Plastic pollution is having a detrimental effect on our oceans and wildlife health on a massive scale. In order to reverse the damage we have done, we must first have an awareness of the sheer magnitude of plastics being dumped into the natural environment and world’s oceans.
Shedding Light on the Magnitude of Plastic in the Ocean
- Every day approximately 8 million pieces of plastic pollution find their way into our oceans.
- More than 300 million tons of plastic is produced every year, half of which is for single-use.
- More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year.
- There may now be around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean. Weighing up to 269,000 tonnes.
- Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
This is a visual representation of how our plastic production has increased since the 1950's.
Although these numbers can seem daunting, there are simple actions that each of us can do to do our part in reducing our plastic usage. We need to shift the demand for plastic to more sustainable solutions so that manufacturers are forced to switch as well.
Here are 15 ways to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint
1. Bring your own shopping bag
The usefulness of these thin and easily ripped bags is extremely limited, yet according to one estimate, somewhere between five billion and one trillion plastic bags are used each year around the world. You can reduce waste by bringing your own reusable produce bags or skipping them entirely.
2. Stop buying bottled water
Unless there’s some kind of contamination crisis, plastic water bottles are an easy target for reducing waste. Instead, keep a refillable bottle handy.
3. Bring your own thermos to the coffee shop
Speaking of refillable, bringing your own thermos for to-go coffee is another way to reduce your plastic footprint. Disposable coffee cups might look like paper but they’re usually lined with polyethylene, a type of plastic resin.
4. Choose cardboard over plastic bottles and bags
Buy boxes instead of 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.
5. Say no to plastic straws
Whether for home use or when you’re ordering a drink at a bar or restaurant, plastic straws are often a single-use item that's just not necessary.
6. Use Bulk Bins
Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging.
7. Say No To Processed Frozen Foods.
Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you'll be eating fewer processed foods!
8. Avoid Face wash with micro beads
Much of the plastic that’s polluting the oceans is microplastics, tiny chunks that are next to impossible to filter out. These plastics can come from bigger items breaking down, but they are also commonly added to consumer products like face wash and toothpaste. These little beads are intended to be exfoliators, but many wastewater treatment facilities aren’t able to stop them. There are many biodegradable alternatives, so avoid items with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” on the ingredients list.
9. Skip the disposable razor
10. Make your period waste-free
There are a number of non-disposable options out there to cut down on period waste, from the Diva Cup to the Ruby Cup. All these choices reduce incredible amount of packaging that most pads and tampons are encased in. If you’re not in a situation where giving up tampons is an option, consider skipping brands with plastic applicators.
11. Re-think your food storage
Plastic baggies, plastic wrap, and plastic storage containers are worth re-evaluating. Instead of sandwich baggies, why not pack a bento box for lunch? Instead of throwing away plastic zipper bags or wrapping things in Saran wrap, you can easily use jars or glass containers to store leftovers in the fridge.
12. Give up gum.
Did you know that most gum is made of synthetic rubber and plastics? Gum used to be made from sap from trees until scientists found ways to adapt the recipe and use easier to find things. it’s not water-soluble so doesn’t break down.
13. Ditch Diapers
The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby's carbon footprint and save money.
14. Request No Plasticware
Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to make a request when ordering to-go at restaurants so they don’t pack unnecessary plastic utensils in your take-out box.
15. Green Clean
Clean with baking soda and vinegar instead of cleaners packaged in plastic.
Some of the recommendations on this list are easier to implement than others. Change start with small steps in the right direction. Start with a plastic reduction goal that is attainable and grow from there. One way you can make a change right now is by replacing single use plastic bottles for a Bhavana Bottle that will save an average of 134 plastic bottles from ending up in the ocean each year.