How Much Single-Use Plastic is in Your Life?
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By Peter Speckner, Communications Coordinator
Do you know what single-use plastics are? Well, I’ll admit, it’s not a concept I ever thought about. I’m not even sure I knew what it was the first time it was mentioned to me. Having researched it a little, I now realize that I knew the whole time what it meant, I just never thought about things in that way. So let’s think about things in that way now.
Single-use plastics are everywhere
Single-use plastics are plastic objects that are used for one purpose only, and then are thrown out or recycled. They cover everything from bottles for water or pop, bags for milk or shopping, or the wrapping on foods or toys.
Although many examples of single-use plastic are recyclable, too many people are buying products that have single-use plastics (which includes a lot of them), and then throwing them in the garbage. Actually, finding them in the garbage would be better than the unfortunate circumstances that some people often discover – plastic bags and rings lying around everywhere, harming nature and the animals that come in contact with them.
Single-use plastics are not environmentally friendly
If you’ve ever taken a walk around your neighbourhood recently, you’ve probably seen items of single-use plastic lying around. Everywhere. Plastic shopping bags blowing in the wind. Plastic bottles by the curb. There is so much plastic everywhere, it makes you wonder if it could be damaging the environment. Well, you guessed it. It is.
Here are some scary facts about single-use plastics:
- The average family takes home almost 1,500 plastic shopping bags each year.
- Up to 80% of the plastic in the ocean entered the ocean from land.
- It takes more than 500 years for a plastic bag to degrade in landfill.
For more facts on single-use plastic bags, check this site out.
What can you do to lessen your plastic footprint?
Do you remember learning the “3 R’s”? Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Well, society seems to have become focused on the 3rd one, Recycle, much to the detriment of the first two. Recycling is great, but it represents only one link in the circle. We still need to Reduce and Reuse as well.
Reusing can be fairly easy to follow:
- Use reusable drinking containers instead of single-use (glass bottles and thermos instead of plastic bottles and drinking boxes).
- Bring your own storage containers to restaurants instead of taking home your leftovers in Styrofoam.
- Avoid plastic shopping bags by bringing your own reusable bags.
The hard one to do is Reduce. So much of the stuff we need, use or want is wrapped/covered/packaged in single-use plastic that it’s nearly impossible to find stuff that doesn’t have any. So, to help you out, here are some example suggestions to get your mind thinking about the problem:
- Buy your food from a Farmer’s Market – there’s less packaging AND you get to help out your local economy.
- If you want to be tech savvy AND environmentally-friendly, go digital! No more CD’s, DVD’s, or the cases they come in.
For those that really want a challenge, you can change to natural/reusable alternatives for things you use every day. This website has a tried, tested and true list of alternatives.
There is no shortage of advice on how to use less plastic in your life; doing a quick internet search will bring up hundreds of sites with good advice. Since this post is about the problems of single-use plastic and how to lessen its impact, here are two more sites; My Plastic Free Life and The Problem with Plastics, with some good advice. Some of them might seem a bit hard-core for your own tastes. That’s ok. Just follow the ones you can comfortably incorporate into your own lifestyle.
Single-use plastics will probably not be going away any time soon. They’re cheap, sturdy, and often used to protect a product or food. That doesn’t mean we have to roll over and accept them everywhere. If we take the time to slowly phase single-use plastics out of certain aspects of our lives, the industries will notice, and maybe they’ll start to use less. It won’t be easy, but then as the saying goes, “Everything that’s good to do isn’t easy. If it was easy, everyone would already be doing it.”
Good luck, because the planet is depending on you.
Photo Credit: Devin Bettencourt