With 12 million tons of plastic entering our oceans yearly, the United Nations is urging industries, governments, and consumers to work together to find solutions to the plastic crisis. Here are tips you can easily adapt to remove single-use plastic from your life every day.
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The future is going to be plastic-free… or at least a lot of the single-use plastic items that we use in our everyday lives will be drastically reduced. Over the last few years, delegates from around the world have met to decide on a framework for how the world will deal with one of our biggest environmental problems to date- plastic pollution. And, realizing the goal of ending plastic waste won’t only on United Nations delegates and policymakers, but citizens like us as well. So, how can we find and adopt the right solutions to reduce our plastic use to properly reduce plastic pollution?
“If we get this right – if we win the battle against plastic pollution – it will not only be a tangible victory for people and planet, but a clear example of how the United Nations is relevant to the lives of citizens around the world,” María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the U.N General Assembly.
The Problem With Plastic
As a material plastic is innovative, adaptable, cheap, and durable. But, its positive attributes as a material are also part of its negative impact. Because it’s innovative and adaptable it has become a part of our everyday lives from cities’ infrastructure for water and gas pipes to the plastic-based materials in our clothing and packaging. When those items are thrown away, especially in the case of single-use plastic items like packaging and fast fashion, the durable properties allow them to remain in landfills for hundreds of years. Plastic waste can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose. Even then, it never fully disappears. It just gets smaller and smaller.
Globally, we not only create a lot of plastic items, we throw out a lot of plastic items too. In the U.S alone we generate around 28 million tons of plastic waste yearly. Globally, the numbers are just as disheartening when looking at the magnitude of plastic waste.
- 10% of the billions of tons of plastic products ever created have been recycled.
- 75-99 billion metric tons of plastic is currently found in our oceans.
- 300 Million tons of plastic waste is created yearly
- 50 Million metric tons of electronic waste (also known as e-waste) is created yearly from items like laptops, phones, headphones, etc.
- 400- 700 years is the time estimated for PET plastic water bottles to decompose.
- 100 million plastic water bottles are used daily.
Tips To Reduce Plastic Pollution Everyday
One of the biggest ways that we can reduce plastic pollution is by educating ourselves. That can look like reading articles like this for tips and facts or following environmental groups or organizations like the United Nations, Surf Rider Foundation, Plastic Free For The Oceans, and Wyland Foundation. By being informed of the problem we can better learn how to manage it in our everyday lives.
Shop For Reusable Items
Instead of buying a single-use plastic water bottle when you head out, invest in carrying a reusable water bottle with you. Carry cotton tote bags with you to the grocery store. And, when you take off your makeup in the evenings use reusable cotton pads that you can wash and reuse instead of plastic makeup wipes.
If you’re one who enjoys sitting down to write a letter, share your thoughts with your local, state, or federal policymakers. Write to them about your concerns about plastic pollution. Or, if you’d rather not draft your own original letter, research local environmental groups and sign their petitions to fight against plastic waste. Every voice counts. And, the more names that sign a petition or calls or letters an office receives can help build a stronger argument for why we should collectively stop plastic pollution.
Shop Recycled Instead Of Virgin-Plastic Items
Right now there is a new crop of companies that are collecting plastic waste from our oceans and turning them into innovative materials that can be made into new products from rugs to ballet flats. By supporting these brands that choose to use recycled plastic-based materials instead of virgin plastics you’re helping to prevent new plastic pollution while sending a message to companies about the types of brands that you choose to support.
Learn How To Recycle Better
The truth of the matter is that most of us could use an educational update when it comes to recycling. In the U.S., every municipality is different in terms of what their recycling machines’ capabilities are. That means that not all plastic items can be recycled. So, while you might put them out onto the curb, if your city can’t recycle them those items will be incinerated or dumped into a landfill. If you’re unsure use platforms like Earth911 to find the right recycling solution for your items. The website also provides recycling tips like rinsing out plastic food packaging or smashing items to ensure that your recycling items will be recycled.