Plastic surrounds us in our everyday lives and eliminating it can seem overwhelming. Most single-use items are not recoverable and cannot be recycled. Plastic garbage that ends up in landfills and Lake Erie takes hundreds or thousands of years to degrade. Plus, there is increased concern about the chemicals and toxins that plastics release into the environment.


Recycling can help reduce the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills, waterways and ecosystems but only a few types of plastics can be recycled in Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio. That's why reducing what you consume or use is a critical part of waste management. It's important to recognize if you don't create waste, you don't have to manage it. 


Consider these easy ways to get started reducing plastic waste.

Reduce Plastic Bags

  • #BYOBags. When you shop, take your own bags to the grocery, retail or convenience store. Canvas, vinyl or cloth are great options. Find a design or color that matches your personality and purchasing habits. See ideas for remembering your reusable bags.
  • Pick up poop. Bread bags, frozen food bags, mail order and used food storage bags are a strong option for picking up after your pooch on your next walk around the neighborhood.
  • Forget the poop bags altogether. Use an unlined handled scooper or shovel to collect the doo then deposit the pile into a backyard dog waste composter.
  • Use reusable produce bags. Purchase mesh bags or make your own reusable cloth bags for fresh fruits and vegetables. Be sure to wash them often.
  • Do you really need that bag? If you're only purchasing one or two items, or taking restaurant leftovers to go, carry the items out of the store or eatery without a plastic bag.
  • Use other bags you may have around the house such as pet food, birdseed and dry cleaning bags as kitchen trash can liners. You may be surprised at the other options that you already have in your household.
  • Consider not lining smaller trash cans in bathrooms and bedrooms at all. Most household trash outside of the kitchen is dry and does not require a liner plus it can be combined into one larger kitchen trash bag each week. If you prefer a liner, try using a paper bag instead.

Reduce Other Plastics

  • Purchase eggs packaged in paper cartons that can be recycled instead of Styrofoam or plastic. If your store doesn't carry them, ask them to make a change.
  • Choose other goods or products packaged in metal, glass, or cardboard instead of plastic. Aluminum and glass are infinitely recyclable without loss in quality. Cardboard is recyclable and biodegradable. 
  • Say no to disposable dryer sheets, a synthetic polyester that is intended to be used once and then thrown away. Instead, try wool dryer balls, a renewable resource.
  • Eliminate bulky plastic laundry jugs by purchasing laundry detergent sheets. The detergent sheets fully dissolve in water and are designed as eco-friendly alternatives to bottle detergents.
  • Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap, shower gel, or body wash. Choose bar soap wrapped in paper or bars that can be purchased in bulk.
  • Try longer wear lenses. Packaging from daily contact lenses generates a lot of excess waste. Using contact lenses that are replaced every 1-3 months, instead of dailies, creates less trash and may save money too.
  • Fill it up. Using your location on an internet browser, search and find a zero-waste store or refill shop near you. Take your reusable containers to the store to purchase soap, shampoo, oils, cleaners, and other products.
  • Skip the straw. Say no to plastic straws, especially at restaurants or when you are on the go. If using a straw is necessary, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.
  • Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
  • Besides reusable coffee mugs, water bottles, and straws, carry your own eating utensils. Try bamboo, a renewable resource.
  • Headed out to eat? Bring a container for the leftovers or takeout to avoid the restaurant's to-go plastic or Styrofoam packaging.
  • Getting take-out from your local restaurant? When you place your order, request that they leave out plastic utensils, napkins, and condiment packets.
  • Nobody likes doing dishes. But, you can eliminate waste by not using plasticware or paper plates and throwaway items at home.
  • Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags instead of in sandwich bags and plastic wrap. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies or bulk items instead of products that come in single-serving cups.
  • Eating at your workplace cafeteria? Bring a plate or container instead of using the disposable ones that they provide.
  • Party time! Most plastic party cups are not recyclable. Instead, choose to serve beverages to your guests in aluminum cups, recyclable cans, or bottles. Or, provide them with a cup that can be washed and reused.
  • Eliminate bottled water. Consider water packaged in boxes, cans, or aluminum bottles. You can also fill a reusable bottle or pitcher with tap water. You'll save money while reducing waste.
  • Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. 
  • If goods packaged in plastic wrap are unavoidable, recycle the plastic film anywhere that plastic bags are accepted for recycling. This includes the wrap on toilet paper and paper towels, bread bags, and cereal bag liners. See

Plastic Free July

During the month of July, join the worldwide effort to reduce plastic waste. Be part of the plastics pollution revolution by making a conscious effort to change your habits and choose to refuse single-use plastics.  See how you can make a difference.

Cuyahoga County's Plastic Bag Ban

Learn more about Cuyahoga County's plastic bag ban.

See a printable PDF on the benefits of choosing reusable bags.

Need help remembering your reusable bags? Request a BYOBags window cling or sticker for your vehicle, house windows, doors or mirrors or read our blog post of tips

See more details about how to recycle right in Cuyahoga County or learn more about the recycling process.

Cuyahoga County's Sustainable Stores Grant Program

New! Grants of up to $5,000 are available to local retailers to support their efforts to eliminate plastic checkout bags. Cuyahoga County has launched the Sustainable Stores Grant Program. Deadline to apply is March 15, 2023. See details at here