Why reduce your plastic use?
Global awareness is growing around the crises created from the prolific production of plastics. Worldwide, plastic production has increased from 2.3 million tons per year in 1950 to a staggering 448 million tons in 2015. Many plastics are not recyclable, or can only be recycled once or twice before ending up in landfills—or even worse, in rivers, oceans, soils, and eventually our bodies.
The toll of plastics on the planet becomes more outrageous when you consider:
- Plastics production is expected to more than double by 2030 and nearly triple by 2050.
- If we continue the trajectory we’re on currently, by 2050 there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish.
- While some plastics are recyclable, only 9% of the plastics ever produced have been recycled, and much of the remainder persists in our natural environment.
- Plastics that end up in the environment break down into tiny pieces called microplastics, which have been found in the stomachs of animals, and as contaminants in our soil, water, and even our food!
- More than 40% of plastic waste is packaging.
- Single-use plastics such as plastic bags, straws, cups, plates, and utensils are used just once, for mere minutes, but will remain on the planet indefinitely because plastics do not biodegrade.
- Plastics contribute to climate change throughout their entire life cycle—from fracking and extraction of virgin resources, to production at chemical processing plants that emit air pollution, to their disposal.
How to Reduce Your Plastic Use at Home and Beyond
We need to change our course. That’s why organizations around the world have come together to help consumers reduce disposable plastic use.
The first step is to become more aware of when and how plastic enters your life, and then take action. Follow the steps below and start declaring your independence from plastic.
Here are four things you can do TODAY to reduce your plastic use!
Avoid the worst plastics.
Avoid plastics with the numbers 3, 6, and 7, and black plastics commonly used as food containers. Not only are there few to no recycling markets for these plastics, but they are also more toxic to produce and use.
Find more sustainable alternatives to plastic.
When possible, opt for reusables, or purchase items packaged in aluminum or glass rather than plastic. Unlike plastics, aluminum cans and glass bottles and jars are infinitely recyclable.
Say no to single-use plastics.
Avoid single-use, disposable plastics, such as straws, utensils, food containers, and bags. These items aren’t used for long, but because they are not recyclable, they end up either in landfills or polluting our land and waterways for hundreds of years.
Spread the word!
Let your favorite restaurants know that you support their use of reusables over disposable plastics as much as possible!
How to Reduce the Plastic in Your Life Over the Long Term
A good way to start dialing back your plastic use is to look to the basics. Take these steps and you’ll make serious progress!
REFUSE: Make it a habit to refuse single-use plastics!
- Request “no straw” as soon as you sit down at a restaurant.
- Let a restaurant know you don’t need a plastic bag, plastic utensils, or condiment packets with your take-out.
- Refuse plastic beverage bottles, cling wrap, sandwich bags, and coffee cups (they are plastic-coated and not recyclable).
- Refuse plastic foam (aka Styrofoam) take-out containers. If that is the only container option at the restaurant, ask for your food to be packed in aluminum foil if you don’t have your reusable container with you.
REDUCE: Make an effort to buy products that have little to no packaging.
- Buy bulk foods, liquids, cleaners, and much more using your own refillable containers.
- Stop using plastic produce bags—use reusable cloth bags or no bag at all!
- Swap out your shower gel for soap bars sold without wrappers.
REUSE: Make a Zero Waste to-go kit so that you can more easily avoid single-use plastics.
Include these items in your kit:
- Utensils and a cloth napkin
- A food container for take-out
- A travel coffee mug and reusable water bottle
- Reusable shopping totes
- Reusable produce bags
RECYCLE: When you can’t avoid packaging, look for alternatives to plastic that can be reused and infinitely recycled.
- Glass jars and bottles: Glass can be recycled without a loss of quality. Once glass bottles are tossed into the recycling bin, they could be back on shelves in less than a month!
- Aluminum cans and foil: Making a can out of recycled aluminum requires only 5% of the energy consumed to produce aluminum cans from bauxite.
Take the Reduce Your Plastic Use Challenge!
Reducing your plastic use is a lifestyle change, and it won’t always be easy. That’s why we’ve created a Reduce Your Plastic Use Challenge. For two months, we’ll send you weekly tips and tools to help you track and reduce your waste. Turn your practices into habits and watch the waste slowly melt away!