Plastic is found in virtually everything these days. Your food and hygiene products are packaged in it. Your car, phone and computer are made from it. And you might even chew on it daily in the form of gum.
While most plastics are touted as recyclable, the reality is that they’re “downcycled.” A plastic milk carton can never be recycled into another carton — it can be made into a lower-quality item like plastic lumber, which can’t be recycled.
How big is our plastic problem?
Of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated for example, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling. So the rest plastic waste, ends up in landfills, beaches, rivers and oceans and contributes to such devastating problems as the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch.
(The Great Pacific Garbage Patch = has sometimes been described as a “trash island” but that’s a misconception, instead, it’s like a galaxy of garbage, populated by millions of smaller trash islands that may be hidden underwater or spread out over many miles. People still don’t know exactly how big the garbage patch is, despite the oft-cited claim that it’s as big as Texas).
Luckily, there are simple steps you can take that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate.
About 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, and a single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. If you’re already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you’re on the right track, but if you’re still using plastic produce bags, it’s time to make a change. Purchase some reusable produce bags and help keep even more plastic out of the landfill. However, avoid those bags made from nylon or polyester because they’re also made from plastic. Opt for cotton ones instead.
A big part of the solution is limiting the amount of plastic you bring into your home.
You can begin this forever changing lifestyle by focusing on eliminating one particular plastic from your life or try to stop using this type of plastic as much as possible. Then you can focus on other types of plastics later on. All you have to do is say “NO!” to just one plastic item everyday.
Plastic Free Lifestyle Steps:
1. Pick one of the types of plastic below that you want to eliminate from your life.
2. Pick a time frame to carry out this lifestyle.
-Ex. One month, a year, etc.
3. Every time you go to a restaurant or you go shopping, eliminate this plastic item from your day-to-day life.
4. Spread what you are doing to other friends and family, and get them started on living a Plastic Free Lifestyle too.
5. Once you got used to not having that particular plastic from your life, pick another one to start eliminating
Just say no to straws
One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don’t need one. Purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one if they see that you’ve brought your own.
Cut out sodas, juices, and all other plastic-bottled beverages. And reuse glass containers
You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, ketchup and honey, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away or recycling them, reuse the jars to store food.
If you need to light a candle, build a campfire, light a ciggarette opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds’ stomachs. If you can’t bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.
Don’t buy juice
Instead of buying juice in plastic bottles, make your own fresh-squeezed juice or simply eat fresh fruit. Not only does this cut down on plastic waste, but it’s also better for you because you’ll be getting more vitamins and antioxidants and less high fructose corn syrup.
Avoid Plastics in Your Clothes
Many types of synthetic fiber clothing also contain plastics and plastic chemicals. When possible, opt for natural fiber clothing (like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc) over synthetics like polyester, lycra, etc.
Choose a plastic-free wooden hair brush.
Choose a plastic-free wooden tooth brush.
Give up bottled water and Bring your own water bottle
Not only does it come in a plastic bottle, but tremendous resources are used to extract, bottle, and ship it. And many brands of bottled water are simply filtered tap water. Get a reusable stainless steel bottle (Klean Kanteen has just come out with a completely plastic-free water bottle — no plastic on the cap at all!) or stainless steel travel mug, fill it up with tap water before leaving the house, and refill it wherever you happen to be.
I don’t recommend reusable plastic or aluminum bottles. Plastic may leach chemicals into the water and aluminum bottles are lined with an epoxy resin, some of which has also found to leach into water depending on the brand.
Carry reusable shopping bags.
Carry whatever works for you. Some people like reusable canvas totes (such as those from Eco-Bags Products or Project GreenBag.) Others prefer to put their purchases into a backpack or messenger bag.
Do you often forget your reusable bags? If you have a car, keep your grocery bags in it and remember to bring them into the store with you! And one more thing: reusable bags are not just for groceries! Carry them for all your purchases, from electronics to clothing.
Give up chewing gum.
Did you know almost all chewing gum is made from plastic? That’s right. When you’re chewing gum, you’re chewing on plastic.
Shop your local farmers market.
Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce without plastic, as long as you remember to bring your own bags. Normally, the fruits and vegetables at farmers markets don’t even have those little plastic stickers on them. And for small fruits like berries and cherry tomatoes, use your own container or bag and hand the vendor’s plastic container back to reuse.