As we grow increasingly aware of the environmental damage that plastics can cause, it’s important to know how to reduce our plastic intake. Here are five steps you can take.
The good and bad thing about plastic is that it is extremely durable, which is great for everything you want to keep in the long run – a hip implant, for example – but horrible for mother nature, as it just does not go away.
A study conducted by the University of Newcastle found that we have been ingesting a staggering 5 grams of microplastic every week, the equivalent of one credit (or debit) card from Monday until Sunday. The consumption occurs through a variety of ways, mostly through water, both bottled and tap, however microplastic vestige levels were also high in other consumable goods, such as fish and other foods that derive from the ocean.
With this in mind, one would think, or at least hope, that our plastic production is slowing down, but a UN report in 2016 found that we produced more plastic since 2000 than we have produced in all the previous years combined, since we first began plastic production. In 2014 alone, mankind produced 311 million tonnes of plastic.
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, like many experts in the field, claims that the only way to solve this crisis is by tackling it at its roots: reducing production, and hopefully, one day bringing it to a complete halt. Recycling is a way to reduce the speed of pollution, but it will never deter it.
And, as we all know, if there is someone willing to buy something, there will be someone willing to sell it. Flip that around and if there isn’t anybody to buy it, there will be nobody to make it.
So… here are 5 very simple things you can do to help lower this curve of demand for plastic and consequently reduce production:
- BAN PLASTIC BAGS – if your local government hasn’t already banned plastic bags from supermarkets or if the shops lack initiative, go ahead and ban it yourself; from your life. Chances are these single use plastic bags will not get recycled. Worldwide, the recycling facilities available today, recycle only 3 or 4 out 7 types of plastic and plastic bags aren’t one of them.
- BAN PLASTIC BOTTLES – a hard water bottle goes a long way and if you go the extra few dollars, they will keep your water nice and chilled on a hot Aussie day. If you are a soft drink drinker, limit your soft drink purchases to cans only. Aluminium is one of the most recycled and recyclable materials.
- BAN PLASTIC TOOTHBRUSHES – again, chances are, your old plastic toothbrushes are probably all buried at landfill somewhere, or worse: drifting in the ocean (ew!). Bamboo toothbrushes are widely available and if your local supermarket doesn’t stock it, they should, because at least one of their major competitors does: the internet.
- BUY A KEEP CUP – if plastic is durable, then we can use it to our advantage to help us reduce our overall production of trash. Take-away coffee cups may be mostly made of paper, but ever wonder why they don’t go mushy with a hot liquid inside of them? Well, they are lined with a plastic film, called polyethylene, meaning that together, they aren’t neither paper nor plastic, thus, not recyclable. So to the coffee drinkers out there, buy a keep cup (a one time purchase) and, as it suggests, keep it.
- REDUCE ALL PLASTIC CONSUMPTION – it is extremely difficult, at this point, to fully ban plastic from our lives. Many items on the supermarket shelves come wrapped in it, one way or another, but reducing our consumption sends a message to the producers of those items. Demand dictates production, so take control with what you can. Do we really need our tomatoes covered in plastic, only to be uncovered as soon as they arrive home? If there is a choice to go plasticless, that is the better choice.
More broadly, vote plastics out. Governments also have a long way to go – in subsidising recycling plants, implementing a more robust system of garbage separation and collection, educating the public. But until that happens, we must make a difference ourselves.