Plastic pollution is a global problem. Every year, 350 million tons of plastic waste is created and disposed of. 19-23 million tons of that have leaked into and polluted nearly every aquatic ecosystem on earth, including lakes, rivers, and oceans.
Microplastics, extremely small pieces of plastic debris, are found in every ocean and on every continent, including remote islands and in both polar regions, posing a major threat to ecosystems due to their direct and indirect potentials an environmental pollutants. When plastic particles break down into microplastics, they gain new physical and chemical properties, increasing the risk that they will have a toxic effect on organisms. And the larger the number of potentially affected species and ecological functions, the more likely it is that toxic effects will occur. Additionally, micropastics remain in the ecosystem for 100 to 1,000 years. If that isn’t worse than you thought, I don’t know what is.
I could go on and on about the impact of microplastics on virtually every single living system on earth, but my goal is to get everyone to recognize there is an issue, and to start doing something about it. I’m assuming, for the rest of this article, that we all agree that most forms of plastics and our excessive use and disposal of plastics is rapidly becoming a global environmental disaster that needs to be immediately addressed.
It is important to note that less than 10% of plastic waste generated globally has ever been recycled simply because there is too much of it. Waste management experts say that the problem with plastic is that it is expensive to collect and sort. Yet, more and more products switch to plastic packaging each year, adding to the problem with the global plastic packaging market on track to reach $412 billion in value in 2024.
An Environmental Defense Fund report found that almost everything at our grocery stores contains some plastic packaging (71% of items in the produce department were packed in plastics. Do bananas really need to be wrapped in plastic?
The more I hear, learn, and see for myself the effects of microplastic waste on ecosystems, the more I try to avoid buying plastic in the first place. I found this task to be much easier said than done. After having tried to eliminate my plastic use, I discovered it simply cannot be done. Instead of feeling defeated, I merely switched tactics to reducing my plastic use footprint.
The average American uses and throws away 110 pounds, or roughly 50 kilograms, of single-use plastic every year. By following just five of the plastic-reducing tips below, we can reduce 16 lbs. (15%) of plastic waste each year, easily, and with little or no inconvenience. Plus, we will be creating a healthier environment and lifestyle, and we will save money in the process.
Here are some easy and achievable steps I started with to reduce my use of plastics. First and foremost, became more aware of all of the unnecessary plastic packaging.
- I choose items packaged with the least amount of plastic and/or buy in bulk.
- Stopped buying single use plastic drinks. I choose aluminum or glass whenever possible. Aluminum is indefinitely recyclable. More than 75% of aluminum gets recycled.
- I ditched all grocery store plastic bags and use the cloth bags instead. All of my cloth bags I got as schwag for free. Bonus.
- I’m reusing the plastic containers I already have. Ex: refilling spray bottles with natural cleaning recipes.
- I skip the straw. I found it laughable that a paper straw I got the other day came in a plastic wrapper.
There are dozens more, but just start with these five suggestions. If we all start making small changes, over time, we can ween ourselves off of single-use plastic without the withdrawal symptoms. If you are an eco-warrior, please visit https://www.solarponics.com/reduce-plastic-consumption to see more ways to reduce or eliminate your single-use plastic consumption.