Single use plastic is choking our world
Let’s make next year the one where we reduce the amount of trash we send to the landfills. That’s something even the youngest of us can do. The world produces about 300 million tons of plastic each year and at least half of it is single use items. Single use plastic water bottles, disposable coffee cups (that you can’t actually dispose of) shopping bags and food wrappers make up a huge portion of this trash. However, did you know that clothing made from polyester, nylon and other man made materials is also full of plastic and can take decades to break down. Even if all of this plastic eventually breaks down, we have to deal with the tiny shreds of microplastic that has embedded into everything. It is in everything from the water to wildlife and our food animals. Every time we wash a polyester item, microscopic pieces float away in the rinse and enter the groundwater. We need to stop this dangerous cycle.
Eliminate single use bags and make your own
The first thing we need to do is get in the habit of carrying reusable shopping bags with us and refusing plastic throw-aways. Many places have already banned the use of these terrible things, however more of us need to do the right thing and speed up the elimination of the bags. You can make your own easily and upcycle something at the same time. An old tee shirt makes a wonderful shopping bag and even teens can do this easy craft. You’ll need a tee shirt, a pair of scissors and a needle and thread. First, sew the bottom of the tee shirt closed. I use an overhand stitch that is stronger than a traditional running stitch. I used a contrasting thread so you can see how it goes. It’s a simple stitch. If you have access to a sewing machine, that’s even better. Sew the bottom shut, even going across it twice to ensure the strength of the seam. This is the most important part. Next, lay the tee shirt out and smooth it straight. Cut off the sleeves and cut off the collar. You should have something that looks like the image above. You can deepen the collar cut some to make the opening of the bag wider if your shirt is small, however, your bag is done. That’s all there is to it. This reusable bag fits anywhere and holds an enormous amount of merchandise. There’s no reason not to have 3 or 4. You’ve saved untold amounts of single use bags and upcycled an old shirt that was probably destined for the landfill as well.
Buy eco-friendly soaps and bathroom essentials
Secondly, a look in your bathroom and laundry room. There’s tons of single use plastic bottles and containers lurking until they are empty. Shampoo, conditioner, makeup, lotions, toothpaste, disposable razors and liquid body wash are all destined for the landfill. Laundry detergent and fabric softeners also come in wasteful plastic containers. When all of these are empty, you toss the containers and go out and buy more. Smart companies are now offering eco-friendly and green products that are either refillable or come in smart packaging, avoiding plastics. Shampoo bars, bar soap, and zero waste toothpaste tablets cut back on the waste in bathrooms and there are detergent tablets and strips that clean and soften your clothes just as well as the products in those plastic bottles.
Choose green containers for food and cleaning products
The third place to eliminate plastic is the kitchen. The freezer is also a single-use plastic wasteland. We wrap, cover and freeze just about everything in plastic that gets tossed as soon as it gets used. Not to mention plastic mustard, ketchup, mayo, milk cartons and other single use containers. Even if the item is technically recyclable, it is sometimes removed from the recycling process. Plastic cutlery is the worst offender since it often jams up the machinery. If your town picks up recyclables, find out exactly what they can use and what goes on to the landfill anyway. Choose your purchases accordingly. Unfortunately, many manufacturers haven’t joined in the recycling movement yet. Years ago, we had glass containers for most condiments and even glass bottles for dairy. These days, single use plastic food containers are the norm. You cannot recycle coated paper plates, fast food containers and disposable coffee cups. Coated milk, broth, wine and soup containers often are recycled though. We toss out sandwich and snack baggies and single use water bottles by the millions every day. Those of us who freeze our produce often use vacuum sealers or disposable zip bags. Years ago, we had reusable, plastic freezer containers and our meat was wrapped in freezer paper. Reusing our containers or even using glass in the freezer eliminates lots of single use waste. Cleaning products are now offered in refillable containers and are often less expensive than their plastic-covered counterparts.
Shop with merchants that don't wrap in plastic
The fourth way to eliminate plastic is to try to shop for your produce where it isn’t wrapped and sealed in plastic. Farmers markets are a great way to eliminate food miles and help the local economy on top of buying produce without all of that plastic attached. Wrap your lunch in reusable or compostable containers. Every little thing we do makes a difference. Choosing wisely can make a difference. Bring your own coffee mug to the shop and often, the vendor will give you a discount for doing so. Carry a refillable water bottle and avoid fast food places. Switch to your own bags when shopping and use them everywhere, not just the supermarket. Count up the plastic items you toss each month and see where you can change your habits. We send untold amounts of plastic to the garbage every day and assume that since it is out of sight, you can forget about it. The problem is enormous. However if we all do our part, even little things can add up.
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