5 Easy Ways To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint
When it comes to the use of plastics, we have all contributed to the problem, whether knowingly or not. By working together, we can all be a part of the solution.
Plastic pollution is literally choking our oceans and its inhabitants - nearly 700 species are threatened, including birds, seals, turtles and marine mammals. Tens of thousands die every year from ingesting plastic - particularly plastic bags, which can be mistaken for food such as jellyfish. Once eaten, plastic bags cannot be digested or passed by animals so it accumulates in the gut.
A study published in 2015 estimated that around eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans from land every year.
As if that isn’t frightening enough, the amount of the debris is likely to increase substantially over the next decade because of the popularity of ‘single-use plastics’ -- like straws and water bottles -- which currently accounts for half of all plastic use.
If you think this doesn’t affect you, think again.
A recent study found that a quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic in their guts, mostly in the form of plastic microfibers. While the consequences to human health is not fully known, plastics and the various additives that they contain have been tied to a number of human health concerns, including disruption of the endocrine and reproductive systems, infertility, and a possible link to some cancers.
The numbers are staggering:
- The average person uses between 350-500 plastic bags per year.
- Americans use 1.5 million plastic bottles every hour.
- People with the highest exposure to BPA (a chemical used to manufacture plastic) have an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- 60% of the trash littering our oceans is plastic.
At current rates of pollution by 2050, there will likely be more plastic in the sea than fish.
In honor of Earth Day 2018, I would recommend some behavior changes that will help us all live healthier lives:
1. Stop using free plastic bags!
Bring your own cloth bags to the grocery store.
Between five hundred billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. Bringing your own reusable bag is an easy and inexpensive alternative, so much so that some governments implemented regulations designed to encourage more people to do it. Disposable shopping bags have been banned in a number of cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C.
2. Stop buying bottled water.
Unless there is some kind of contamination crisis, eliminating the use of bottled water is an easy way to cut down on plastic use.
3. When ordering drinks, say "no straw please!"
Whenever possible, replace single-use plastics with reusable versions - 90% of the plastic items in our daily lives are only used only once: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, and coffee-cup lids.
4. Recycle (duh).
It is estimated that only 8 percent of the plastic used in the U.S. Is recycled. If you’re in doubt about what to recycle in your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
5. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing legislation designed to cut back use of disposable plastic bags.
While it may be nearly impossible to completely eliminate plastic from our lives, there are many initiatives being employed around the world which are aimed at reducing plastic consumption. For example, Germans recycle nearly 60% of all plastic used. Compared to a paltry 9% of plastic being recycled worldwide, the Germans are taking the lead in showing us all what can be done.