Coffee—hold the plastic: Easy single-use plastic swaps

Man holding a single-use coffee cup and giving "thumbs down"

By: Valerie Vines & Ashley Pace

On our current path, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, so something’s got to change. Austin is taking the next step, but this time, we are taking our commitment global. Along with over 350 businesses, organizations and governments, Austin has joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment with the goal of eliminating unnecessary plastic.

A key goal of the New Plastics Economy is to move from single-use to reusable models, keeping materials in use and out of the environment. With this in mind, we are using Earth Month to take a hard look at single-use plastics and how we can reduce the amount we use in our everyday lives by opting for easy, reusable swaps.

To-go drinks

Reducing your plastic use doesn’t have to mean limiting your coffee consumption, but it does mean giving up single-use coffee cups. Most disposable coffee cups are made with a plastic-based coating that holds liquid and insulates the cup, which means it can’t be recycled or composted. Instead, opt to bring your own travel mug or cup to get your daily fix. Many coffee shops even offer discounts to customers who bring their own cups. And while you are slurping down your favorite beverage, don’t forget to refuse a straw or bring your own reusable or compostable one.


Water fill stations are becoming more popular with employers, schools, airports and retailers, making it easy to fill your own water bottle or cup wherever you go. Glass, metal, with a straw, without a straw— there are so many options for how to carry around your H2O that it’s become a personalized fashion accessory.

Food storage

Avoid single-use plastics like zip-top bags or plastic wrap for storing leftovers. Instead, invest in washable snack bags, compostable wraps and reusable storage containers or repurpose empty jam or pickle jars. Beeswax paper is a space-saving alternative for plastic wrap that can be rinsed and reused over 100 times before it loses its shape and needs to be composted.

Shopping Bags

Refusing single-use plastic bags from local retailers and choosing to bring your own reusable bags is a great way to eliminate unnecessary plastic in your life. Whether you are at a drugstore, clothing store, or doing your weekly grocery run, remember to bring your bags every time.

Produce bags

Bring reusable produce bags or avoid bagging your fruits and vegetables altogether. Most of the produce available at the store has its own natural skin and doesn’t really need extra plastic to get it from the store to your home. You are probably going to wash your produce anyways! If you do feel the need for some extra germ protection, make sure to use a cloth or nylon bag that you can wash and use over and over again.

The City of Austin is committed to reducing single-use plastic waste, but we cannot do it without the support and commitment of our residents. As with any kind of change, it takes time to train yourself to refuse single-use plastics and remember your reusable alternatives, but soon you’ll be toting along your bags, bottles and cups without thinking twice about it. Now it’s your turn. During the month of April, show us how you are making changes in your everyday life to reduce the amount of plastic you use and share your progress with us by using #adaywithoutplastic.