December 20, 2018 Green Living Written by Guest Contributor
Single-use plastic straws
Convenience is easy,

but easy doesn’t necessarily mean good. Due to our tendency of taking the easy way out, our beloved planet is taking a massive hit.

Our air, water, food, wildlife, the nature we go to the very ends of the globe just to adore, is being abused by nonessential plastics that are devastating a very essential life source that we fully depend on to not only exist, but to thrive.

Single-use plastics are over-flooding the landfills, suffocating the seas, harming a variety of animals and even affecting our own bloodstream with toxic microfibers.

It has been estimated that 300 million tonnes of plastic is introduced into the ocean annually [3].

To give you a visual grasp, that’s the equivalent of dumping the contents of an entire garbage truck into the ocean every minute [1].

Without sustainable intervention, by the year 2030, this would escalate to 2 garbage trucks per minute , and by 2050, 4 garbage trucks by the minute , according to studies done by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation [1].

This same research concludes that within the year 2050, plastic will outweigh the fish in the ocean [1].

Not only does this mean a major disruption within the balance of a delicate ecosystem, which is responsible for controlling weather patterns, providing oxygen and absorbing over 50% of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, but this would mean a toxic danger within our food chain, within our own bodies [2].

Ignorance may mean bliss, however, awareness and action does mean real change. Let’s be aware, let’s take action, let’s be responsible.

If each individual made the effort to act, businesses initiated sustainable innovation and governments focused on environmental regulations, the collective result would mean drastic change– for the better!

However, let’s take it back to what we, the individual, can do.

It’s said that the notion of real change begins at home– and there are simple steps that we can take in order to contribute to the welfare of our beautiful planetary abode.
 

What are single-use plastics?

Straws, grocery bags, coffee lids, plastic bottles, plastic packaging, take-away containers, plastic cutlery, bottle caps– simply put, plastic material designed for one-time use and then sudden disposal.

A study done by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has quoted, “79% of the plastic waste ever produced now sits in landfills, dumps or in the environment, while about 12% has been incinerated and only 9% has been recycled [4].”

Woof! That idea in itself is pretty staggering, wouldn’t you say?

Roughly 6 billion people worldwide take advantage of single-use plastics without being aware of the subsequent dangers that these wasteful habits bring into our own way of life.

Microplastics – which have been recently studied to link to cancer, infertility, birth defects and impaired immunity– absorb into the fatty-acids of fish meaning those who consume seafood ingest 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic each year.

And these microplastics aren’t only being found in seafood but also in our drinking water, in beer, the soil, lake salt — studies are still being done to fully understand the consequential effects of this microfibre take over, however,“researchers note that microplastics found in fish and animals have caused intestinal damage and liver stress [5].

They believe there may be a strong connection between illnesses (i.e. colon cancer, IBS) and microfibres that contaminate “environmental components and diets [5].”

This information may be alarming, but it’s important to be aware of what we might reap if we continue to sow plastic as we do now.

Nature works as a cycle; what we put out, we take in.

And luckily, we have the choice as to what we wish to put out into the world.
 

Take action

So finally, here’s that list of solutions I promised you that has the potential to banish single-use plastics from your day-to-day. It’s time to put that delicious, karmic good back into the life of the environment, don’t you think?
 

Straws

Amidst the vast amount of plastic waste that is hugging our shores, straws are the 11th most commonly found single-use plastic material–they are not as innocuous as we presume [7].

Straws are playing a massive role in killing hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and birds due to plastic ingestion.

500 million straws are used daily in America– here’s another visual coming your way- that is enough straws to fill 46,400 school buses in a single year or circle around the Earth 2.5 times [6].

That idea in itself is nearly ungraspable, fully understanding the damage is nearly beyond our reach and seeing something out of sight nearly leaves it out of our minds– nearly.

Straws take centuries to degrade, aren’t really accepted by curbside recycling programs and break down into those nasty little microplastics that harm marine life and in turn, ourselves.

All this information would nearly be devastating, if we didn’t have a solution.
 

Solution: Join the metal straw initiative

Let’s face it- straws aren’t essential to our lives, and they’re not worth the damage they’re causing.

There are loads of businesses taking the initial stride towards banning plastic straws and replacing them with metal straws, or even paper straws, to push for a cleaner tomorrow.

Buy a metal straw to support the environment or eco-friendly businesses that strive for green innovation, or, you could break the habit of using plastic straws in order to reduce the collective waste.

Imagine if everybody stopped using nonessential plastics– the idea of 500 million straws disappearing each day really makes you hear a beautiful sigh of relief from our dear ocean.
 

Plastic bags

Okay, let’s lay down some facts.

  • 100 billion plastic bags a year are used by Americans which is enough plastic bags to circle the globe 4,200 times and requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture [8].
  • A staggering 1 percent of those plastic bags are recycled, according to Waste Management. The rest ends up in landfills as litter. [8]
  • 80% of plastic pollution in the ocean derives from landfills [8].
  • There is an area that spans the distance between Virginia to Cuba called the Great Atlantic Garbage Patch containing what they call “a soup of plastic” in the ocean, which holds up to “26 million plastic fragments per square kilometer [9].”
  • Plastic bags take up to 1,000 years to degrade— they then become toxic microfibres which contaminate the environment and our food sources.
  • Global awareness has led to plastic bags being banned to up to 32 countries.
  • A ban was put into place in 2012 in San Jose, California— “leading to a 89% reduction in plastic bags in storm drains, a 60% reduction in creeks and rivers, and a 59% drop in residential plastic waste [10].”
  • Plastic bags are made from harmful dyes and chemical substances; once broken down and dissolved, they can become harmful toxins to our health– meaning they can increase the possibility of cancer [11].

 
Plastic may have been a cheaper, quicker alternative, but we are beginning to learn through time and research that these conveniences aren’t worth the the lingering side-effects. So let’s do something about it– because we can.
 

Solution: Bring your own bags

Anything from paper bags, cloth bags or even a backpack if it’s a small shopping spree.

In Europe and the UK, they’ve taxed (or banned) plastic bags leading to a considerable reduction rate in plastic pollution.

Our nurturing environment doesn’t deserve to deal with the harmful effects caused by our lazy tendencies.

Let’s respect the life source. Bring your bags from home and re-use those suckers!
 

Plastic bottles

Plastic bottles (water bottles, soft drinks) are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is a highly recyclable plastic, however, the production rate of bottles is going well beyond our ability to recycle them properly [12].

20,000 bottles are bought every second, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and “fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles” [12].

Due to the distrust of tap water in certain areas, this automatically raises the demand for the convenience of plastic water bottles.

But there are ways around this.
 

Solution: Carry a refillable water bottle instead

You can choose anything between filtered water bottles, metal bottles, or simply put, a bottle that’s designed for long-term use.

Feel good about the water you drink. Every sip being a reminder of the good you’re doing for the environment.
 

Act Now

There are many sustainable alternatives that we can learn to be accustomed to (and love since they’re pro-environment) in order to drastically reduce the rate of plastic pollution.

If we truly wish to see our shores, seas and beautiful islands illuminate in vibrant health once more, we must make a conscious shift.

We are habitual creatures, but with a little awareness, we can familiarize ourselves with the plastic epidemic and make the effort to change what we’ve harmfully become used to .

Single-use plastics are taking over– but we can do something about it.

Instead of using plastic cutlery, invest in your own to-go silverware, use your own coffee mugs to reduce the rate of plastic coffee lids and bring your own take-away containers to restaurants– all these small efforts made by the collective would drastically change the harm we have caused with just a little time, patience and diligence.

It may not be as convenient, but neither would contaminating important reservoirs and destructing the balance of delicate ecosystems that we fully depend on just to get a quick sip through a straw.

It’s time to take care of nature, so nature can take care of us.

 


This is a guest post written by Alora Ferrara.
 
Alora strives to use media platforms to raise quirky, honest awareness, not unattainable perfectionism. She’s a world traveler, blogger, pro-enviro, and a yogi. She offers a humorous integrity to connect with readers.
You can follow her writing by visiting her blog, Dawn Writes.

 


References
  
[1] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/EllenMacArthurFoundation_TheNewPlasticsEconomy_15-3-16.pdf
[2] http://www.protectplanetocean.org/collections/introduction/introbox/oceans/introduction-it em.html
[3] http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/what-is-single-use-plastic/
[4] https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/25496/singleUsePlastic_sustain ability.pdf
[5] https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2018/10/22/659568662/microplastics-are-turning-up-everywhere-even-in-human-excrement
[6] http://www.ecocycle.org/bestrawfree/faqs
[7] https://get-green-now.com/environmental-impact-plastic-straws/
[8] https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/sustainability/ plastic_bag_facts.html
[9] https://environmentmassachusetts.org/sites/environment/files/cpn/AMN-071018-A1/index4.html
[10] https://www.reusethisbag.com/articles/where-are-plastic-bags-banned-around-the-world/
[11] https://www.indiacelebrating.com/environmental-issues/why-plastic-bags-should-be-banned/
[12] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plasticbottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change
[13] http://www.plasticfreechallenge.org/whats-the-big-deal/
[14] https://journalistsresource.org/studies/environment/pollution-environment/plastics-environmental-health-literature-review