How We Can Reduce Plastic Waste
Chances are, you’ve heard about the importance of recycling. Recyclable plastics, like water or soda bottles, are used in such large quantities that recycling becomes imperative. Globally, nearly one million plastic bottles are being bought every minute – and many never get recycled. In the United States, only 9% of all plastic is recycled (18% globally). Recycling is important, but we have an opportunity to help the environment in a greater way – by reducing our plastic use all together.
Many plastics are not recyclable, so reducing our use of such items is the only way to keep them from negatively impacting our planet. One important way we can help the environment is by avoiding “single-use plastics”. We’re referring to items like the plastic bag holding your sandwich for a few hours before you eat lunch, or those thin plastic bags you put your produce in at the grocery store, often placed in a secondary plastic bag with handles for more convenient carrying. Or plastic stir-straws that you swirl in your coffee for a few seconds before discarding, and the oh-so-convenient but oh-so-terrible-for-the-Earth red plastic disposable cups (typically #6 plastic is not recyclable). According to National Geographic, more than 40% of plastic is used just once, then discarded.
Single-use items are cheap and convenient. But a well-made, reusable product can be just as useful and cost-saving with just a little effort made to create a new system for yourself. Yes, small changes do make a difference over the course of your life. But the bigger impact may be the change in collective mindset when we commit to holding ourselves accountable for the amount of waste we produce. These small habits help create a new normal.
If you want to reduce your personal environmental impact here are a few ideas:
Bring reusable bags
to the store or just carry your purchase if you can! Keep a stock of reusable bags in your car so you always have them. Create the routine and it becomes an easy habit to pick up! Some grocery stores even give you a discount for bringing your own bags.
No straw please.”
More and more restaurants in our area have started asking if you’d like a straw instead of automatically giving you one – a great indicator that reducing our plastic usage is important to our community! Skipping the straw, or bringing your own reusable one, is a habit that can have a big impact. Small plastics like straws are usually not recyclable, and easily blow out of trash cans and into streams and oceans where they may be mistakenly ingested by animals.
Chose to purchase items that are packaged sustainably.
Nearly half of all plastic waste created is used in packaging. Purchasing bulk items or products with little to no plastic packaging supports eco-friendly businesses and tells companies that sustainability is important to their consumers.
Buying in bulk saves money and reduces packaging used. It’s a win-win!
Bring a reusable water bottle/cup
. Avoid the single use bottles and cups by being prepared! Some businesses and coffee shops even give discounts for bringing your own cups.
These actions can easily become habits with a little effort. Be mindful in the social norms we are helping create - make environmental stewardship the new norm!