Our Plastic Problem

Plastic, a perfect invention you might say. It’s malleable into practically any shape and is air/water-tight sealable. It is relatively inexpensive to make and very durable.

The problem? It is too durable. In fact, it can take anywhere from 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade. 

You see it everywhere. Our food comes wrapped in it. One might even eat their food with a plastic utensil. Bottled water, grocery bags, the keyboard this is being typed on, plastic has become so pervasive throughout our lives.

Humans have become incredibly destructive and wasteful. The behavior of using something once and then throwing it away is insane, bordering on criminal. This, essentially, is the core of the plastic problem-single-use plastics. “50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away,” says an Ecowatch article. If we can eliminate single-use plastics, and develop closed loop supply chains for the remaining plastic products, there wouldn’t be an issue, though that is a topic for another discussion.

The same Ecowatch article states that the average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic each year…. There are over 300 million Americans.

Once an item of plastic is put in the trash and collected, it will then make its way to the landfill. Once at the landfill, these items of plastic then make their way into our waterways and eventually out to sea.

Okay, great. It’s out of our backyard. Out of sight, not our problem anymore! Not quite.

Our oceans are turning into undulating swaths of plastic garbage. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an example of how all this waste accumulates. The more frightening problem is when the plastic breaks up into smaller parts. Marine animals will ingest these microplastics, causing them to suffer horrific deaths. It is reported that one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

What are ways we can stop the environmental pollution? Say no to single-use plastics.

Three easy and immediate things individuals can do are to get a reusable water bottle and reusable, canvas grocery bags, and start cooking at home more frequently.

Avoid plastic like the plague. Invite your friends and family to join you in the challenge. Request your drink without a plastic lid or straw.  Look for items at the grocery store that come with as little packaging as possible. Opt for fresh produce and use canvas bags. Get your almond milk and orange juice in paper cartons, rather than plastic jugs. If you do end up using something plastic, be responsible for making sure it ends up in the recycling bin. With everything you throw away, you should be asking yourself: “where is this going to end up and how is it going to affect the environment?”



Photo: (ShutterstockNagy-Bagoly Arpad)

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