30 Ways to Cut Back on Plastic Use — A Case For Plant Based

Did you know that less than 10% of plastic is recycled? And did you know that the production of plastic has skyrocketed over 2,000% since the 1960s? And did you also know that of the over 300 million tons of plastic produced annually, 50% is single use plastic -and ends up in a landfill? We cut down on our plastic use before it destroys our oceans and our land.

The truth about plastic

Everything we think we know about recycling is probably wrong.

  • The act of recycling is actually a business built on supply and demand. No current demand for glass or plastic? These products may be sent directly to the landfill or incinerator.
  • For decades, the U.S. was sending the bulk of recycling items to China to be reprocessed. But, in 2018, China restricted the import of certain recyclables-including most plastic.
  • A lot of times, it is cheaper for a company to produce new plastic rather than purchasing recycled.
  • Unlike metal or glass, plastic degrades each time it is recycled and reprocessed, making it less valuable.
  • Thin plastic, such as plastic bags and saran wrap, are very difficult to recycle, and most end up in landfills.

How is plastic harmful to the environment

  • The production of plastic is a major user of fossil fuels.
  • Plastic that is incinerated instead of being repurposed produces carbon emissions. Even though many incineration facilities claim to be waste to energy plants, studies have found they actually release more harmful chemicals into the air than coal plants.
  • More than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year.
  • Plastic bags are not biodegradable. Worldwide, more than 1 million plastic bags are used every minute.
  • It is estimated that about 100,000 sea turtles and other marine life die every year from being entangled in or consuming plastic bags.
  • The process of producing bottled water requires about 6 times as much water per bottle than is actually in the container.

Single use plastic water bottles

  • Most are thrown away and end up in landfills.
  • When not disposed of properly, plastic bottles end up in oceans, harming the ecosystem and killing marine life.
  • Once plastic enters the ocean, waves and UV rays from sunlight break it down into microparticles. These microparticles never degrade. And now, most marine life’s stomach contents (and even birds), contain plastic.
  • Most plastic is made from petroleum and built to last-some for thousands of years.
  • Plastic ending up in landfills can leach harmful chemicals into the earth, entering groundwater.

As one person has said: it’s less important that we recycle and more important that we reduce and reuse.

BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used in some plastic production. BPA is toxic to humans, so many legislations have been passed to ban the use of BPA.

However, BPA is far from the worst of it. Needing a replacement to BPA, companies started using an array of other chemicals-most of which scientists (and the FDA) know nothing about. These chemicals are also having toxic effects on our bodies: many even worse than BPA.

Chemicals added to plastic are absorbed by the human body. A recent study found that people with the highest exposure to BPA have increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. And that’s just BPA. There are hundreds of other chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis that we know nothing about.

Heat exposure causes these chemicals to leach out of the plastic at a higher and more rapid rate. (Such as leaving a plastic water bottle in a hot car, heating a plastic food container in the microwave, and placing plastic dishes in the dishwasher.)

The solution isn’t simply banning the use of BPA. It’s eliminating the use of as much plastic from our everyday lives as possible.

Ways to cut back on plastic use

1. Ask takeout restaurant to not include plastic silverware

2. Don’t use plastic straws or coffee stirrers

3. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups

4. Buy powder packs of gatorade and other drinks instead of buying in plastic bottles

5. Reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and lunch bags. (I keep mine in the car so I always have them with me.)

6. Stop chewing gum

7. Buy products in sustainable packaging

8. Buy in bulk

9. Reusable containers for storing food and leftovers

10. Make your own condiments and sauces to save on plastic bottles

11. Use foil instead of plastic wrap since foil can be recycled

12. Buy loose leaf tea or tea bags that are not individually wrapped in plastic

13. Use reusable K-cups

14. If using glitter, buy eco friendly biodegradable

15. Reduce consumption of frozen processed meals and food (plastic containers and plastic wrap.)

16. Return plastic containers to grocery store or farmers market to be reused

17. Stop using dishwasher and laundry pods. (They may be convenient, but are harmful to the environment. When broken down, the outer casing of the pod is toxic. Additionally, pods come packaged in plastic containers.)

18. Reusable pad on mop

19. Be mindful of personal care products. (Facial scrubs and others may contain tiny plastic beads, which then enter the oceans when washed down the sink.)

20. Use a biodegradable toothbrush, such as one made from bamboo.

21. Change water filter less often and only when necessary. (Depending on use, refrigerator filters usually last twice as long as recommended.)

22. When able, use pencils instead of disposable pens

23. Feed pets from glass bowls. (This also cuts down on dog acne.)

24. When traveling, bring your own hair and personal use products

25. Avoid the worst types of plastic (especially #3 and #6 and using caution with #1 and #7)

26. Use bamboo or glass cutting boards, utensils, and other kitchen gadgets

27. Stainless steel sippy cups for kids

28. Cloth pet toys instead of plastic

29. Avoid using balloons (and definitely don’t release them into the air!)

30. Be vocal

A Plastic Ocean

Now that you’ve contemplated ways you can cut down on your plastic use, go watch the documentary A Plastic Ocean. (Currently streaming on Netflix). It’s startling, incredibly moving, and life-changing.

And while you’re on Netflix, for a brief history of plastic through today, History 101 (episode Plastics) is quite informative.

After that, I recommend also reading this article by the NRDC.

We can change, and we can make a difference. But we must do it now. Every single one of us, doing our part: to save the planet, save the oceans, and save ourselves. 💚

Originally published at https://acaseforplantbased.com on August 28, 2020.