As an avid scuba diver and ocean lover in general, I strive every day to make choices that will lessen the negative impact humans have on our ecosystem. The mission of my company and lifestyle is to share facts and offer solutions to decrease plastic waste one step at a time. It is projected that by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. In fact, the amount of plastic in the oceans is estimated to be 150 million metric tons and is only increasing daily.
It has become increasingly harder to avoid plastics in our daily lives. We make decisions every day that are detrimental to future generations; which fuels the need for change.CHANGE. A word nobody likes, am I right? The word is full of fear, stress, and uncertainty. But some change can be fulfilling, motivating, and even positive for our health and the health of our ecosystem.
All that’s needed is some preparation and commitment to saying “no”, one plastic at a time. Here are the top 5 “single-use” or “use and throw” items that don’t have to be a moment on the lips, a lifetime with our fish.
#1: Plastic Straws
Research shows that plastic straws cannot be broken down naturally by decomposition. Used just once at lunch or dinner, a straw can take 200+ years to decompose. Like most plastics, straws simply break into smaller particles, called micro-plastics, releasing chemicals into the soil, air, and water that are harmful to animals, plants, people, and the environment.
Alternative options: Metal straws, bamboo straws, paper straws, rice straws, sugar cane straws, and reusable silicone straws are easy and cheap alternatives to their harmful plastic counterparts.
#2: Plastic Bottles (Water/Juice)
Less than a quarter of the plastic bottles purchased in the U.S. are recycled. Meaning over 75% of all plastic bottles in the U.S. will end up in landfills or our water systems.
Those are overwhelming numbers considering that in America alone, we purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year in just water.
Alternative options: A reusable water bottle (I don’t leave home without mine full and ready to go), a water filter jug, or an in-home water filtration system are simple switches from plastic bottles.
#3: Plastic Utensils
Ready for a nice picnic on the beach? Think twice about what you pack in your basket.
We use plastic cutlery for about 5-15 minutes, one time, and they will be left on our earth for approximately 1000 years. The decomposing process, not unlike plastic straws, releases toxic chemicals into the environment that harms, not only the air we breathe, but also our oceans.
Alternative options: Edible utensils are gaining popularity in India(Willy Wonka inspired guess)but the concept is only now starting to take off in the United States.
These utensils are mostly limited to spoons and are made from a flour mix of sorghum, rice, and wheat flour.Biodegradable/compostable cutlery; such as bamboo. Bamboo is pest-resistant, 100% biodegradable, antifungal, and is the fastest-growing plant globally.
#4: Plastic Cups Don’t celebrate YOLO with SOLO!
The red solo cup frequents parties, tailgate scenes, and college dumpsters. The design of these cups was made to be sturdy but difficult to recycle this particular type of plastic.
#6 on the seven standard classifications list, makes up most styrofoam products like cups and packaging peanuts. It is the most difficult type of plastic to recycle.
Most municipal recycling programs do not have the technology to recycle #6 polystyrene easily either, and so if they do accept it, it has to be shipped to a central location for recycling. Making it far from eco friendly.
Alternative options: Reusable cups (stainless steel, ceramic, glass, etc.) are the best alternative to plastic cups. Have a big party? Choose paper cups or wow your guests with bagasse cups (made from fibrous waste left over after the sugar has been extracted from the sugarcane) and enjoy a sustainable option for your gathering!
#5: Plastic Bags
Plastic bags start as fossil fuels and end up as deadly waste in landfills and the ocean. They are cheap to make but are the most devastating to our ocean’s inhabitants and birds. For hungry sea turtles, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between a tasty jellyfish and a floating plastic shopping bag. And fish eat thousands of tons of plastic a year, transferring it up the food chain to bigger fish and marine mammals.
But it is not all darkness; the first total ban on plastic bags was introduced in 2002 by the government of Bangladesh after the bags were found to pollute waterways and drainage systems. In 2014, California also banned plastic bags, but offer them for purchase in some grocery stores.
Alternative options: Reusable bags for groceries and keeping them in your car ensure you have them when you need them. If forgotten, stores do carry paper bags that can be provided to you upon request! Mesh or cloth bags are also good for your produce or bulk items.
Remember, try not to get discouraged as you start this journey of reducing everyday plastic use. It is not easy but each day is an opportunity to do better. It can be difficult and overwhelming to realize just how much waste these particular items produce. Knowing the recycling system and acknowledging its flaws is important so we can begin to eliminate our use of them and raise awareness.
Anytime you can make a choice, make a conscious effort to chose no. Reuse and reduce, not recycle. Earth is worth fighting for; our home is worth fighting for. It’s time now to think outside the “Plastic Box”.
Article Written By: Andra Tashjian, Owner/Founder LunaKai Lash