With so many of us used to the convenience of plastic, did you know that humans have now produced more in the last 10 years than we did in the whole of last century? Unfortunately, the inexpensiveness and durability of plastic means companies are producing, and we are consuming, more and more.
The problem is that the chemical structure of most plastics is resistant to natural processes of degradation. This means that plastic can take anywhere from 50 to 1000 years to break down. Together, the high supply of plastic and its life expectancy pose a very real threat to our environment. Our overuse of plastic is causing alarming amounts of pollution worldwide.
In Australia alone, 10 million plastic bags are used a day. Even the biodegradable ones aren’t good for the environment, as some may claim. They instead break down to tiny pieces, then spend many lifetimes floating in the ocean.
Plastic is harmful to wildlife, wildlife habitats and humans. You can see the adverse effects especially on marine life, being entangled and suffocated by it. So many sea turtles, whales and birds’ have suffered from , eventually leading to death.
Humans are not out of harm’s way either. Due to the chemicals used in production, some plastics have been found to be carcinogenic, or promote hormone disruption when exposed to humans via their nose, skin, or mouth.
Only through raising awareness, clean-up drives and personally taking steps to reduce plastic consumption and prevent plastic pollution, will we solve this global issue and preserve the environment for our children and future generations.
You don’t have to make any grand gestures. Even small changes, done consistently, add up.
7 Essential Ways to Eliminate Plastic
1. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle and Coffee Cup
To start, ditch disposable plastic water bottles and coffee cups for drinking on the go, and carry your own reusable containers.
Around the world we buy approximately 1 million water bottles every minute (thats 20,000 per second!). And we simply throw away 1 billion disposable coffee cups after use. By carrying your own bottle and cup, you will minimize the waste you produce when you’re out and about.
It’s no longer hard to find them any more either. There are plenty of options to choose from at shops these days.
2. Say No to Plastic Straws and Disposable Cutlery
Plastic straws are an unnecessary use of plastic and disposable cutlery is not even sturdy! Opt for a straw-less drink or if you prefer to use straws, consider a re-useable one. There are now metal, bamboo and glass straws available. These work just as well as any plastic straw and are easily washed with a bendable brush that comes with each one.
In addition, if you get food on the run regularly, use your own cutlery too. You can just leave it in your desk drawer for lunch-time. Or be like the man who buys his lunch at one of my local eateries. He brings his own plate to take back to his desk!
3. DIY Condiments
Peanut butter, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard — they are both easy to make and healthier for you. It is also less expensive to make your own to store in glass containers than spend money buying condiments in plastic that goes straight to landfill after use.
4. Use Matches Instead of Disposable Lighters
Buying matches as an alternative to lighters — they serve the same purpose, but the matches are more degradable. It’s not difficult to light a match and they’re inexpensive as well.
5. Shop with Reusable Shopping or Canvas Bags
Plastic bags, especially those you get from grocery stores, are only used for an average of 12 minutes. But they take up to 600 years to degrade. And in Australia we use nearly 4 million a year – that’s an average of 175 each! Try reusable bags made of sustainable materials such as jute, calico or canvas instead. If these are too bulky to carry around, consider string or mesh bags instead which take up less room. All are sturdier, last longer and are much better for the environment.
Beware the reusable non-woven shopping bags sold at the big supermarkets in Australia. Typically made from recycled polypropylene, these bags also degrade into tiny plastic pollutants that contaminate our waterways.
6. Re-evaluate Your Personal Care Products
Soaps, cosmetics and many other common personal care products contain polyethylene, which is, in fact, plastic. Consider replacing your products with more natural alternatives instead. They are better for both your body and for the environment, which makes them cheaper in the long run.
7. Buy Drinks in Glass
If you can find it, try to buy your drinks packed in glass bottles. Glass helps preserve the temperature longer and you don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your drink. Plus, the bottles are reusable and recyclable. Alternatively, consider drinks packaged in cardboard cartons, over plastic.
No-one can deny plastic has been useful in the past decades. However, we are now facing the truth that with the overuse of plastics, especially single use plastics, its disadvantages far outweigh the advantages.
It is time to re-evaluate our lifestyles in order to preserve the health of our families and our environment. Consider eliminating plastic from your life in some of the above ways. Small, simple gestures go a long way.