We constantly reassure ourselves that we are being eco-friendly as long as we recycle the plastic we waste. We ask for plasticware when ordering food, ask for extra bags when going grocery shopping, and buy water bottles to avoid doing the dishes. It is small actions like these that contribute to so much plastic use. Yearly, we waste about 300 million tons of plastic throughout the world (plasticoceans.org). Unfortunately, over 8 million tons of that plastic end up in the ocean (plasticoceans.org).
While recycling tends to be the best option when disposing plastic, not all plastic ends up being recycled. There is also a limit to how many times plastic can be recycled. “In practice, the majority of recycled plastics are only recycled once or twice before being finally disposed of in landfill or incineration” (ourworldindata.org). Even if we try to clear our consciousness through recycling, we are only extending plastic’s lifespan, but it still ends up harming our planet.
When plastic is in landfills, it can take up to 1,000 years until it decomposes (storage.neic.org). Even then, they do not completely decompose and end up continuing to pollute the environment. Also, some do not even recycle or dispose of plastic properly, animals in the oceans suffer the consequences. According to plasticoceans.org, more than 90% of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, and 1 in 3 marine mammal species have been intertwined with plastic waste.
The video below perfectly puts into perspective the amount of plastic we waste as well as the harm it causes our planet.
For many of us, a large portion of the plastic we use is in water bottles. We go somewhere, get thirsty, and buy water in a plastic bottle. At home, we drink from plastic water bottles because we find it easier to just have water accessible without having to dirty any dishes. A simple solution is to replace the plastic water bottles with a reusable bottle one can refill. A one-time investment in this bottle and a water filter is better for the environment than constantly wasting plastic (it can save you money as well). These bottles can be found at stores like Walmart, Target, Marshalls, etc.
Also, taking metal straws with us at restaurants to replace the use of plastic straws is another simple way of reducing our plastic consumption. These can also be found at many different grocery stores, and even small-owned businesses.
The video below gives more ideas to replace plastic in our daily lives.
Another action that can have an immense benefit to the environment is using reusable grocery bags or none at all. In the United States alone, we use about 100 BILLION bags yearly (biologicaldiversity.org). Taking reusable bags during our grocery store trips can significantly reduce our plastic usage. I have noticed that stores like Costco and Aldi do not provide customers with any plastic bags unlike most other large corporations. This is a huge step they are taking to reduce their store’s plastic consumption and encourage their customers to be more eco-friendly.
In addition, certain snacks or products we buy tend to come in plastic containers; at times, this use of plastic can be inevitable. However, we can keep those containers and give them practical uses, like using them for storage.
There are countless articles and YouTube videos to give you ideas. I included a few of my favorites below. If you want more, simply type “ways to reuse plastic” on your search bar.
We must make small changes to our lifestyles because they can have a positive impact in the long run. Together, we can decrease our daily plastic consumption in the name of our planet.