According to Eco Watch, we currently dump the equivalent of one garbage truck per day into the ocean every minute. It’s now predicted that by 2025 there will be 8 million metric tons of plastic in our oceans, equivalent to 100 bags of plastic per foot of coastline in the world. And by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. Let that sink in…. it’s not only disgusting but heartbreaking and infuriating. We are literally TRASHING our planet with our attachment to single use plastic.
This plastic isn’t just in the form of strangling bags, bottles, or large, visible chunks. Plastic breaks down into micro plastic, teeny tiny fragments of plastic that literally get everywhere. These plastics choke animals, absorb toxins, release BPA into the seawater. The plastic is eaten by fish, which then gets eaten by us, which means we’re also eating plastic. So our beaches and oceans are trashed, our parks are littered, our streams are polluted. And we’re ingesting toxic garbage.
The most frustrating and sad part about it… is that we can avoid this. We can. We just have to be willing to exchange some inconveniences for the future of our planet.
Here are 10 simple ways to reduce the single use plastic in your every day.
Switch to reusable sandwich bags
This is a relatively easy one. There are so many great options for reusable sandwich bags now, and all they take is a rinse and they are ready to reuse. While they are still made mostly of plastic, they are a much better option than a zip lock or regular sandwich bag that have a maximum of two uses before they begin to disintegrate.
These are a great option!
Stop using cling wrap
We get it – it’s really convenient. We are all guilty of reaching for it multiple times a day, especially if you have kids! Beeswax wraps are a great alternative and there are so many cute designs to choose from. They are washable and hardy and are generally made from sustainably sourced products. If you treat them nicely, they can last up to a year! There are some awesome options available, here’s a great starter pack.
Full disclosure – this writer is definitely guilty of a little too much Gladwrap usage – and has just purchased some beeswax wraps!
Celebrate outside without balloons
Balloons are a birthday staple, but it’s not worth the thousands of animals that die from ingesting balloons. A colourful balloon floating in the ocean looks remarkably similar to a jellyfish or a sponge, a turtle’s favourite snack. In 2016, there was a story in Sydney about a sea turtle that was found with 4 different coloured balloons in its stomach. Start a new birthday tradition using recyclable ribbons, flying kites, pinwheels, tissue paper, bubble blowing or seed throwing. Celebrate milestones and birthdays by preserving life!
Whether it’s water, coldbrew, juice, or your favourite soft drink, opt for the aluminum can or glass option over the plastic bottle. Australia recycles only 36% of PET plastic drink bottles, so around 373 million plastic water bottles end up as waste each year.. YIKES. While aluminum is certainly not a perfect solution, it does seem to be the better option. About 70% of aluminum cans are made from recycled materials, which is ecologically “cheaper”. Cans are also recycled at a higher rate than plastic, making them less likely to end up in the landfill or ocean.
Get a reusable water bottle
It’s become a little surprising when we see people sipping bottled water then tossing the plastic bottle in the bin. It’s actually a little dumbfounding considering the plethora of reusable water bottles on the market. We are lucky in Australia to have access to a tap with clean, drinkable water almost everywhere we go – so get a bottle, and use it. Simple!
Say no to (plastic) straws
Straws have a way of just appearing in your drink. It doesn’t really matter what you order, soft drink, iced coffee, cocktails.. they all end up with a straw, almost like its part of the presentation. Rarely are they asked for. But even more rarely are they asked NOT for. It’s a proactive step – please stop and think about it next time you order a drink! Once one is put in your beverage, taking it out and not using it really doesn’t make a positive impact (although we have done it out of guilt).
Australians use 10 million plastic straws a day.. no wonder they are getting into our oceans and causing devastation. Now what if you actually really like straws?? You’re in luck. There are great options that aren’t those paper straws that disintegrate in your lemonade before you have a sip. Try this one from Ocean Soul. They take up little to no space in your bag or wallet!
Bring Your Own Bags (everywhere)
We know – duh, right? It’s surprising to see how many people are still resisting this. With NSW announcing plans to ban single use plastic bags within the next year or so, it’s time to get on board! Even the best intentioned of us find ourselves in a bag conundrum at times. (“Can I carry it all to the car in my hands without dropping everything? Or do I just use the damn bag? I’ll reuse it for something, I promise!”) Try and keep a reusable bag in your purse/car/bike basket at all times and chances are you’ll find opportunities to use it. There’s heaps of options that will fit in the smallest of places – like these . No excuses, there are far too many resources out there for us to get on board with this one!!
Don’t Use Plastic Bags for Produce & Bulk Groceries
Have you ever filled up your cart with plastic bags of food that you carry out of the store in your reusable grocery bag? You’re not alone. While bringing containers to refill your bulk goods is a terrific option, it’s not always very practical… Especially while we wait for our supermarkets to catch up with that process!! Here’s an option… for your fresh produce, just DON’T USE PLASTIC BAGS. Your broccoli doesn’t need to be in a separate plastic bag from your apples from your cucumber from your tomatoes. There could be a little bit of water in your trolley, and yes, your produce will touch the trolley and the checkout counter. We should all be washing our produce before we consume it, so this really shouldn’t be an issue!
Get a reusable coffee cup, and USE IT.
How many times have you arrived at a café to grab a coffee and realised your cup is dirty from yesterdays brew? You’d be surprised how many places will happily give it a rinse for you, as long as it’s not especially gross. Set yourself an alarm to make sure its clean the night before – or better yet, force yourself to skip your coffee if you don’t have your cup ready… You’ll quickly form a habit if your caffeine intake is interrupted!
Green your grooming routine
I’m sure you have noticed that there is a lot of plastic involved with grooming; shampoo bottles, sunscreen bottles, shower gel, menstrual products, makeup remover wipes, disposable razors…the list goes on and on. There are some great alternatives, you just have to start looking! There is no expectation to start all at once, but next time you need shampoo, or a new razor – be on the lookout for an option that is less disposable or plastic based! Bamboo toothbrushes are not only more environmentally friendly, they are much more aesthetically pleasing than the usual bright coloured plastic options we are used to! Start by changing one thing at a time. It’s a lot less overwhelming making small changes.
Switch to Plastic-Free Chewing Gum.
Chewing gum not only comes in a lot of plastic packaging — the gum itself is mostly plastic and adds up to 100,000 tons of pollution every year, according to Just One Ocean. Luckily, there are brands making plastic-free gum, so you don’t have to drop the habit altogether. This one comes in a bunch of flavours!
Stop smoking. Or at least get yourself a reusable lighter.
The filters in your cigarettes are made from plastic – they may seem small, but they add up – especially when you think about how many cigarettes are smoked across Australia every day (more than 32 million.) The bigger issue, however, is plastic lighters, which are one of the most common types of trash found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is currently three times the size of France, and still growing.
Grab yourself a reusable lighter like one of these.
Fact: Every piece of plastic ever made still exists somewhere. By using it in our every day lives, we are contributing to the demand for it. All these small steps among a lot of people can make a huge difference. You could also volunteer your time with an organisation like Coastal Warriors who are committed to keeping our beaches and oceans as free from harmful plastics as possible. You could also form simple habits like picking up 3 pieces of garbage every time you are at the beach. Challenge other people to do the same. You can make a difference in the life of a turtle, whale, dolphin or shark, and also the future of our planet. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.
You may also like: