Did you know that only five percent of the world’s plastics are actually recycled?
Yeah, it’s really true, and it’s scary. That means almost every single plastic bottle you’ve ever used probably still exists somewhere on this planet. Every single toothbrush you’ve ever used also still exists on this planet. Oh, and every plastic straw as well. Even if you do your best to recycle all of your plastics, there’s still a huge worldwide crisis right underneath our noses.
According to KQED, it’s estimated that over 300 million tons of plastic will be produced worldwide this year. That’s enough plastic to circle the earth a total of four times. Of that 300, 8 million tons of plastic will find its way into the ocean every year. In case you need a visual, that’s equivalent to 200,000 eighteen-wheeler trucks. Or 4 million elephants. Imagine that vast amount of weight all being dumped into landfills (or worse, the ocean) and just sitting there for years and years.
To bring it closer to home, did you know that in the Los Angeles area, at least ten tons of plastic fragments are dumped into the Pacific Ocean every day? Right now, 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces are covered in plastic.
Plastic doesn’t just go away, it sticks around for a very long time. The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services says it will take a plastic beverage bottle 450 years to decompose and 10-20 years for a plastic bag. #RefuseTheStraw, a movement all over the Internet, says it takes 200 years for a straw to break down. That’s a lot of years given that an average American will use at least two plastic straws every day.
As I’ve been going about this plastic-free journey, I am learning about how hard it really is to live without plastic. As you can see above, plastic is inevitable in our daily lives, and it’s very hard to make the switch. My current struggle is having to somehow give up Greek yogurt and regular peanut butter since those don’t just come in jars. Now I’m required to make my yogurt and buy natural peanut butter? Ugh.
But, there are simple ways to reduce plastic waste that really will make a huge difference, even if you can’t sacrifice greek yogurt or regular peanut butter. For example, that plastic bag you grab at the pharmacy every time you get a snack during work? Or how about that water bottle you grab on that road trip? Those plastics are extremely easy to avoid. Every year, Americans will throw away over 35 billion plastic water bottles, 182 billion drinking straws, and 500 billion plastic bags (that’s almost one million bags every minute). It’s even estimated that the number will be 5 trillion worldwide this year, which you can even watch the number of plastic bags being produced in this live world count online.
Maybe you don’t think that’s a lot compared to the huge problem we are facing, but think of it this way: In one year, the average American will throw out 185 pounds of plastic per year. If you’re using plastic products for your whole life and live to be 100, that’s 18,500 pounds. So saying no to that straw, or that plastic bag, really can make a huge difference.
It’s a huge problem, and most people still have no idea how bad it really is. Nevertheless, it’s hard to pay attention to something if it’s not in front of you. It’s okay, I’m to blame for that as well. How would I ever have known how serious this issue is if it wasn’t brought to my attention?
But now that we have this information, what are we going to do about it?
5 easy ways to say no to plastic
I am sure that you have a few reusable bags lying around your home right now. Those free totes or bags you got at events will work perfectly for your next grocery run. Better yet, have one in your bag at all times for those random times that you find yourself needing one.
Do you really need a plastic straw in that drink? Probably not! Say not to the straw. Or, you could even buy a pack of reusable straws. People are huge fans of steel or bamboo straws, which can easily be recycled (or in the case of the bamboo, composted).
If you’re out getting coffee every day, do the environment some good and bring your own cup! Sure, most coffee cups are made from paper. But those plastic lids? Not so good. And who knows, maybe you’ll get a discount for bringing one in!
Not only is reusing a water bottle good for the environment, but drinking water is great for your health. By having a reusable water bottle on hand, you’ll be saving a ton of plastic and find yourself having less random cravings.
The best thing you can do for your local community’s environment is to shop local, which can be done at the farmer’s market. Bring your reusable bag to the market and grab some delicious local produce. Some markets even have vendors who sell other of your weekly needs including freshly baked bread, eggs, cheese, and even some meats.
Have a question about plastic and waste?
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