How much plastic do you use on a daily basis? And more importantly, how much do you throw away? It’s just so... convenient. I’ve been guilty of ordering my latte to go without hesitation and accepting a plastic bag at the store for just carrying one item.
But when you really stop and think about not just the amount of plastic you use, but how long it lasts (over 450 years for a plastic water bottle), you realize that most of the plastic that has ever been produced on this planet is still hanging around. Yes, pretty much every cup, cotton bud, piece of cling film and shampoo bottle you have ever use in your life is still here, likely in a landfill or the ocean, or incinerated into noxious gasses that we’re all breathing in. Our vast oceans are FILLED with plastic; seabirds and whales are starving from ingesting plastic pollution, which fills their bellies and leaves no room for actual food. Plastic breaks down in the sea and is ingested by plankton, which then travels up the marine food chain. It horrifies me every time I’m walking along what should be a beautiful beach in Bali that’s now covered in plastic bags and bottle caps.
But it can be recycled, right? Well yes some of it can be, such as post consumer plastic waste recycled into the polyester fibres we use for our sustainable swimwear. Some packaging can be recycled as well, but only a finite amount of times, so there is still a mass of plastic waste left that takes decades, if not centuries, to degrade. Today a lot of packaging consists of mixed materials that cannot be recycled cost effectively so ends up being discarded by recycling plants.
So what’s a person to do? Out of the “3 R’s”, “reduce” is still the first and most important step in minimizing the amount of plastic we are spitting out into the ecosystem. Here are some concrete and easy steps you can take today to reduce your plastic footprint:
With our busy lifestyles it’s too easy to get takeaway everything. Bring your own food containers for your to go lunch. Get a set of portable cutlery you can use instead of disposable ones, and use your own travel mug or collapsible silicone cup at Starbucks. Throw a few reusable bags in your purse or car to avoid packing your groceries in plastic bags every time you shop.
2. Stop drinking bottled water
I understand drinking bottled water is necessary when water safety or cleanliness is an issue, but in many developed countries and urban areas tap water is perfectly safe to drink. If you don’t like the taste, install a water filter or use a carbon filter in a pitcher in your fridge. Bring your own water bottle while on the go and think about how much money you’ll be saving.
3. Say no to straws
Repeat after me: "I can drink straight from the cup". A straw, most of the time, is a nice-to-have. If you really like to suck (drinks, that is) then invest in some paper, metal or bamboo drinking straws. They’re totally Instagram worthy too.
4. Reconsider packaging
Do we really need to wrap every item of food in plastic before storing it? Avoid individually pre-wrapped avocados by buying produce from your local farmers market or wet market and carrying it home in your own reusable bag. At home, use glass containers, beeswax wraps or reusable silicone covers in place of cling wrap for food storage. Shampoo bars are all the rage now too – choose home and personal care products that use no packaging, can be refilled or better yet, make your own! We use vinegar to mop the floors in our house, as it’s more ecological and less harmful to our family.
There you have it – easy things you can do right now to do right by the Earth. They’re all small steps, but will make a huge difference if we all take them together.