programs when disposing of your detergent bottles
Challenge #29: Recycle as a last line of defence
As a first step, we can refuse single-use (and other unnecessary) plastics. When needed, choose sustainable alternatives.
- If you have a plastic item that you no longer wish to use, but it is in great condition, there are lots of people in your community who may need that item. Consider donating it to charity, a second-hand shop, a friend, or family member
- Repairing damaged items or repurposing plastic items is another good way to extend the useful life of plastics, and to demonstrate real creativity and ingenuity
- If you’ve explored reduce, reuse, and it is time to recycle, learn about what can be recycled in your community, school, or work, and participate in your local recycling programs
Challenge #30: Turn this challenge into a lifelong commitment
Did you have fun trying all of our challenges this month? If so, why not take it a little further and #BeatPlasticPollution every day by gradually shifting to a zero plastic waste lifestyle? Big or small, every action counts!
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