You want to make your life and the world better. Do both by reducing your plastic footprint! Here are some tips (just in time for Lent) about refusing single-use, disposable plastic.
What do I do?
Reduce how much plastic you buy and throw away. Find reusable, recyclable, compostable alternatives to plastic and Styrofoam. (Want to make it official? Take Plastic Pollution Coalition’s pledge.)
Why refuse plastic?
Pollution: In all production stages, plastics produce chemicals we end up breathing and eating. Single-use plastics (e.g. bags, straws) become plastic pollution.
Energy: Plastics are made from oil and require energy to produce. Let’s use our resources more wisely; it doesn’t make sense to create something permanent for a temporary use.
Health: All water (and trash) rolls downhill… and much of our trash ends up downstream. If you eat seafood, you ingest chemicals leached from plastic.
At best, we’re not sure how plastic affects human health. At worst, we’re poisoning ourselves. Diminishing the plastic waste stream can only be a good thing for our health and the planet’s.
What about recycling?
Recycling isn’t bad, but it gives a false sense of security.
- Most plastic isn’t recycled or recyclable. It ends up in the landfill, taking up precious space.
- Most “recycled” plastic is actually down-cycled. Bottles aren’t turned into more bottles; they become something of lesser quality that will be thrown away shortly. That’s not a continuous cycle; it’s just one added step before the landfill (or the plastic gyres in the oceans).
- Recycling saves energy, but produces pollution. Recycling isn’t as straight-forward as you think.
Can I make a difference?
Every thing you do makes a difference, especially setting an example. What if, through your example and others, American’s decided to go just one day without buying plastic water bottles? That would save 576 million bottles!!! (Americans throw away 2 million plastic water bottles EVERY 5 MINUTES).
How about inspiring people to use reusable bottles? Millions of bottles could quickly become billions of bottles saved. That’s a lot of plastic and oil saved, and a lot of trash that wouldn’t end up in our streets, our drinking water, and our food chain. Change starts with you, and continues because you set an example.
But plastic is everywhere!!!
If you’re overwhelmed by how much plastic you use, pick one item you regularly purchase and find an alternative. Change one habit a week, and by the end of a month you’ll significantly reduce your plastic consumption and start great habits.
Don’t throw out perfectly functioning plastic items. If you’ve already bought it, use it till it can’t be used any more, then recycle/repurpose it, then buy or create a non-plastic alternative.