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14 Products That Will Help You Live More Waste-Free

By switching from single-use and non-recyclable household items to reusable alternatives, you can take small steps toward saving the planet.​

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Reusable ItemsCarol Yepes/Getty Images

Why Choose Reusable?

The statistics on recycling in the U.S. are shocking and more than a little depressing. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), of the roughly 300 million tons of solid waste generated in the U.S. each year, only about one-third of it gets recycled. Less than 30 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, and only 10 percent of plastic bags, wrappers and packaging.

At best, the rest goes into landfills, where it’s incinerated or buried. At worst, it’s dispersed in the environment. Objects like plastic bags and bottles, aluminum cans, disposable diapers (a major culprit) and rigid paper products clog waterways, litter beaches, and pollute urban and rural areas.

Recycling helps, of course. But another way to reduce household solid waste is to move away from single-use items as much as possible and switch to reusable products. It’s easier than you think as more and more quality reusable products enter the market.

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Stainless Steel Straws

Small and lightweight, plastic straws often sneak through recycling sorting machines, and way too many make their way into oceans and waterways. So if your little ones like to drink out of a straw, indulge their preference while teaching them a lesson in sustainability.

These 16 colorful, reusable stainless steel straws are fun to use. They come with straight or bent options, as well as reusable silicone tips, four cleaning brushes and a carrying case.

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Organic Reusable Beeswax Wrap

Plastic cling wraps are single-use products that contain harmful chemicals like PVC and BPA, which have been linked to skin diseases and cancer. Swap these out for reusable wraps made from cotton and beeswax.

These Beeswax wraps use 100 percent organic, biodegradable ingredients, without any harmful chemicals. Simply press the wrap over a bowl or container, and the warmth of your hand softens the wrap so it fits and stays put. Wash in cool water and mild dish soap and they’re all set for next time.

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Americans generate an extra five million tons of waste during the holidays, tossing out everything from spoiled leftovers to disposable decorations. Check out these tips to cut down on holiday waste.

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Reusable “Cotton” Swabs

Way too many of the millions of cotton ear swabs we use every year get flushed down the toilet, fall through the cracks of wastewater treatment facilities and make their way into the oceans. Although most will degrade eventually, the process can take months.

LastSwab, the first crowd-funded offering from eco-product maker LastObject, is a washable, reusable plastic ear swab that can last for up to 1,000 uses. We’ve tried this one and actually prefer it to traditional ear swabs. The company also makes reusable tissues and cosmetic rounds.

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Dedicated Makeup Towels

Using disposable makeup remover pads is a nice way to keep your face towels clean, but these single-use items are also wasteful. Consider a dedicated makeup towel, in a dark onyx color that won’t show stains from inky mascara or red lipstick.

Towels by Gus makes this monogrammable version, sold in a pair and machine washable. Order a few sets so you’re never without a clean makeup removal towel.

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Unpaper Towels

Paper towels are one of the most overused and wasteful products for cleaning. Avoid purchasing them altogether and opt for these bamboo-fiber “unpaper” towels, good for wiping up spills, drying hands, cleaning and just about anything else a paper towel can handle.

They’re machine washable, and reusable around 80 to 100 times. For reusable towels you can re-roll after washing, try these 100 percent cotton towels sold on Etsy.

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Dryer Balls

Dryer sheets are not biodegradable. Nor are the plastic bottles that fabric softener is sold in. Eliminate the need for both with a set of wool dryer balls, which naturally soften fabric, speed up drying time and don’t add any chemicals to your laundry.

You can add a few drops of essential oil to a ball to perfume a load of laundry. Otherwise, these 100 percent New Zealand wool balls are completely unscented.

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Natural Pot Scrubbers

Sponges are one of the germiest items in the kitchen! They also need to be replaced often and are not recyclable. Avoid the waste of throw-away sponges by switching to these reusable scrubbers made from cotton and a non-toxic hardener. They’re said to last for a couple of months or more, and can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher.

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Faucet Water Filter

Avoid buying drinking water in plastic bottles, which are terrible for the environment and may contain harmful chemicals. Instead, purchase an on-faucet water filter so that you’ve got fresh, filtered water whenever you want it.

It won’t bulk up your refrigerator like filtered pitchers. Pair this with a stainless steel water bottle (see the next slide) and you’ll really up your eco-cred!

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Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Fill up a reusable water bottle before you leave the house for the day, then refill it later at a water fountain, soda fountain or the water filter at your office. This will save money and leave fewer single-use plastic water bottles in circulation, which protects the environment. Plus, it comes in 22 colors! And make sure you know how to clean your reusable water bottle.

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Reusable Shopping Bags

Plastic shopping bags from the grocery store are so wasteful they’re banned in some places, and they’re a top source of plastic pollution. When dumped in the ocean, fish and other marine life often mistake the bags for prey. The plastic clogs their stomach or digestive tracts, leading to malnutrition and starvation.

Avoid harming the planet by choosing reusable shopping bags to carry your groceries and other items. Here’s how to make your reusable grocery bags sturdier.

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Mesh Produce Bags

Reusable shopping bags are great, but what about all those single-use plastic bags stores provide for fruit and vegetables Banish even more plastic from your shopping routine with this set of reusable mesh produce bags, and eliminate a half-dozen or more plastic bags every time you shop the produce section.

Just rinse them off after use. Or if they’re really dirty, pop them in the washing machine with your other laundry.

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Reusable Silicone Food Storage Bags

These eco-friendly reusable bags and lids feature airtight seals to keep your food fresh and safe. They’re a wonderful alternative to wasteful, disposable plastic zip-top bags or plastic wrap.

The silicone bags and lids are microwavable and dishwasher- and refrigerator-safe. Plus the bags will do double duty as airtight bags for toiletries, shampoo bottles and cosmetics when you travel.

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Rechargeable Crank Flashlight

Keep batteries out of landfills by switching to a rechargeable flashlight. It’s powered by a hand crank — one minute of cranking produces eight minutes of lighting. It’s also solar-powered, so you can avoid plug-in charging. We like that this is handy when you need a flashlight in an emergency, with no more worries about dead batteries.

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Reusable Compost Bags

If you’re composting, you’re already living a less wasteful life. Raise your green game by investing in these reusable garden compost bags, made from a quality outdoor fabric that withstands inclement weather and the changing seasons. The mesh fabric is breathable, which helps reduce the vinegar or rotten egg smell.

If you want to compost, consider making this DIY compost barrel tumbler.

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All prices and links were current as of publication.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website: