How to Reduce Plastic Use in the Home

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How to reduce plastic use in your home with simple baby setps
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As you’re reading this article, chances are you will find several plastic items within your reach, your computer or phone, a pen, maybe an old food container lingering on your desk. Today, plastic is everywhere in our lives. Light and durable, it has become an icon of convenience culture, a symbol of the on-the-go mentality that dominates our modern lives.

Yet for a substance that we interact with daily, we know surprisingly little about it and as we learn more, we become more and more aware of just how bad plastic is. Even now, with the flurry of BPA-free plastic products hitting the market, there are many concerns about plastic that have remained unaddressed.

A History of Modern Plastic

The term “plastic” refers broadly to any material that can be shaped or molded into a specific form. Before synthetic plastics were created, glass and clay were considered the primary “plastics,” alongside a few other naturally occurring substances like tree-gums and rubber.

Around 1907 however, a Belgian chemist by the name of Dr Leo Baekeland, introduced a unique substance called “Bakelite.” It was the first entirely man-made plastic material and it was created with phenol, an acid derived from coal tar. This new material was lightweight, strong, heat-resistant and all-the-rage at the time. Soon telephones, radios, kitchenware, jewelry, and children’s toys were all being manufactured using this newfangled substance.

Between the years 1929 and 1935, a slew of different synthetic-plastics were developed for use in industry. This list includes familiar substances such as polyester, PVC, and nylon, which are now used in merchandise as diverse as clothing and plumbing parts. Production of these compounds was vastly accelerated by mid-century war efforts, where quick-to-manufacture plastics were helpful for replacing other materials such as natural rubber, which was in short supply at the time.

When demand for plastic tapered at the end of World War II in 1945, companies scrambled to find other uses for their plastic surplus. Tupperware, the beloved food storage containers, were among the first all-plastic goods to hit the mass-consumer market when released in 1948.

Today, plastic has become the main packing material when it comes to food and product storage. There are many more types of plastic available now, all of which are produced in unique ways to fill assorted purposes. A classification system has been developed to identify the most common types of plastic used in household products. You may recognize this system as the tiny number and recycling symbol imprinted on the bottom of almost any plastic item you pick up at the store.

Common Plastic Classifications

  • #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) – Products: Soft drink bottles, water bottles, condiments
  • #2 high density polyethylene (HDPE) – Products: Milk and water jugs, detergent, shampoo, grocery bags, cereal box liners
  • #3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC) – Products: Piping, shower curtains, plastic toys, table cloths, medication blister packs, wrapping films
  • #4 low density polyethylene (LDPE) – Products: Wrapping films, grocery bags, paper milk cartons, hot/cold beverage cups
  • #5 polypropylene (PP) – Products: Yogurt cups, food packaging, take-out containers, bottle caps
  • #6 polystyrene (PS or Styrofoam) – Products: Single-use cups, plates, bowls, take-out containers, meat trays
  • #7 other (can include polycarbonate or others like compostable plastics) – Products: Utensils, food storage containers

Health Concerns of Plastic

I think it is fair to say that synthetic plastics were created with a focus on industry, not on health. Over the past 50 years of plastic use, evidence has accumulated to suggest that some of the chemicals used in its manufacturing are problematic. I’ve written about this in depth before, but some of the biggest concerns are:

BPA and Alternatives

It has been well-documented that certain chemicals create hormone imbalances which produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in humans. One of the most famous substances of this kind is Bisphenol A or BPA.

Research has linked long-term BPA exposure to serious conditions including birth defects and cancer. After years of campaigning, BPA is finally being removed from many plastic items. Unfortunately, recent studies are showing that the the chemicals being used to replace it are no better. Substitutes Bisphenol S and F (known as BPS and BPF) have remarkably similar structures and potencies.

One study concentrating on BPA-free plastic baby bottles and water bottles found that each item studied released detectable amounts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Some even had more dangerous activity than products containing BPA itself.


This group of chemicals, another class of endocrine disruptors, is used to increase the flexibility of certain plastics such as PVC. One specific compound, known as Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or DEHP, is listed as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” in the Thirteenth Report on Carcinogens published by the National Toxicology Program.

Furthermore, high levels of exposure to this di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate through the use of medical tubing and other plastic devices for feeding and medicating newborn infants has been predicted to affect the development of the male reproductive system, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Manufacturers began to remove DEHP from consumer plastics about 10 years ago, but new research is suggesting that the two stand-in chemicals, DINP and DIDP, are just as harmful.


The health of the environment is closely intertwined with our own health. As the use of plastic has increased, so has its burden on the environment.Global plastic production has doubled every 11 years since the 1950s and currently hovers around 300 million tons per year. Processing plastic uses a significant amount of resources including electricity and fossil fuels. Moreover, unlike naturally-derived products, synthetic plastics do not biodegrade. This means that once plastic items are flung down a conveyor belt and churned out into the world they remain there, unless recycled or incinerated.

Improper disposal of solid plastic waste through techniques like incineration can lead to the release of dioxins. These highly toxic chemicals have been linked to reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system and the formation of cancer. The World Health Organization has advocated for strict control over industrial and waste management processes to reduce dioxin formation.

What We Can Do to Reduce Plastic Use

As impactful as it would be, it is probably not realistic to say that everyone should get rid of all plastic items immediately and forever. The transition towards greener manufacturing materials will likely take time. What we can do however, is start with some simple steps to reduce the negative consequences that plastic has on the health of our families and communities. As smart consumers we can help drive the change through well-planned baby steps.

1. Opt for Reusable Alternatives

A big part of the solution is limiting the amount of plastic you bring into your home. Reusable water bottles and food storage containers are a great alternative as they do not leach questionable chemicals. Reusable stainless steel items such as plates, bowls, and containers are also non-reactive, and are 100% recyclable, light and inexpensive. Try making your own personal care items and store in mason jars or violet glassware rather than purchasing varieties that come in disposable packaging.

Over the past several years, our family has transitioned away from plastic almost completely by taking these baby steps. Our most-used and best-value plastic-free items are:

  • Stainless Steel plates: Hands down the best option I’ve found for our kids. They are lightweight, food grade stainless steel that is dishwasher safe, oven safe and unbreakable! We have enough for a whole day of use for our family. They also store very compactly.
  • Zip Top: A perfect replacement for ziplog baggies or when you are on the go!
  • Stainless Steel cups: Like the plates, I love that these are unbreakable and they are a great size for our kids. TIP: store in a low cabinet so kids can get their own water.
  • Stainless Steel bowls: Just like plates and cups, these unbreakable bowls are some of the most used items in our kitchen.
  • Stainless Steel Latch Containers: These are my favorite for freezer storage since they are non-breakable and fit a lot.
  • If you or your kids don’t love the Stainless Steel option for plates, bowls, etc, you can also check out bamboo options like these from the UK.
  • Glass Mason Jars: Quart and half-gallon size jars work great for storing things like soups, sauces, broth, and even leftover casseroles and sides. We also use them as drinking glasses (bonus- it is an easy way to keep track of your daily water intake!)
  • Silicon Food Storage: I love my collapsible fridge storage containers from Xtrema since they don’t take up much room in the cabinets when not in use and are easy to stack in the fridge.
  • Glass and Silicone Storage: Lifeactory makes some great all-glass food storage containers that have a silicone cover to help avoid breakage
  • Pyrex Glass Containers with Lids: These do have plastic lids but they are pretty inexpensive and some of the first containers I got when I made the switch.
  • Glasslock Oven Safe Food Storage: I also have this set and use it all the time to store almost everything
  • Other reusable items: We also have a good supply of reusable grocery bags, produce bags,  and plastic bags that we use often. We also use reusable food wrap made from fabric and beeswax, which you can buy or DIY.
  • Bottles: Each family member has a metal or glass water bottle that we use, especially when on the go or traveling.

2. Shop Local When Possible

It can be difficult to find plastic-free packaging at major stores as even many fruits and vegetables are pre-packaged in plastic bags. Shopping locally has many advantages and is also helpful for trying to avoid plastic. Bring your own bags, baskets or containers to avoid the need for disposable plastic bags. Your local economy and our planet will thank you!

3. Source Safer Types of Plastic & Always Recycle

Check to see what types of plastic are accepted for recycling in your community. #1 PET and #2 HDPE are known for high levels of recyclability. #4 LDPE and #5 PP plastics, although not as widely recycled, are thought to leach fewer chemicals than some other varieties. Discard any scratched and worn-out plastics and never heat food in plastic containers as this increases the likelihood of chemical release.

4. Avoid Plastics in Your Clothes

Many types of synthetic fiber clothing also contain plastics and plastic chemicals. When possible, opt for natural fiber clothing (like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc) over synthetics like polyester, lycra, etc. If you can, choose organic clothing when possible, especially for babies and kids.

What do you do to reduce the use of plastic in your home?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


56 responses to “How to Reduce Plastic Use in the Home”

  1. Sherryl Brasseaux Avatar
    Sherryl Brasseaux

    I’m saying this in the most sincere way and not trying to criticize. I’m just wondering about all the people saying, “I’ve thrown out” or I just replaced” all my plastic storage containers. Isn’t that counter productive? It seems to me, if you already have them, why not use them until they need replacing or at least donate them for someone else who would buy plastic anyway. After all, tossing plastic in the trash is not really “getting rid of it”.

  2. Dana Avatar

    Hi katie! Thankyou for all your wonderful posts and the time you give out of your day. I am on a hunt to find an all stainless steel 1/2 or full gallon water jug! And some small ones for us around the house.. do you know of any? Also… i am seeing alot of 18/8 stainless steel jugs that look good but say they used powder coating. Is that ok? Or is the coating unsafe? Thanks for any help!!

  3. Rosa Avatar

    Thank you very much for all the information you share with us. I started recently to use homemade products and replacing plastic for other materials. I found a lot of recipes that recommend glass bottles especially those with essential oils.
    The sprayer or pump of the glass bottles I bought have a plastic tube that is in contact with the solution. Should I be worried about this?

  4. Claudia Avatar

    Hello! I am working on switching all items in my kitchen. I was looking at the SS plates, cups and bowls. Is it safe to use for hot foods and drinks, such as soups or warm tea? Also, using mason jars for storing soups, broths, leftover casseroles, etc? Is the metal piece of mason jar toxic, and how do you warm up soups, etc? Thank you so much! Appreciate your blog so much!


  5. Lisa Avatar

    Been looking around your site, what is your insight on having cpvc piping in your house, supplying your bath water, drinking water. Is there a water filter that could combat all the leaching in the cpvc pipe? It’s getting so much harder and expensive to have copper piping. And having plastic bathtubs instead of porcelain, is that really bad?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      We can only do the best we can do 🙂 And then do things to mitigate your exposure elsewhere like in food containers and household items. Also, a bath tub filter works great!

  6. Monalisa Abuere Avatar
    Monalisa Abuere

    What a Great web… great job Wellnessmama! I personaly reuse my jam/ pasta sauce jar for storange my spice and other things..
    Now, I’m trying to eliminate my plastic bag. it is so hard because in Indonesia here every product and event at farmers market useing plastic bag.

  7. Lin Avatar

    I made some small snack bags and trying to avoid for store-bought snacks. We also take stainless steel cutlery when going out. 🙂

  8. Heidi Avatar

    What do you recommend freezing breast milk in? All the storage bags are plastic. I would love a post by you about this topic. Thank you!

  9. Regina Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    This particular blog post was so helpful to me and my family. (One of many by the way).
    Once I received my diagnosis of Hashimoto’s I went into a tailspin of throwing all the plastic out and replacing with glass. For my kids I use the Klean Kanteen that you also mentioned in another post that you use those for your older kids as well.
    I also went thru the refrigerator and pantry and got rid of all that was not healthy. Soy, gluten, dairy, corn and any other contaminated food that I could not have anymore. It has been the best thing for me and my family and I’m grateful to learning about your blog of healthy recipes and non toxic skin care regimen, and toxic free home and I can’t express all the gratitude but my life has changed and I’m sharing it with everyone. I just launched a blog to try to help others as you have helped me.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  10. Yae Avatar

    I love you blog!
    Could you please let me know where to find the exact bowls, plates and cups shown in the picture?
    I have been looking for a set without the rim and stackable just like those!
    I would really appreciate your help

      1. Yae Avatar

        Thank you very much for answering so fast!
        I found the tumblers and the plates!
        Maybe they don’t have the bowls anymore.
        Do you know the brand?
        Thanks!!! : )

  11. Marci Avatar

    Hi Katie!
    These are some great suggestions and my family has been working on making the switch for awhile now. We use a lot of glass storage and glass water bottle for my husband and I but I have yet to find a good alternative for my 3 year old’s drinks. Have you found a good stainless steel leak proof toddler cup that can hold warm liquids?
    Thanks, I really enjoy your blog!

  12. Lorraine Avatar

    Check wher Pyrex is now made. Most of Anchor Hocking is still made in the USA and reasonable.m

  13. Mona Marushak Avatar
    Mona Marushak

    I threw out all of my Pyrex after 2 shattered (one in dishwasher, one just out of the oven and resting on my stovetop). After talking to friends, I learned it has happened to at least half of them, and the online stories of injuries are scary. I do use mason jars for drinking and some storage, but they’re not large enough for lots of leftovers, etc. I’m trying to find a solution that works for us.

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