I recently wrote an article about how pro surfer Kelly Slater is doing some fantastic work helping to clean up our oceans by recycling millions of tons of discarded fishing nets and turning them into clothes. He mentions in the article how all manner of plastics are finding there way into our oceans and killing marine life.
Admittedly the majority of us can’t go out and start a recycling business but all of us can help in the reduction of our use of plastics. Plastics of all kinds have become such a huge part of our lives that most of us don’t even think about it anymore. From the one use grocery bags to every single item we buy that is wrapped or contained inside of plastic.
It really has become a worldwide problem. It was looked on as a great invention when introduced and it really has changed how we live but at what expense?
I’m sure most of us recycle in our towns by separating plastics from paper etc but only a few types of plastics can be recycled by most municipal governments. And the small fraction that does get recycled still requires a lot of energy and water which just is not a good thing, kind of like robbing from Paul to pay Peter.
The plastics that can’t be recycled ends up in landfills and oceans and takes hundreds of years to degrade not to mention the toxins they release into the environment.
In the end the best way to stem the flow of plastics into our environment is for each and every one of us to start being conscious of what we are buying and what it is being packaged in and if there is an alternative.
Here are just a few ideas to start with but what we’re really looking for is feedback with your ideas of how to eliminate as much plastic from our lives as we can. Imagine if every person on the face of this planet followed these and other ideas about limiting the use of plastics in their lives what a positive effect it would be on our fragile environment!
A good example is the town where we are located, Northampton, Mass recently passed a ban on single use plastic shopping bags, you now have to use paper.
1. Bring Your Own Shopping Bag
Yes, the lowly plastic shopping bag. We’ve come to the point of not even thinking about these items but they are really one use items and end up in the waste stream. According to one estimate somewhere between five billion and one trillion bags are used each year around the world. That’s a lot of trash for an item that can easily be eliminated simply by bringing your own bag. I believe most us are just to plain lazy to do this but when you think about it it’s very easy. It’s just a matter of taking some time to figure out how many bags you would need and buy them once. Every grocery store I go to have these bags for sale so it’s not like you have to go looking for them.
2. Stop Buying Bottled Water!
This really is a no brainer. We have all been brainwashed into thinking that we need to buy the “pure spring water” they are selling us in bottles. It’s complete BS, in my opinion. Where do you think they are getting all the millions and millions of gallons of water that are in those bottles? From our aquifers of course. If you have a well it’s the same water you get from your tap. If you have city water I’ll bet it’s just as good as the bottled water. The real problem is the bottles, what does get recycled cost us a lot and what is not recycled, you got it, it ends up in the never ending waste stream. How about you just buy a bottle and keep it filled with water, problem solved.
3. Bring Your Own Thermos to the Coffee Shop
Did you know that most coffee cups you get to go are usually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin. Yes the outside feels like paper but if it was all paper your coffee sure would not stay in the cup. So in theory you can recycle plastics and paper but when you put them together like this most places lack the infrastructure to do so. Oh and don’t forget the lids and stirrers, both made of plastic and the coffee vendors that still use polystyrene foam cups. By bringing your own coffee mug to get filled you can avoid adding all of these waste products to our environment.
4. Choose Cardboard Packaging Where Ever You Can
When you are shopping there will be many times that you actually have a choice of buying a product that is packaged in a paper product instead of plastic. I’ll admit this is sometimes impossible but at least give it a shot. Paper is very easy to recycle and if it does end up in the landfill it degrades very rapidly compared to plastics.
5. Drinking Straws
These innocent looking products are completely useless and unnecessary but have become such a mainstay of our everyday lives that we don’t even think about them. These are single use items that always end up in the trash and never in my opinion are recycled. You don’t need a straw to drink your beverage so be proactive and tell your server that you don’t need one.
6. Microplastics In Facial Products
This is one I was completely unaware of. Much of the plastics that end up in our oceans and are inadvertently consumed by marine life are called microplastics. Microplastics are commonly added to consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. These tiny beads are intended to exfoliate which they are great at accomplishing but most wastewater treatment facilities are not able to remove them from the water. There are many biodegradable alternative products that can replace the ones you now use, just avoid the ones that have “polypropylene” or “Polyethylene” on the ingredients list.
7. Ditch That Disposable Razor
I never really understood the need for a disposable razor but I guess it’s just another way for the manufactures to sell more product. It just make more sense to buy a razor that takes disposable blades once and then only have to buy the blades. By doing this you are reducing the amount of plastic you are contributing to the waste stream dramatically. All disposable razors are mostly made of plastics.
8. Switch From Disposable Diapers to Cloth
I can just hear the wails from this one. Yes disposable diapers are easy to use, they don’t need to be cleaned and save so much time. They also are contributing an immense amount of waste into our environment and as far as I know there is no process that is available to recycle them. I don’t have scientific numbers to back this up but if you think of all the baby’s in the world and that most of them are using disposable diapers there must be million of tons of these ending up in our landfill every year. The disposable diaper was invented in 1948, unveiled in 1961 by Procter & Gamble and by 1970 American babies went through 350,000 tons of diapers!
9. Plastic Storage Bags
These little bags are great for so many things, from putting our lunch sandwiches in to freezing food in. One really easy way to reduce your use of plastic is to reuse these items. Unless you have stored a meat of some kind in them they can be washed and reused many times over.
10. Cutting Down or Eliminating Period Waste
Believe it or not there are a number of non-disposable products out there that can cut down on period waste like the Diva Cup, the Ruby Cup and the DIY-with-pride Reusable Pads. Using any of these products will reduce incredible amounts of plastic packaging that most pads and tampons are encased in.If you need a little more encouragement to switch Treehugger has an interesting article about Ruby Cup helping African schoolgirls who can’t afford disposable products get much needed supplies by what they call their “Buy one, Give one” program. If for some reason you are not in a position to give up tampons, consider skipping brands with plastic applicators.
So there’s 10 idea’s. Now it’s your turn. Let the rest of us know what you do to stem the flow of plastics into our enviroment.