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21 Ways We Can Help Reduce Plastic Pollution

June 07, 2019 6 min read

Prevent Plastic Pollution

Ever since reading the book, "An Inconvenient Truth", which was released in 2006 by Al Gore, I’ve become much more conscious of how my choices in life can affect the environment. For those of you who haven’t read the book, it is an eye-opener to the real climate change that is happening in our world backed by scientific information. But far from a boring book that’s difficult to understand, it’s a very easy read. And sadly, the reality becomes apparent that the “inconvenient truth” is realizing that we are the cause of these changes that impact all living creatures and the entire planet.

When we understand that our planet is a beautiful and precious gift to all of humanity, we should arrive at the wisdom that it is our responsibility to take care of our planet for the well being of one another, our children and for future generations to come. All actions have consequences and we need to start asking ourselves daily, "Are my choices adding to the world's pollution problem?"

WHAT IS CAUSING CLIMATE CHANGE?

GMO’s, poisonous pesticides, methane pollution from livestock and farming, landfill decay, leakage from the oil and gas industry, burning fossil fuels and clearing trees are all human origin and our actions are causing the earth to grow warmer. It seems easy to point a finger at the large corporations responsible for creating our planet’s methane problem. But another source of methane comes from plastic bags. Did you know it can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose? To demand change, we have to start with each person and that means starting with you and me.

WHAT IS A THROW-AWAY SOCIETY?

“A society full of excessive consumption and waste of food, products, etc.” - Collins English Dictionary

Today, we are living more and more in a throw-away society where convenience and instant gratification are in-demand and it's a growing addiction. Every day, we are constantly being bombarded by so much "stuff" and it's become so normal that we don't even ask ourselves where does it all come from and where will it all go? And the temptation of wanting more than we need has caused us to turn a blind eye to the truth of what a throw-away society is doing to our environment. You may be thinking, "Well, I recycle whenever I can." But have you ever wondered what happens to all the trash that more than 7 billion people throw away each day?

THE TRUTH ABOUT RECYCLING

Up until 2018, the U.S. sold millions of tons of plastic trash to China to be recycled into new products. 70 percent of the world’s plastic trash went to China - roughly 7 million tons each year. In January of 2018, China announced a ban on all trash imports. Why did this happen? Well, a lot of the plastic they were receiving was contaminated with paper, food and plastic wrap, which couldn't be recycled. Understandably, China had concerns about all this extra trash that needed to be disposed of which was now adding to their country’s pollution. Can we blame them?

WHERE DOES ALL THE PLASTIC TRASH GO NOW?

A lot of it gets shipped to other Southeast Asian countries that don’t have the capacity to recycle it or the means to dispose of it properly. Vietnam, Malaysia, and Thailand announced that they also plan to ban the import of plastic trash as they try to manage their own plastic pollution problem. Unfortunately, more and more plastic in the U.S. now ends up in landfills or gets incinerated which is now adding to our pollution problem. This means that a lot of the plastic we thought we could recycle is not getting recycled.

THE FACTS

  • 12 minutes is the average useful lifetime of plastics.
  • We produce 300 million tons of plastic each year.
  • Over 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in our oceans each year.
  • 91% of plastic isn’t even recycled.
  • 80% of ocean waste originates from land.
  • 50% of all plastic is single-use.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic trash, floats halfway between Hawaii and California and is twice the size of Texas.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT US?

If we don't change our ways, scientists predict that by 2050, we will have more plastic by weight than fish in our oceans.

In the ocean, there are two types of plankton: zooplankton (animals) and phytoplankton (plants). Zooplankton eats the phytoplankton, small fish eat the zooplankton, larger fish eat the small fish. Decades of industry and agriculture create chemicals in our lakes, rivers, and oceans which attract to plastic-like magnets and create toxins. Over time, plastic trash will break up into much smaller bits as they are eroded by sunlight, saltwater, currents, and waves. These plastic pieces can become small enough, sink, and fish will confuse these small pellets of plastic for food.

When the plastic is eaten by fish, toxins are released and carried through the bloodstream, then stored in their fatty tissues. When we eat these fish, those toxins enter our bodies. These toxins have been linked with cancer, cognitive problems, infertility, and autoimmune disease. For 60 percent of the world's population, fish is a main source of protein.

WHAT CAN WE DO AND HOW CAN WE HELP?

Thankfully, we can help and we can all be part of the solution. This year’s World Oceans Day on June 8 is focused on creating awareness of our plastic pollution crisis and to say “NO” to plastic trash to protect our ocean and life. Since starting Milkdot, it’s always been my belief that if each person starts by making small changes, together we can make a big difference. Change begins with caring, so let's all take action to fight against single-use plastic.

22 WAYS WE CAN HELP REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION

  1. Skip the straw.
    In the US and UK, over 550 million are thrown away every day. If you love straws, purchase reusable ones that are stainless steel, glass or bamboo.
  2. Don't buy plastic bottled water or drinks.
    Worldwide, over 500 billion plastic bottles are thrown away each year. Instead, drink tap or filtered water in a non-toxic reusable water bottle, preferably glass or stainless steel. I’m always amazed at how cold my water stays all day with a reusable double-walled stainless steel water bottle.
  3. Always bring a reusable bag to groceries and stores.
    Over 1 trillion plastic bags are thrown away each year worldwide. In many places in Europe, if you need a plastic bag, you have to pay for it so everyone brings their own bags. The Europeans are ahead of us on this.
  4. Bring a packed lunch to work or school.
    When we eat out, we usually end up with plastic trash. See the benefits here of packing your own lunch and use a non-toxic reusable lunch bag like our Stöh Lunch Tote together with non-toxic reusable containers. 
  5. Bring your own mug or bottle to coffee shops.
    Places like Starbucks will give you a $0.10 discount if you bring your own beverage container. Check with your local coffee shops and ask if you can use your own beverage container.
  6. Choose paper over plastic.
    Choose fruits and vegetables that aren’t wrapped in plastic. Choose store-bought products packaged in paper rather than plastic whenever possible.
  7. Don’t use ‘single-use’ plates, forks, knives, spoons.
    Washing dishes can be very relaxing especially while listening to an audiobook, music or watching your favorite show!
  8. Don't use single-serve K-cups. Instead, use a reusable K-cup for coffee makers.
  9. Skip the balloons and don’t release balloons into the air.
    They can land in the ocean, choking seabirds, turtles and marine mammals.
  10. Don't use face or body scrubs.
    Those tiny beads can be made of plastic. There are over 300,000 tiny plastic beads in each tube of face wash.
  11. Don't use plastic cotton swabs. Choose paper cotton swabs.
  12. Don't use disposable plastic floss sticks. Instead, use a water flosser.
  13. Ladies, don't use plastic tampon applicators.
    There are better alternatives like period underwear or reusable medical-grade silicone menstrual cups. Did you know that children will find tampon plastic applicators that wash up on beaches and they mistake them for toy whistles?!!
  14. Use cloth diapers.
    In the US, over 27 billion disposable diapers are thrown away each year.
  15. Use bar soap. It lasts longer than liquid soap.
  16. Use a reusable razor to shave.
    In the US, more than 2 billion disposables are thrown away every year.
  17. Use a bamboo toothbrush.
    In the US, over 1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown out each year.
  18. Use a waste-free deodorant.
    Choose a crystal mineral deodorant stone that comes with no plastic packaging. They last longer, have no residue and are free of chemicals.
  19. Use reusable laundry detergent.
    Say what?! The Eco Egg Laundry Egg which lasts up to 720 washes, has no harsh chemicals and can be refilled. No fabric softener required. It's amazing and really works!
  20. Make your own house cleaning solution.
    Do-it-yourself house cleaners often involve simple ingredients like vinegar and water and sometimes baking soda or table salt. They really work!
  21. Use a reusable mop to clean floors.
    Or if you have a Swiffer Mop Jet, use reusable pads that you can wash over and over again. The Swiffer bottle is also reusable and refillable and there are plenty of YouTube videos that show you how.

If you do end up with plastic trash, always rinse it clean first, and then recycle. If you know of other ways to reduce plastic pollution, please feel free to share in the comments below!

For more information and resources, visit: worldoceansday.org

#PlasticPollution #PlasticFree #RethinkPlastic #SaveOurSeas


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