By Larraine Roulston:
It’s hard to image a world without plastic, yet this invention did not become wildly popular until after WWII. Due to its light weight, plastic is practical for many applications, including packaging for transportation. The problem, however, is that there is far too much of it. Not only are retail items such as tools, household gadgets and toys encased in plastic for market appeal, but also grocers are now displaying single servings of desserts (for example) inside plastic clamshell containers. Even recycling the stuff has its challenges.
A study entitled “Production, Use and Fate of All Plastics Ever Made” noted that 8,300 million metric tons of virgin plastics have been manufactured to date. It reported that since 2015 the plastic waste generated was approximately 6,300 million metric tons. These researchers estimated that, sadly, only 9% of that amount has been recycled. Incineration accounted for 12%, while the remainder was sent to landfills and/or ended up in our natural environment. It is believed that if we continue our pattern of plastic usage and waste habits, the pieces of plastic in our oceans will outnumber fish by year 2050.
When on the go, test these tips to solve the problem of accumulating unnecessary disposable plastic:
- Lug a Mug: Keep stainless steel mugs in your car for any takeout drinks. If you use public transportation and walk a couple of blocks to work, pack a mug or thermos to capture that morning coffee.
- Containers: If you are one to choose salads, slaws or prepared pastas from a deli, request that your own container be filled. Those who enjoy a takeout bowl of morning porridge or lunchtime soup can use their own lightweight stainless steel container or mason jar with a lid. Give the server an extra thanks for allowing you to fill your own container.
- Avoid Straws: When placing your beverage takeout order, request that it be served without a straw.
- Doggie Bag: Remember to bring your own container to a restaurant in the event that you may wish to take home your unfinished meal.
- The Bakery: If you frequent a local bakery, present your own cookie tin to fill with donuts or squares. Offer cloth bags for bread —bakery store breads are generally not displayed in plastic film.
- Loose Produce: Fill small reusable bags with mushrooms or green beans. Avoid ripping off those small thin plastic bags for large items such as a melon or a few loose yams, onions, apples or oranges.
- Flowers: If your supermarket provides a floral area where you can pick your own arrangements, opt for that over selecting a prepared bouquet with the stiff transparent plastic film wrapping. This applies to visits to a florist, as well.
- Tote Bags: After approximately 25 years, it is commonplace to see many citizens carry their own reusable bags when grocery shopping. Apply this habit to clothing, book, hardware and department stores as well. Acquire cloth bags with separated sections to take to wine and liquor outlets.
To resolve the world’s environmental problems, individual local action is needed. Pass the word so it won’t take another quarter of a century to reach the next level of waste reduction.
Larraine writes children’s adventure stories on composting and pollinating. Visit, www.castlecompost.com