Plastic masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) have been washing up on beaches around the world. With the heightened awareness around hygiene and the transmission of COVID-19, there’s been a spike in single-use plastic usage. From grocery stores banning reusable bags to restaurants providing only take-out, there’s just a lot more plastic these days. Luckily, there are some easy ways to help reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away during the pandemic.

1. Use a Reusable Mask

In most public places, face masks are required. Since surgical masks are not recommend, using a cloth face mask is sufficient. If you don’t already have one, you can make one out of a bandana, scarf, or cloth napkin. Or if you want to purchase one, be sure to buy one that is made from a natural fiber, like cotton, hemp, or linen. Synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon are essentially plastic. When we wash our clothes, tiny microfibers shed from the material and get washed out into our ocean. The natural fibers degrade over time, but the synthetic fibers just contribute to the plastic soup in our ocean.

2. Skip the Gloves

Since the probability of transmission of COVID-19 from surfaces is low, skip the disposable gloves if you’re going to the grocery store or running errands. Gloves give people a false sense of security and don’t prevent you from touching your face. If you’re still worried, at least dig out your winter knit or leather gloves and use those instead of disposable ones. And as always, remember to wash your hands! Which leads us to the next tip…

3. Use Bar Soap

Since we’re washing our hands a lot these days, switching from liquid soap to bar soap is a great way to reduce plastic waste during the pandemic. Even better, get naked (or package-free) bar soap when available so you don’t have to recycle the paper box or wrapping!

4. Choose Plastic-Free Takeout

An easy way to choose plastic-free takeout is to support an Ocean Friendly Restaurant. If your local restaurant isn’t Ocean Friendly, choose items like pizza which come in a compostable cardboard box or items that are wrapped in paper or foil like sandwiches and burritos.

5. Skip the Store

Finally, skip the store and see if you can find what you need secondhand (safely). Check out your local “Buy Nothing” group to see if you can get your needed item. Transactions can be made online and people can leave items on their door step to avoid contact. This saves extra packaging from a product you would have purchased at the store!