While soaking up the sun and enjoying the relaxing ambiance of crashing waves on the beach, the last thing I want to think about is how the ocean has basically become “trashcan punch”. However the awful truth is that there is tons of debris from everyday litter floating around in that water; and sadly most of it is non-deteriorating plastic! The best way to help save our oceans now is to start reducing your plastic waste. Plastic is found in virtually everything these days; everyday items such as wrappers, bottles, and even chewing gum (yes, it’plastic) are thrown away without much thought. Out of the masses of waste generated in the U.S. only a small percentage is actually recovered through recycling. The rest of our unwanted synthetics either becomes liter, ends up in landfills, or even rivers and sadly oceans. This leads to a devastating problem, as the chemicals in plastics have been known to have adverse effects on our bodies as well as the planet. It’s gotten so bad that in the Pacific Ocean a plastic island has formed from debris that’s grown to twice the size of Texas. The effect has been devastating leading to our oceans being infected by chemicals, as a result harming marine life and terminating ecosystems.
Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to curb the impact of this environmentally hazardous outcome that will dramatically decrease the amount of plastic waste you generate.
1. Say no to straws
Do you really need to use a straw every single time you take a sip? One of the easiest ways to start reducing plastic waste from your daily routine is to stop using straws. Can't grasp the thought of giving up the convenience of straws? Just purchase a reusable straw, you can find them in stainless steel or glass. Whether at home or ordering a drink at a restaurant; plastic straws are a single-use item that's just not necessary.
2. Use reusable produce bags
Pleeease Just say "no" to plastic produce bags! A single plastic bag can take an astonishing 1,000 years to degrade. Although free to shoppers, the usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags is extremely limited. These synthetic bags have a high environmental cost and are one of the most ubiquitous forms of ecological garbage. If you’re already bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, you're on one wickedly righteous path but if you're still using plastic bags, it's definitely time to switch. Purchase some reusable bags and help keep even more plastic out of landfills.
3. Gum is not your friend
When you chew gum, the awful truth is that you're actually chewing on plastic. Gum was originally made from tree sap called “chicle”, a natural rubber. However when scientists developed synthetic rubber, key ingredients like polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate replaced natural rubber previously used in most gum. So the next time you go for that stick of gum, it may be best to skip it and try a mint instead.
4. Buy boxes, not plastic
Box wine, box milk, detergent and whatever else may come in a box. Purchase whatever you can in box form instead of plastic bottles. Generally speaking, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic, plus paper products tend to biodegrade more easily without adding a lot of weight to the product the way glass or aluminum can. So, when you have the choice, pick pasta in the box instead of pasta in a bag, or detergent in the box instead of the bottle. You could even check for companies that source their cardboard sustainably or have a strong stance on deforestation.
5. Reuse glass containers…over and over again
You can buy a variety of prepared foods in glass jars instead of plastic ones, including spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, salsa and applesauce, just to name a few. Instead of throwing these away or recycling them, reuse the jars to store food.
6. Use reusable water bottles and coffee cups
Instead of disposable water bottles, refill a reusable bottle. By simply refilling a reusable bottle, you’ll prevent some of these plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans. But don’t stop there, bring a reusable cup to coffee shops and ask the barista to fill it up, keep a mug at your desk instead of using plastic, paper or Styrofoam cups. The average American office employee uses about 500 disposable cups a year so you’ll be preventing a lot of unnecessary waste.
7. Strike a match
If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds' stomachs. If you can't bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.
8. Pack a lunch the right way
If your lunchbox is full of disposable plastic containers and sandwich bags, it's time to make a change! Instead of packing snacks and sandwiches in multiple bags, put them in reusable containers you have at home, or try lunch accessories like reusable snack bags. You can also opt for fresh fruit instead of single-serving fruit cups, and buy items like yogurt and pudding in bulk and simply put a portion in a reusable dish for lunch.
9. Recycle old tech responsibly
Unload old electronics in a responsible manner. A large portion of plastic waste comes from discarded televisions, fax machines, keyboards, cell phones and other tech gear. Take electronics that are no longer functioning to e-waste facilities that can dispose of them.
10. Boycott Micro beads
Those itty bitty plastic scrubbers found in many beauty products like: facial scrubs, toothpaste, and body wash might look harmless; their minuscule size allows them to slip through filtration systems at water-treatment plants. Ultimately they increase ocean waste and look like food to some of the tinier and minute fish and marine animals. When shopping for beauty products try opting for products with natural exfoliates; like oatmeal or salt, instead of micro beads.
Ultimately, the best course of action individuals can take is to raise awareness and reduce their own impact. The fate of our precious planet and it's sustainability is in our hands. What kind of world do we really want our children to inherit?