(Source: Blue Ocean Network)
By: Jessica Christensen
The problem with plastic
It’s not a pretty picture, but it is the harsh reality of our daily choices.
Around 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced since it was invented over 100 years ago. With a mere 9% of that being recycled and 12% being incinerated, that leaves roughly 79% accumulating in landfills or the natural environment. The ability for plastic to last a long time (450-1000 years long) means that nearly all of the plastic that has ever been created still exists.
And it’s marine life that are experiencing the worst of the effects…
According to a study published in the journal, Science Advances, 8 million tons of plastic are being added to the oceans every year – a number that continually increases. This could add up to nearly 12 billion tons by 2050.
While the images of floating islands of debri are a clear sign of the problem, the heartbreaking truth is that those account for only 5% of the ocean pollution. The other 95% is submerged and broken down into microplastics. These are then ingested and absorbed by all those who call the oceans home.
(Source: Sean A. Williamson via Earth Touch News)
So what can we do about it?
Reusable water bottles and shopping bags are well-known solutions to their plastic equivalents. A lesser tackled issue is replacing the single-use, non-durable plastic cutlery and straws that are used by the millions every day. These smaller bits of plastic, along with plastic bags, are considered the most deadly to marine life because they are easily mistaken as food.
The National Park Service estimates that Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day, on top of the 40 billion plastic utensils that are produced each year. They may be small in size, but the sheer quantity of use makes it a problem that everyone should be aware of.
The good news? There are reusable alternatives for all of them! Here are some of our wholesome tips to make refusing the single-use plastics a breeze:
1. Pack your own reusables: Straws, flatware, water bottles, bags. One metal straw can replace up to 540 plastic straws. These can come in stainless steel, titanium, and biodegradable materials such as bamboo. Plus, some travel flatware sets even come with chopsticks for all that delicious vegan sushi.
2. Politely refuse the straw, do this when they first bring you your drink. For safety and sanitary reasons, it is common for the unused straw to be discarded if it is left on the table, even if it is still in the wrapper.
3. When ordering takeout or delivery, request that utensils not be included
This one is easy to forget when hunger strikes and you’re scouring over the delicious menu options, but it can make a huge impact.
4. Buy less processed and convenience foods to reduce your packaging pollution
Food wrappers and containers account for 31% of the pollution in the environment. When food is taken on the go, it is also less likely to find its way into a recycling bin. Opting to follow a more whole-foods plant-based diet and taking your snacks in reusable containers is a great alternative.
5. Bonus: for those wanting to take their environmentalism to the next level, here is a simple recipe for creating your own edible cutlery!
This idea that came from India’s Narayana Peesapaty has opened the door for other inventive and earth-friendly takes on edible cutlery and plates.