By now we all know that plastic production increases greenhouse gasses and waste, endangering the environment, wildlife and humans. But it can seem overwhelming to try to cut back. This month—Plastic Free July — is a good time to take some easy steps toward the goal of kicking the plastic habit—specifically, single-use plastics.
More than five trillion particles of plastic clog our world’s oceans, according to a PLOS One report. Plastic marine debris adversely affects at least 267 species globally, including 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals. The ingestion of plastic particles can lead to impairment of feeding due to blockage of the digestive system, decreased mobility, reduction of reproductive capacity, infection, suffocation and starvation. Additionally, 11.1 billion plastic items entangle the Asian Pacific’s coral reefs, including discarded fishing equipment, stressing the health of the reefs that are already imperiled by a warming climate.
The amount of plastic waste is startling. About one-trillion single-use plastic bags are used annual across the globe, that’s nearly two million every minute. More than half a billion plastic straws are used every day around the world and 16 billion disposable coffee cups, coated with plastic to laminate the inside, are used each year. And let’s not forget the lids. And Americans are doing their share to contribute to the problem, tossing out more than 33 million tons of plastic each year.
This year was a particular challenge as the plastic industry, seizing on fears about COVID 19, ramped up its lobbying and messaging against plastic bag bans and fees. (Experts now believe that the virus is primarily spread through person-to-person contact, rather than contaminated surfaces such as grocery bags, the Guardian reported.)
Plastic Free July was started by Rebecca Prince Ruiz along with a team of government leaders in Australia to call attention to ways all of us can help mitigate the damage caused by overreliance on plastics. Every year, millions of people take part in its challenge to stem the use of plastics in their lives.
You may have already taken a few steps to help reduce plastic waste, like bringing reusable tote bags when shopping and using refillable water bottles. Here’s a few other steps you can take right now to safeguard the environment and all its living species.
Choose to refuse single-use takeaway cups. There are many reusable coffee cups on the market and thermos you can use instead, including glass, ceramic and stainless-steel containers.
Let your fruits and veggies loose! In other words, buy produce that isn’t wrapped in plastic containers and leave them loose in your reusable bags.
Give a sip and skip the plastic straws. Instead, purchase a few inexpensive reusable straws. There are many types on the market including paper, glass and stainless steel.
Reduce your use before you buy. Ask yourself, do I actually need this item? Is there an option for plastic-free packaging? Is the product made from recycled materials? Seek out food co-ops that are package-free and when shopping check for the recycling sign so any items you purchase can be put in the recycling bin.
For more ways to cut down on plastic use, and to take up the challenge to go plastic free this month, click here. And to be less trashy overall, read Friends of Animal’s blog by Dustin Rhodes with 20 helpful tips on reducing waste.