The Importance of Plastic ReductionWhen you put your trash cans out on the curb each week, how much time to you spend thinking about what happens to it? When you come home from work and the bins are empty, you simply take them back to the garage where they sit for another week until you take them out again. The sad reality is most of the waste collected from communities ends up either in a landfill or a waste-to-energy incinerator. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) states that about 26% of the waste generated in the United States is recycled or composted and about 8% is burned at incinerators. The remaining 66% of that waste is disposed of in a landfill. Plastic waste takes hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill. Plastic grocery bags only take 10 to 20 years to decompose, but plastic bottles take closer to 450 years. Some plastic may take as long as 1,000 years to decompose, if it ever does. Unfortunately, a lot of plastic waste also ends up in the ocean. Scientists estimate that the amount of marine plastic waste will double over the next 10 years and, by 2050, the ocean may contain more plastic waste than fish. Pollution is a serious threat to the environment and plastic pollution is particularly dangerous. Plastic creates toxic gases when burned and most plastic simply doesn’t break down on its own. Some plastic items can be recycled, but the majority of it cannot – especially items contaminated with food waste.
Tips for Reducing Your Plastic UsageEven if your community has a recycling program, not everything can be recycled and even some things that can require a lot of energy and water to do so. Plastic garbage often ends up in a landfill where it sits for hundreds of years before degrading, and there’s a rising concern that it may be leaking toxins into the earth in the meantime. The best thing you can do is take steps to reduce your plastic usage.
Here are some simple tips for reducing your plastic usage:
- Avoid single-use plastics like plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, and plastic water bottles. Switch to reusable shopping bags and start carrying your own water bottle instead.
- Choose products sold in boxes rather than bottles – things like laundry detergent. Cardboard is more easily recycled than plastic containers.
- Purchase food like pasta, cereal, and rice from bulk bins with your own reusable bags or containers. Not only will you save on unnecessary packaging, but you’ll save money as well.
- Bring your own container for leftovers when you dine at a restaurant so you can avoid Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers.
- Consider switching to cloth diapers rather than disposable diapers – it will save you money in addition to reducing your (and your baby’s) carbon footprint.
- Make your own cleaning products using simple ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. You can scent them with essential oils and refill the same few containers.