Pollution, climate change and environmental damage have become important concerns in our everyday lives. More and more of us are becoming increasingly aware of our impact on the planet we live on. However, there is a product that provides everyday convenience, but causes great environmental problems: plastic. Plastics, or disposable plastics (as the name suggests), are only used once before they are thrown away. Some examples are straws, plastic bags, water bottles, coffee cups, drink stirrers, and food or fruit packaging. These single-use plastics infiltrate our everyday lives and we now consider them normal and convenient. We should start breaking up with our plastic addiction as the demand for these harmful products is causing a global, environmental problem.
Why Should We Break Up with Plastic Addiction?
Plastic has only been in mass production for around 70 years and it is created from fossil fuels. While fossil fuels take millions of years to form, we use plastics in a matter of minutes before they are thrown away. This is a problem because our demand for plastics is at a much greater rate than fossil fuels are able form.
Next, once plastics are disposed of, they end up in landfills where they will not fully degrade. For instance, plastic bottles take about 450 years to decompose. Even then, they break down into tiny particles and release toxic chemicals which make their way into food chains, the water supply, and nature. Keeping this in mind help us understand the implications of our plastic use and the impact it has on us and the planet we live in.
How Should We Break Up with Plastic Addiction?
With an enormous amount of plastic available to us, it can be difficult to see where or how we can begin to change and reduce our impact. The first step is to make permanent changes. It is key to incorporate a sustainable mindset into your new lifestyle, as it will help you make more sustainable choices such as opting for reusable and more durable products.
There are many ways to reduce your and your family’s dependency on plastic. Here are a few ways to do so:
Bring your own grocery bags, and not just to the grocery store
While many grocery stores have banned plastic bags, other stores have not. Department stores and malls still bag up your purchases in plastic bags. Whenever you go out for shopping, make sure you have your reusable bag in hand. Each reusable bag you carry can eliminate over 1,000 plastic bags in its lifetime. When you carry a reusable bag, you will never need a plastic bag.
No more plastic bottles
Invest in a reusable bottle you can take anywhere. A stainless steel water bottle and a coffee mug for hot and cold drinks will work great. They come in small sizes for children, all the way up to large travel sizes.
Say no to straws
Say “no thanks” to plastic straws offered by food establishments when ordering your drink. But what if you want a straw when you are at home or when you are out? For some people, particularly those with disabilities, straws are essential. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of reusable alternatives to plastic straws including bamboo, and stainless steel.
Replace your Ziplocs with reusable bags/containers
Ziploc bags are a go-to when it comes to storing food or leftover meals. These flexible bags are durable, versatile and easy to use. They are also very convenient for storing away small items around the house or using as travel bags. However, producers make Ziploc bags from single-use plastic, which is harmful to the environment and marine animals. Plastics also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, helping accelerate climate change. The good news is there are good eco-friendly alternatives to Ziploc bags that are ideal for food storage.
Eat fresh foods, avoid processed & packaged foods
Another way to greatly reduce your waste and plastic addiction is to eat fresh food. Not only are you reducing waste, but you are also eating healthier; it is a win-win for you and your family! Natural foods do not usually require excess packaging and fresh grains, fruits and vegetables use little to no plastic packaging.
Be a ‘Rs’ Practitioner
When you throw items away, there is no “away”. It is time to rethink our use of plastic. It is important to acknowledge that many plastics are not recyclable. And when they are recyclable, they can typically only be recycled 2-3 times. In short, once plastic enters the system, it never disappears. So the best option is to follow one of the many “R” principles that are out there to help us curb our plastic usage.
Within the waste hierarchy, there are six agreed-upon principles of sustainability: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, and recycle:
- Rethink: Do you really need it? This is the question you should be asking yourself according to this principle of sustainability. It implores one to question and understand their consumption habits and their impact on the environment. If a person realizes that natural resources are limited, they are more likely to rethink their everyday choices.
- Refuse: Refrain from buying stuff you do not need. There can be many considerations when buying a new product: the quality, the packaging, the company’s ethics, etc. Basically, refuse to pay money for something that would end up generating more waste.
- Reduce: Reduce the amount of stuff you no longer need, and actively make decisions that reduce waste. The idea is: consume less, waste less.
- Reuse: Before throwing away something, try and see if you can reuse or repurpose it in another way. Instead of buying a replacement, reinvent it and find an alternative use. You are paying for the product and the packaging so make use of both.
- Repair: Before you recycle, stop and think. Can you fix it? Expand the shelf life of your possessions by making the most out of whatever you buy and possess, and only pass it on when there is nothing left to do with it.
- Recycle: If you really cannot reuse something, recycle it. By separating your waste, you help it reach the appropriate treatment centers. The raw materials in each product can be reclaimed and reused to make another product, which means you are not using any new reserves of the natural resources and are contributing to sustainable development.
No More Plastic
Our plastic addiction is rooted on the convenience and accessibility it provides. Yet beyond that, plastic has huge implications on our well-being and the planet’s. By switching to a more sustainable mindset and progressively making daily choices and changes, you can break free of your plastic addiction and contribute to a better planet.