In recent months, it’s become painfully clear that as a species, we use and throw out WAY too much plastic! It’s easy to see why: plastic in all of its forms is a convenient way to transport, attach, contain, protect and build all manner of things. A by-product of petroleum, it’s one of the most widely used materials in the modern world… But it’s also choking our oceans and disrupting the global food chain.
Researchers estimate that half of all plastic is used only once, and then discarded. Think of your typical grocery run: even if you bring a reusable bag, many of the items you buy are packaged in plastic: from bags for fruits & vegetables to juice bottles to meat wrappers, it seems that everything we buy has at least SOME plastic in it. Much of that ends up in landfills or worse, in nature.
Recently, Montreal banned single-use plastic bags; it’s a good start, but the problem is much more widespread. Here are a few more areas in which we could improve our world and the world we leave our children by reducing the production and consumption of plastic.
Straws & Lids
Among the most commonly-used plastic items are the straws and lids sold with drinks at fast food restaurants and cafés. Along with their disposable cups (often the unrecyclable Styrofoam variety), these are some of the worst plastics to pollute nature. They tend to break into smaller pieces quickly and be eaten inadvertently by animals, or otherwise get stuck in their systems. This leads to disease, death and widespread pollution in nature.
It seems like EVERYTHING is packaged with at least some plastic: toys, food, even plastic bottles are packaged in plastic wrap! In most cases, thin plastic wrap is designed to be used just once, and then discarded. Typical grocery stores sell things that are mostly wrapped in plastic!
And water bottles are also super wasteful, especially since tap water is perfectly safe to drink in most North American cities…
Single-use plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg. Thankfully, some garbage-free grocery stores are popping up, but we’re still a long way away from seeing widespread adoption of a trash-free lifestyle…
Cups & Utensils
Single-use plastic cups, utensils, plates and other eating implements are one of the biggest sources of wasted plastic! Typically used just once, they could easily be replaced by metal or biodegradable alternative (wood for example).
To reduce your dependency on single-use plastic utensils, consider keeping metal utensils at work!
Commonly used in cosmetics and body care products, either as glitter or small exfoliating beads, microplastics are arguably the worst form of plastic pollution, even though they don’t represent the biggest volume of plastic. That’s because they get eaten by living creatures big and small, and end up contaminating the food chain with chemicals such as BPA.
Doing Your Part
These forms of plastic pollution, among others, can be prevented! Already, cities are banning single-use plastic bags and businesses (for example, McDonald’s U.K.) are beginning to phase out straws. It’s not yet enough to correct the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction! There are also a few super easy steps you can take as a citizen and as a consumer to reduce your personal plastic footprint!