Did you ever stop to think that every piece of plastic ever made is still out there somewhere? That means that every toothbrush ever made, used and discarded, still exists. And those plastic bags you use for 12 minutes to carry your plastic wrapped vegetables or your uncooked quinoa take up to 1,000 years to degrade! Every piece of plastic is still decomposing somewhere in landfill or, worse, floating around the ocean.
Most plastic can be recycled, but a very small quantity is actually recycled. Most plastic ends up in landfill, but 8 million metric tonnes of plastic finds its way into our waterways and oceans each year. Marine life mistake plastic for food and eat it – harming or killing them.
It’s so prevalent that a study in Sydney Harbour found that a large amount of the fish contained nanoparticles of plastics, which could cause serious harm to the animals and humans who eat them. Shockingly, scientists predict that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish!
But there is hope. People are taking actions to decrease their plastic use. Plastic Free July is all about curbing our consumer reliance on plastic, especially single-use plastic. The four major single-use plastic offenders are coffee cups, straws, plastic bottles and bags. If you can cut these out for a whole month, you’re doing well! If everyone made a small change to the way they consume, we could see a real difference to the amount of plastic damaging our earth.
7 tips for going plastic free
1. Use a reusable bag at the shops or supermarket. Keep bags in your car, find a small fabric bag that can fold down into your handbag, or opt for a box or paper bag instead of plastic.
2. Refuse the straw! Use your lips.
3. Get a reusable water bottle and refill it.
4. Avoid products in plastic packaging at the supermarket. (You could use the paper bags for mushrooms for loose items like spinach or tomatoes instead of plastic.)
5. Use a reusable coffee cup (and ask for a discount). An estimated 500 billion disposable cups are thrown into landfill every year. That’s one million cups a minute! A reusable cup is a simple solution.
6. Recycle what cannot be avoided. If you happen to pick up a plastic bag at the supermarket, use it as a bin bag, or to take your lunch to work. Reuse your ziplock bags by washing them after each use.
7. Take your own container to the food court instead and refuse the plastic cutlery.
Eliminating plastic might seem overwhelming, but that’s not the point of the month. The point is to show people that it is possible to live without so much plastic.
So if you do end up with a straw in your mouth or sushi wrapped in plastic wrap, it’s OK. We live in a world so reliant on plastic that it’s tricky to break the habit and become a more conscious consumer.
Start somewhere, because every little action adds up to a big difference.
To accept the Plastic Free July challenge, click here.