Before getting into the ways to reduce plastic use, let’s go over some statistics about plastic use, and some of the reasons why it’s wise to reduce plastic use. Over the last 70 years, the rapid increase of plastic products has made us believe we can't live without them. Each year, we're producing almost 300 million tons of plastic. And, every year eight million tons is thrown into our oceans.
Here are some more startling statistics from Plastic Oceans International:
- People around the world use about 500 billion plastic bags. Every minute, over one million bags are being used.
- Over the past decade, more plastic has been produced than it has over the last century.
- In 2014 in the U.S., over 100 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold — that's 315 bottles per individual.
- Of those units, 57 percent were plastic water bottles — over 57 billion sold in 2014.
The National Geographic says 91 percent of plastic isn't even recycled.
According to a new study the journal Science Advances published, of the 8.3 billion metric tons already produced, over six billion metric tons has turned to plastic waste, and only nine percent was recycled. Around 79 percent is being tossed as litter in our natural environment, or building up in landfills. This means eventually a lot of it winds up in our oceans.
Dangers of Plastic
Here are some of the dangers of plastic:
Plastic Affects Human Health
Plastic contains toxic chemicals that leach out, and are found in the tissue and blood of almost all people. When exposed to them, they can cause:
- Impaired immunity
- Endocrine disruption
- Birth defects
- Other ailments
Plastic Threatens Animals and Other Wildlife
Wildlife mistake plastic for food and eat it, they feed it to their young, or they become entangled in it.
Plastic Attracts Other Pollutants
Plastic’s chemicals, which give them their flexibility or rigidity (phthalates, flame retardants, bisphenols, etc.), are oil poisons that stick to petroleum-based materials like plastic debris, and they repel water. Therefore, those chemicals that are leaching out of plastics then go on to accumulate on other plastics, causing a serious concern with the rapid growth of plastic debris building up in our oceans.
Many toxins are found in many plastics, including bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic compound we use in epoxy resins and plastic. Research suggests BPA is toxic to womens' ovaries. Along with being dangerous to womens' reproductive system, research also suggests exposure of BPA can cause problems during pregnancy for the unborn child. One study of infants and mothers showed the mothers who had a higher level of this toxic compound had children with reduced lung function.
There's a connection between asthma and childhood exposure to plasticizers, according to studies. Recently, however, one report from Columbia University found an increased risk even at birth. According to the study's scientists, children born to mothers with higher levels of exposure were over three times more likely to develop symptoms of asthma than their counterparts.
Othe Dangers of Plastic
These include that plastic could be involved in:
- Destroying our water
- Making its way into our food
- Destroying hormonal balance
- Harming female libido
The implications of plastic winding up in the environment weren’t realized until it was already there. Now, the biggest task is getting control over plastic waste, and this calls for a comprehensive worldwide approach, involving rethinking:
- Product design
- Plastic chemistry
- Consumer use
- Recycling strategies
So, how can you help?
Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
Here are five ways you can help reduce the use of plastic:
1. Stop Using Straws
Forget the plastic straws at home or in restaurants. If you must use a straw, buy a reusable glass or stainless steel straw. Individuals in the U.S. use about 500 million drinking straws each day. Then, they end up in waterways, landfills, on the streets, or in other places. Basically, they all end up in the garbage in some shape, way, or form because they're not recyclable. It's a huge problem.
2. Use Reusable Shopping Bags
One plastic bag may take around 1,000 years to degrade. Bring your own bags with you, no matter if you're going to the supermarket to grocery shop, or going to the mall on a shopping spree. Reusable bags are fairly cheap, and just a small investment to help our environment.
3. Stop Using Plastic Water Bottles
Many companies and stores provide a number of reusable water bottles. They're made in all shapes, sizes, and materials, so there's no need to continue using plastic water bottles. Even if one individual were to switch to using a reusable water bottle, they'll be saving 217 plastic water bottles each year from going to a landfill.
4. Recycle Properly
Not all types of plastic are recyclable, but many are. Learn what you can recycle in your area, then make recycling plastic your priority at home.
5. Re-think How You Store Food
Plastic wrap, plastic storage containers, and plastic baggies are worth re-thinking. Instead of using the traditional sandwich baggies, try using a cute tiffin or bento box for when packing yours or your kids lunch. Rather than wrapping food up in plastic wrap, or throwing your plastic zipper bags away, try using glass containers or jars instead.
You might also want to teach your kids about the dangers of plastic, and how they can help reduce their plastic use. Many kids care about wildlife, and don't want to watch an animal suffocate from a plastic bag. You can teach them that small changes in their routine can make a big difference in the battle against plastic.
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