The Plastic Problem

According to The Wall Street Journal, the U.S. consumes around 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually, and globally, around 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are used every year. In fact, four out of five grocery bags in the U.S. are plastic, but a person only uses a plastic bag for around 12 minutes before being discarded or stored.

The environmental costs of plastic remains at an all-time high. Since only five percent of plastics are effectively recycled, that means the remaining 95 percent are left all over the planet.

Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and it will take over 1,000 years to break them down into smaller particles which continue to permeate the soil and water. They are extremely dangerous to birds and marine life who often mistake them for food. Sea turtles often mistake floating plastic bags for their favorite prey, jellyfish.

When we consume our favorite seafood, we have no idea whether or not they are inundated with microplastics. There are city beaches throughout the world which are now covered in plastic garbage swept in from all parts of the globe. There are floating plastic islands. This needs to stop.

Reducing Plastic In Your Daily Life

There was a time when scientists believed plastic would bring us major benefits – and it did with medical supplies and hygiene. The issue is with disposable plastics – those thrown out within a year of production. This is a problem we must tackle head on, and you can start by reducing your plastic consumption when shopping. These switches are simple enough to implement immediately in your daily life:

1. Avoid using straws

Do you really need a straw? Probably not. When eating out, inform your server that you don’t need one. Tell your drive-through helper the same way. If you must use a straw, try a reusable stainless steel or glass drinking straw. When a restaurant has seen that you have brought your own, they are less likely to bring you a plastic one. Think of how much plastic can be reduced if everyone gave up drinking out of plastic straws. And, don’t buy plastic straws either.

2. Use reusable produce bags

Since around 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, you really need to start using reusable bags when shopping. Purchase large and sturdy reusable bags to help reduce plastic landfills. The best types to choose are cotton bags, as nylon and polyester are also made from plastic. You can take your bags wherever you go shopping, be it grocery or clothing shopping.

3. Frequent stores that use paper

If you’re an avid shopper, you’ll start to notice stores which use paper over plastic. Spend your money at these types of stores and spread the word among your family and friends. The more business they have, the more other companies will start to take notice and emulate their tactics. The good news is there are an increasing number of retailers who are switching from plastic to paper and/or allowing you to use your own cotton shopping bag.

4. Buy in bulk

Much of the world’s plastic waste comes from the kitchen. One of the best ways for a plastic reduction is to stock up on bulk foods. Instead of storing them in disposable plastic containers, use shopping jars and glass containers. Even cardboard works for snacks such as sweet potato chips and nuts. Bring your containers with you when shopping so that you don’t have to use the plastic bags out of convenience.

5. Stop buying bottled water

Since you can buy your own water filtration system, there is no need to buy bottled water. It’s just a waste of plastic. Plus, this is one of the easiest targets for reducing waste. And, for water on the go, keep a refillable bottle around.

6. Stop chewing gum

The first gums were made from tree sap called chicle, which is a natural rubber. Then, scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate to replace the natural rubber in most gums. So, today, you are most likely chewing on toxic plastic. Polyvinyl acetate is made using vinyl acetate, which is a chemical shown to cause tumors in lab rats.

7. Buy cardboard over plastic

Look for items in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bottles. This includes laundry detergent and dish soap. Pick pasta in a box instead of a plastic bag. Look for companies who source their cardboard sustainably.

Wouldn’t you agree that these are easy tips? Start practicing plastic reduction and elimination today. The earth’s future is depending you.