By Fredrica Syren:
I’m just going to say it: plastic is addictive — or should I say, the convenience of plastic is. We’re all so busy, more busy than we ever have been, and one thing that helps save time is convenience. And plastic fits into that category. I admit that plastic, especially disposable plastic, is easy; and if I did not know what the problem with plastic is, I sure as hell would use disposable plastic in my daily life. I can carry home our groceries (all wrapped in plastic) in plastic bags. Once I unload them, I can throw the bags away. Food will stay fresher because of the plastic wrap; and leftovers can be wrapped in plastic wrap that can then be thrown away instead of taking time to wash it. I buy plastic toys for my kids that will last forever because, well, that’s the beauty of plastic. Yet this is the very same reason plastic is a problem.
Plastic is made to be durable and last forever. And, as a matter of fact, it does. A plastic bag or plastic toy in a landfill — or worse,in nature— will outlive my kids, my grandkids and me. I think most of us know by now that plastic is in our daily routinesand in pretty much everything else, and that it’s damaging for the planet and for humans. As for the rest, I think it boils down to the easiness of thinking that we don’t hurt anyone by using plastic.
Plastic is a problem on so many levels, which I have already covered here. But we are aspecies with the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones. And quitting plastic is a very good way to do that.
Governments and corporations have bigger roles to play, too. Yes, they can take steps towards policy changes like banning plastic and/or taxing plastic. They should push for the development of more compostable and reusable plastic. Corporations should be more transparent regarding the production of plastic, and they should be held responsible for the damage they help create. When it comes down to it, we can make the change and remove plastic from our lives. If everyone removed just one piece of plastic from their daily life, that already would create a huge impact. Imagine then if we did more; what a difference that would make. I truly believe that personal change is worth so much.
Now, having said that, it’s been 4 years since my family decided to get serious about quitting plastic … it turns out to be harder than I first thought. So, yes, we’re not completely there yet; but I would say we’re 85% plastic free. The rest we send to Terracycle to be upcycled.
So here are my tips for going plastic free:
Have a “go bag”—This is simply a plastic free kit that contains items you can take with you in a bag or in the car to reduce the use of plastic. In my bag, I have reusable and plastic free coffee cups; a mason jar for drinks, smoothies or for bringing compost home; metal straws; napkins; shopping bags; produce bags; trash bags; a cutlery set; water bottles; food containers; hair ties; and pens. We made our own kit but you can also buy a kit from Life life without plastic
Take one step at the time and make it part of your daily routine. Once we made the decision to stop using plastic, we changed our plastic things one item at the time, and we looked for substitutions. Some products, like sun block, were easy to replace; some, like school supplies, were trickier.
The best way to stop plastic waste is to STOP BUYING IT.
It’s easy to think that, because we’re recycling, we’re doing our bit. The majority of plastic cannot be recycled — and even if it can be, it still has a very short life and will soon end up in a landfill.
Here are some interesting facts about plastic from Green Peace :
- About 8.3 billionmetric tonsof plastic have been produced since the 1950s — the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales.
- Only about 9% of this plastic has been recycled: 12% has been burned, and the remaining 79% has ended up in landfills or the environment.
- Up to 12.7 million metric tonsof plastic enters the oceans every year.
- The equivalent of a truckload of plastic enters the oceans every minute.
- There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans — enough to circle Earth over 400 times.
- Countries like Canada, the U.S. and the UK export plastic waste to various countries in Asia and Africa, therebyoffloading their trash problem to other communities.
Despite plastic bans, 150 billion bags are being utilized in the U.S. alone each year. Just one person’s cutting down and bringing their own reusable bag couldmake a difference.
Plastic pollution costs taxpayers lots of money. For example, the city of Long Beach spends $2 million a year cleaning up plastic debris from its beaches.