More than 40% of all plastics are single use and more than 91% aren’t recycled. In 2014 alone, over 100 billion plastic bags were used in the US. That’s nearly one per person per day. Straws, coffee cups, yogurt pots, food wrapping, disposable cutlery, wet wipes, soda bottles, razors and more all end up as pollution.
In the last couple of years, disturbing videos feature oceans filled with litter flooded social media. So yes, we have become more aware of our plastic addition but awareness isn’t enough. The problem is already so acute and plastics so widespread that we ingest their particles with every meal. It’s time we take action.
A flood of plastic
Animals such as sea turtle, birds and seals often die as a result of getting tangled in waste. It is truly heartbreaking to watch, yet not even close to seeing the living conditions of people in the Indian slum of Taimur Nagar. If you thought that “a flood of plastic” was a figure of speech, think again.
Although the situation is far from good, it is about to get worse. At the current rate of usage, ocean plastic pollution is expected to triple over the next decade. By 2050, the seas will contain more plastic than fish.
The tip of the iceberg
China and Indonesia top the list of countries producing the most mismanaged plastic waste, but the US is the only developed country in the top 20. The average American uses 156 plastic bottles per year, only about a quarter of which get recycled.
To draw attention to the growing problem, the June issue of National Geographic magazine tricks you into thinking you are looking at a magnificent iceberg, perhaps a visual to accompany a piece on global warming. Only after a moment do you realize that what you see is just a plastic bag floating in water - a symbol of a hidden threat.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse
It might seem that our personal actions are insignificant, but so is just one plastic bag - until it becomes more ubiquitous than fish.
While policymakers and industries have to come together to take action against plastic, consumer choices are equally important. Start by politely requesting “no straw, please” when ordering a drink. If you love to slowly shlurp your beverage so much you can’t go without one, get a reusable straw made of aluminium or acrylic.
Plastic shopping bags may seem convenient but linen ones are better for the planet and let’s be honest, look much better too. You can buy some fancy ones on Etsy, or collect souvenir totes from your travels.
Coffee cups and soda bottles are a big part of our plastic addiction but they’re easily eliminated too. Consider using a KeepCup for your hot drinks and a HydroFlask to keep your water cold and fresh.
Go on a shopping spree and get yourself fun, reusable products that will drastically reduce your plastic waste. You can find some more products that will help you cut down on single use plastic here and here.
You can also take the National Geographic “Planet or Plastic” pledge here.