Plastic pollution and potential solutions
No one wants to think that the ocean is basically a trash soup while soaking in the relaxing rhythm of the waves crashing against the beach.
But here is an exciting reality!
Millions of tons of debris are floating in this water. Most of them are plastic. This constant barrage (equivalent to 136 billion milk churns per year, according to a study published in Science) poses a serious threat to marine life.
Animals can get caught in this trash or mistaken for prey and ingest it. This is because the plastic was broken down into small particles by seawater. Because plastic is, of course, non-biodegradable, it has the unique problem of sticking much longer (up to 1,000 years longer) than other types of debris. And we're not just talking about people throwing trash outboard.
About 80% of marine debris actually occurs on land. It is washed off the coast or, in the case of heavy rain, is carried from the road to the river through gutters and sewer overflows.
Therefore, the best thing you can do to protect your waterways is to try to get as much plastic out of the waste stream as possible.
There are many small ways you can make a big impact.
1. Pull yourself away from disposable plastic. 90% of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then thrown away. Shopping bags, plastic wraps, disposable cutlery, straws and coffee cup lids. Be aware of how often you depend on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times to get into the habit of taking your bag to the store, the cutlery to the office, or the mug to Starbucks.
2. Stop buying water-Nearly 20 billion PET bottles are thrown into the trash every year. If you're worried about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott micro beads-The small plastic beads found in so many beauty products, such as facial scrubs, toothpaste, and shower gels, may look harmless, but their small size allows them to slip through water treatment equipment. Unfortunately, they also look like food to some marine animals. Instead, choose products that contain natural exfoliating agents such as oatmeal and salt.
4. Cook more-Not only is it healthier, but you don't need a takeaway bottle or dog bag to prepare your own meal. When ordering or eating out at a restaurant, let the restaurant know that you don't need plastic cutlery. Or pay a little extra cash and bring your food container to the restaurant for leftovers.
5. Buy second-hand goods-Especially new toys and electronics come with all kinds of plastic packages, from frustrating hard shells to twisted ties. Search thrift shops, local flea markets, or online post shelves for items that are as good as you've used before. You can also save a few dollars.
6. Recycling (natural)-Obviously, we aren't doing a great job. For example, less than 14% of plastic packages are recycled.
Are you confused about what you can and cannot put in the trash?
Look at the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid detergent bottles will be the number one (PET) widely accepted by most roadside recycling companies. Containers labelled # 2 (HDPE; usually heavier bottles for milk, juice and detergent) and # 5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine cups, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas.
8. Buy in bulk-Single Serving Yogurt, Travel Size Toiletries, and small Packs of Nuts-Consider the ratio of products to packages of frequently purchased items and choose a large container instead of buying a few small ones over time give me.
9. Bring your garment bag to a dry cleaner-Invest in a zippered cloth bag and ask them to put the cleaned item back in it instead of wrapping it in plastic. (And while you're there, be sure to visit a dry cleaner that skips the toxic chemical perk in some cleaning solutions.)
10. Put pressure on the manufacturer-Obviously, we can make a difference through our own habits, but businesses have a much larger footprint. If you think the company may be smarter about their packaging, let us hear your voice. Write a letter, tweet, or meet someone who really hurts. Give money to more sustainable competitors.