The Plastic Problem – 7 ways you can help
I guess by now you have heard about the global problem we have with plastic; you’ve probably seen people carrying reusable coffee cups and straws and you may even know that plastic doesn’t biodegrade, but did you know the problem is much bigger than that?
Plastic literally lasts forever so it is true that it doesn’t biodegrade and only breaks into small pieces, but did you also know…
- Plastic is made from non-renewable fossil fuels taken from the earth. They are a finite resource and will eventually disappear forever.
- The production of plastic creates a lot of pollution, both to our air and waterways.
- Plastic is not endlessly recyclable so, inevitably, it will end up in landfill and stay there forever.
- Chemicals in plastic can leach into your food and drinks.
- Plastics are polluting our oceans, rivers and beaches.
- Ocean plastic is being ingested by fish, birds and animals so they eventually die of starvation or suffocation. There is so much plastic in the ocean that mother birds are feeding it to their babies thinking it is food!
- Perhaps a little scarier, on a personal level, is that humans are now eating plastic in their food and these plastics release chemicals inside your body!
- Only a small percentage of plastic is recycled, so buying single-use plastic and then making sure you put it in the recycling bin isn’t the answer.
- Plastic has created a huge financial problem – how much would it actually cost to fix the recycling system, clean up the planet and invest in greener alternatives?
So those are the scary headlines on plastic, but I hear you asking, what can I do? Can I make a difference?
There are some simple things you can do to reduce your personal contribution to the plastic problem. I know it may seem insurmountable, but I truly believe that if consumers change the way they shop and vote with their dollar, big companies will follow suit (and some already have!). I regularly see updates from companies who have made huge commitments to the environment at their own expense – even Coca Cola have gone for recycled plastic bottles and cardboard packaging!
So here are a few things you can do right now to help:
- Avoid using virgin plastic as much as possible. If you need to buy products in plastic (I mean, who doesn’t?), opt for products packaged in recycled plastic. Once you start reading labels, you’ll soon know which ones are the best choice.
- Go crazy for reusables! Make sure you have reusable containers, bottles, coffee cups, bags etc. at home, in the office, and in your car so you have no excuse to EVER buy a takeaway coffee cup or water bottle again. Start experimenting with taking containers to your local shops and getting people used to the idea of filling them up.
- Recycle every piece of plastic you can. Collect soft plastics and take them back to Redcycle bins (in Australia) and use your home recycling bin for ‘hard’ plastics. Learn how to sort your recycling in your local area so you aren’t sending things to landfill unnecessarily.
- Buy plant-based ‘plastics’ rather than plastic. It biodegrades and works just as well. Check these out as an example.
- Avoid unnatural fibres when buying clothes – polyester is essentially plastic and will become microplastic when it breaks down. Oh, and they shed microplastics in the washing machine that go into the waterways.
- Make some switches – beeswax wraps rather than cling film, reusable cloth nappies rather than disposable, menstrual cups or reusable period underwear instead of disposable tampons and pads, shampoo bars and bar soap to avoid plastic bottles, reusable razors, plant-based dish scrubbers, use natural DIY beauty products without microplastic beads, shop in bulk stores with your own containers to avoid plastic packaging.
- If you have time, get involved in beach and park clean-ups in your local area, but if you can’t fit it in, try and pick up a couple of pieces of rubbish when you are out and about. I find a zillion pieces outside my kid’s school every day.
These 7 tips are a great way to get started on reducing your plastic usage, but there are loads more ways you can help if you put your thinking caps on. I’d love to hear from you with any tips!