The very success of plastic is its biggest downfall—you just can’t get rid of the stuff. Plastic is a strong and versatile material, but it doesn’t biodegrade. It breaks down into micro pieces and ends up in everything, including you!
Every year, 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans and, by 2050, there will be more pieces of plastic in the ocean than there are fish. That plastic makes its way into the food chain. About 60% of seabirds, 73 percent of deep sea fish and 100% of sea turtles have plastic in their bodies. Plastics break down into micro plastic pieces and these are consumed by the tiniest of ocean dwellers, zooplankton. Once plastic gets into the eco-system at this first tier, it ends up in everything. Plastic has been linked to the extinction of many species through intestinal blockages and malnutrition while chemical additives cause poisoning.
Thanks to its infiltration of the eco-system, humans consume 70,000 pieces of microplastic each year.
If you are recycling, thank you! Sadly, we cannot recycle our way out of the plastics crisis. In fact, 91 percent of plastics do not get recycled. The only way to reduce the impact of plastics on our environment, and on our health, is to find sustainable alternatives.
Shop at stores with very little packaging, take your own bags and containers to stores and take out places. Ask you favorite manufacturers and stores to offer sustainable, no plastic options and refuse plastic straws. You may not think plastic straws make a huge difference, until you realize 500 million straws are thrown away every day in the US alone!
It’s not enough to recycle anymore. We must reject disposable, single-use plastics and find sustainable alternatives that work. Here are a few ways you can cut plastics out of your life;
- Stop chewing gum. Gum is made from synthetic rubber (aka plastic) and does not biodegrade.
- Take your travel coffee mug to the coffee shop.
- Choose reusable shopping bags.
- Shop at bulk stores where you can bring your own container.
- Frequent take-outs that allow you to bring your own containers.
- Use containers rather than bags for your lunch.
- Use a razor with replaceable blades rather than disposable razors.
- Give up bottled water and get a filter for your home water.
- Don’t put your produce in plastic bags. You can put fruit and veg straight into your shopping cart. Unless you’re buying peas, then use a bag!
- Swap your plastic toothbrush for bamboo or wood.
- Use dental floss, not the plastic disposable dental floss sticks.
- Buy beeswax reusable wraps rather than plastic wrap.
- Give up the glitter. Sorry rock star, but glitter is a non-biodegradable micro plastic.
- Don’t buy polyester or nylon as these fabrics are plastic. With each wash, they shed an estimated 1,900 plastic microfibers which end up in the ocean.