Plastic Free July, a month-long global movement to reduce plastic pollution. While shutting down the country during COVID-19 has made the oceans cleaner and the air healthier. There’s also been a huge surge in plastic pollution with the increased use of disposable masks and gloves, plastic cutlery for takeout, plastic bags at grocery stores, and more. Ashlee Piper, author & eco-lifestyle expert has some tips to lower your plastic use and protect the environment.
1. Go naked!: From beauty and personal care to food, items that are package-free or low packaging, is one of the most powerful ways to eliminate making more trash overall, but especially plastic. Much plastic packaging is attributable to beauty and grooming items since packaging for these can often be an unrecyclable mix of metals and plastic.
2. Refuse disposables: We all might be ordering in or grabbing takeout more these days. The simple step of asking for no plastic cutlery is a great way to stem waste (plastic cutlery cannot be recycled). Take it a step further and keep a kit of reusable cutlery in your bag. That way, when we re-enter society, you’ll be ready to say no to plastic.
3. Cans over plastic bottles: This one’s so easy! When given the choice, reach for cans over plastic containers. Aluminum can be infinitely recycled into aluminum, whereas plastic is trickier to recycle and degrades over time (and thus cannot be recycled into plastic).
4. Invest in a reusable mask: Masks are our new normal, so why not get one (or a few) that can be worn, washed, and used for years to come? Unless you’re a health care worker, you don’t really need disposable masks and they cannot be recycled (and have a mix of plastic polymers that prevent recycling).
5. Think second-hand first: When buying clothes or home items, think second-hand first. Sites like Craigslist and FB Marketplace make this safe and feasible during the pandemic (just arrange for distanced pickup on the latter two). Much plastic waste is created when producing, manufacturing, and shipping new items. Buying second-hand is generally easier on the earth and helps you to reduce your contribution to creating new plastic waste.
Here are a few statistics on single-use plastic as a reference:
- Packaging accounts for 161 million tons of waste per year
- 500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year
- Half a billion plastic straws are used and discarded every day
- Up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used worldwide every year. About 2 million are used per minute, worldwide.
- If current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050
- The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year
- Each day, about 8 million pieces of plastic pollution end up in our oceans.