You’re on a beautiful beach in Hawaii with the sea breeze blowing through your hair and salt on your skin. You feel the warm sand surround you as the surf of the water brushes up against your feet. Stunning, right? Now imagine that beautiful beach but covered in MOUNDS of plastic trash. You can’t even get close to the water since there is no room to step on the sand without getting your foot stuck in mangled trash. We all love a gorgeous postcard of paradise, but what if this becomes a picture in the history books that the upcoming generations look at? They will ogle at a world not filled with trash and debris, some may not even believe life was once so pure and organic. This is the future reality that the earth faces if humans continue to rely on single-use plastic.
You may be asking yourself, “Okay, why does single-use plastic pollution impact me?” Or “I only use a small amount of single-use plastic and only when its necessary. I recycle too, I do my part.” The truth is if everyone thought this way, the world would be in big trouble. It is easy to become complacent when we do not see something that directly affects us. Plastic takes years to break down. One reusable grocery bag has the lifespan of 700 plastic bags. A plastic straw takes over 200 years to break down and it never fully breaks down. Single-use plastic “breaks down” into microplastic beads that infuse the ocean and marine life. If you think that is crazy, just listen to this: humans buy about 1 million plastic bottles per minute, and of those 1 million bottles, only 23% of them are recycled. Americans alone purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S.! Simply by using a reusable water bottle, this problem can become less significant in the landfills.
Single-use plastic makes up the majority of waste in the world. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This rate of dumping is expected to quadruple in 2050. Now, I know it may seem like the solution is to put all your plastics in a landfill and recycle. However, even when plastic is disposed of properly it leaks harmful pollutants into the water supply & large quantities can be carried away by the wind. This contaminates our soil and water which can pollute animal tissue, human tissue, and plant growth. The best solution? Reduce your output into the environment by resisting single-use plastics and only support companies that are cognizant of their plastic consumption and striving to change their habits! Even if one makes a small effort to bring reusable items (forks, cups, straws) out with them while dining, it makes a large difference.
Some easy swaps?
•Buy fresh produce and other items without plastic packaging.
•When you go to the grocery store/farmer’s market, simply bring your own reusable bag. This bag can literally be made of anything, and we have created our own reusable bags from old upcycled t-shirts!
•When going out for coffee or lunch with friends, bring a coffee reusable mug and reusable silverware.
•When you’re out eating, make sure to tell the restaurant workers that you would not like any plastic straws or to go containers. Instead, you can simply bring your own reusable straws and bring a glass container/Tupperware to take home your leftovers.
•Bring your own bowl for açaí bowls!
•Buy your spices and dry products in bulk using mason jars/cotton bags.
Humans are just starting to understand the traumatic impact of plastic. As a whole, we need to stop living this inorganic and wasteful lives. We negatively affecting the environments of many plants and animals, as well as our own. Let’s transition from the mindset of “what will one plastic bag do?” to “I am making a change because I know how I can change the world by decreasing my plastic consumption.” Be bold and go plastic free. You can do it, and we are here to help you! Check out our 5 Easy Zero-Waste Swaps post for more tips!
Post by Carly Bergman and Julia Reggio, Sustainable Duo intern.