It won't happen in a day, but there are small things you can do to begin eliminating plastic from your kitchen right now. That's good news for your health and the environment.

We already tote reusable bags to the grocery store and shop for bulk items when we can, yet from the organic chicken breasts packaged in plastic cling at the butcher counter to the plastic food containers we store food in at home, there is an overwhelming amount of plastic used in our kitchens. Start thinking about all that plastic and it's hard to unsee it. What's more, plastic products tend to get used just once before ending up in a landfill where it negatively impacts the planet and even possibly our health.

zero waste groceries reusable bag
Credit: Getty Images

The United Nations has declared the plastic pollution of our oceans "a planetary crisis." Each year, about eight million tons of plastic waste (the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world) ends up in oceans our, according to National Geographic. And scientists now estimate  that more than half of the world's population might have plastic passing through their bodies, although they're unsure what all that plastic is doing to us. There are small steps we can take to dramatically reduce the use of plastic in our everyday life, ultimately helping to protect our health and the planet. Here's how to start reducing the amount plastic used in your kitchen right now.

First, Be Kind to Yourself

It is so easy to become frustrated when trying to reduce your plastic usage on your grocery shopping trip. My personal pet peeve is organic cauliflower wrapped in plastic. Realize that you're not going to be able to quit all plastic at once. That's perfectly fine, and every little bit you do stop using helps. Start with what works for you.

Reduce the Plastic in Your Kitchen While You're Shopping

The next step to reducing the plastic use in your kitchen is simply changing the way you shop. Starting by planning meals before you heading to the store, so you shop with a focused list of things you need. This will also help you reduce the amount of food you waste. Farmers' markets, zero-waste stores, and bulk-food aisles at traditional grocery stores make it easy to purchase only the quantity of ingredients you need while using reusable containers. But if those shopping options aren't available to you or aren't possible in the scoop of your normal routine, there are still steps you can take.

"Try making it a game," says Karen Ricks, head chef at Our Kitchen Classroom, which shares cooking tips and lessons from kitchens around the world. "Rather than simply grabbing your regular products at the local market, try to see how many items you can replace that have no plastic in their packaging." Buy freshly baked bread from a local bakery to take home in your reusable bag rather than buying commercially-baked bread in a plastic bag. Select fresh produce, sold individually, and use reusable produce bags like those from Vandoona ($13.95, instead of those thin plastic bags. You can also skip the bag entirely. You're going to wash those fruits and vegetables when you get home anyway. Buy condiments, beverages, and other items in glass versus plastic containers and buy them in the biggest size you can. And instead of buying individually wrapped items, buy the biggest full-size option—looking at you single-serve yogurt and snack-sized chip bags. You can always portion them into reusable to-go containers at home.

How to Reduce Your Plastic Usage While Cooking

The more you cook whole foods the less plastic you'll use in your kitchen, but there are other adjustments to your routine that you can make. When marinating anything or prepping your ingredients, use glass bowls and reusable storage items so you're not wasting single use plastics.

How to Reduce Plastic Use When Storing Food

When you do need to store leftovers or ingredients, it's all about your mindset. It's so easy to throw away a single-use bag or two rather than wash several bowls, but try to get into the habit of using glass or metal storage containers. Cover bowls or containers with reusable silicone covers, like those from Unwasted ($14.99,, or with a beeswax wrap—we like Bee's Wrap ($16,—instead of plastic wrap. Rather than single-use ones, use washable silicone bags—they are available in multiple sizes, as large as 64 oz, from brands including Stasher ($19.99, Eventually, it will become routine and while you might spend more time washing dishes or loading the dishwasher, you'll also end up with less household waste. Plus, many metal and glass storage containers can have dual purposes as mixing bowls or baking pans, helping to reduce kitchen clutter.

Speaking of Kitchen Cleaning

Did you know most typical kitchen sponges are made from a type of plastic called polyurethane which cannot be recycled? Swap your regular kitchen sponge for one made of plant-based materials or other options, such as Swedish dish towels ($7, or recyclable copper scrubbers ($6.50,

Comments (5)

Martha Stewart Member
June 6, 2021
Nearly all of these plastic-replacement items, such as glass and beeswax bags, etc., need to be washed. As a resident of the Mojave Desert, I am probably more aware of the extra water it takes to use these items than most people. Where is the trade-off for water depletion compared to using the items that need to be washed? (I am already aware of using less plastic-- that's not the issue for me. It's that the replacements are critically affecting our water usage. I have seen it in my own household.) We need to focus on the further ramifications of what we are using instead of plastic.
Martha Stewart Member
February 28, 2020
Great article, thank you. We've all accepted plastic for so long it is everywhere. And now we are dutifully putting it in the recylcing bin, but it is mostly not getting recycled. Less than 10%. And plastic production is growing. Important to avoid plastic, but so difficult as it is everywhere! I don't know why it took me decades, but I finally figured that I could ask the dry cleaner for no plastic bag. Just one more small idea.
Martha Stewart Member
February 28, 2020
Our childrens educators should be teaching recycling,and health hazards of plastic in our lives. My wife and I are fanatics about not using plastic 'anything',and recycling everything,many in our family do the same. As Oprah says "one person can make a difference", we all must save the earth.
Martha Stewart Member
February 28, 2020
So instead of plastic we waste water. California is in a drought. Can’t we just recycle the plastic??
Martha Stewart Member
February 28, 2020
Another good option is to recycle all plastic bags from grocery store. I do have several fabric shopping bags. The plastic bags that I do accumulate, I take back to the store recycle bin. At least I prevent plastic bags from my home being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.