Facts About Single Use Plastics
Nature is a beautiful thing, but unfortunately, it’s been and is still being polluted by millions of tons of plastic waste. Consider your local parks, they’re managed and often man-made by park staff, but they’re often littered with refuse. The once classic walk in the park is no longer a calming scene when there’s garbage peaking at your from the landscaping and underbrush.
Single-use plastics might seem like a small contribution, but the price of convenience piles up quickly. Reduce your plastic pollution replacing your single-use plastic items with alternatives that last longer. Here are a few reasons why you should consider switching out your single-use plastic to help make a better impact on the environment.
- Plastic doesn’t biodegrade – Plastic waste can take up to 450 years to fully degrade.
- Marine life is diminishing – By 2050 it’s estimated that there will be more plastic in our oceans (by weight) than fish. 
- Recycling is not the answer – Approximately only 9% of plastic is recycled in the US. China, formerly our biggest recycling importer, no longer accepts much of our recycling.
- Production isn’t slowing down – In 2016, world plastics production totaled around 335 million metric tons. That means roughly half the world’s of annual plastic production is destined for a single-use product. 
The good news is, as piles of litter continue to grow, so does the awareness of the damage its causing and reformed consumers everywhere are turning to greener alternatives. These proactive customers are eliminating plastics from their homes and daily lives to better help the environment and reduce the toll single-use plastics have.
Alternatives to Single Use Plastics
Paper straws are becoming quite popular, especially for parties and get-togethers as they often come in a variety of colors, styles, and patterns. They make great accents to any themed party, and look like part of the decor. If you prefer to use straws at home, or if you’re having a more intimate party with less people, reusable (washable) straws made from stainless steel, glass, silicone, and even bamboo are an eco-friendly option. When you go out to a restaurant, try skipping the straw and simply drink out of your glass instead. Make sure you ask your server to skip the straw before he or she brings your drinks. Several restaurants and popular food chains are already making the full switch to serving customers drinks without straws now. Even some cities have decided to ban straws to protect marine wildlife.
If you don’t like the taste of tap water, a water pitcher filter will help you reduce water bottle waste. It’s also significantly cheaper to filter your own tap water, plus you won’t have lug heavy packs of water bottle home every shopping trip. By buying a stainless steel water bottle, you can fill it up with filtered water from your home.
Whether you’re grabbing a cup of joe or tea at work or refilling your cup after a long workout at the gym, plastic cups build up unnecessary waste in our environment. It’s silly to use a plastic cup for only a few minutes when it’ll last for hundreds of years before breaking down. Bring your own coffee mug or tumbler to work and rely less on disposable products.
Everyone has that one drawer or cabinet in their house that’s stuffed with used plastic bags. Plastic bags are a dime a dozen and it’s almost impossible to reuse them for anything given how easily they tear. Instead of struggling with heavy grocery bags that inevitably fail you, why not just bring your own? Reusable, canvas or recycled plastic grocery bags are a great alternative to collecting all those plastic bags. They also usually have much more comfortable straps and more storage, so you can take fewer trips. You can create your own custom designs with some scrap fabric you have sitting around, or find these bags at almost any grocery store by the checkout aisle.
Plastic Forks, Spoons, and Knives
Astonishingly, some people actually use single-use plastic utensils on a daily basis! Start scrubbing and stop polluting! It makes a significantly smaller impact on the environment if you just wash your eating utensils throughout the week, rather than buying plasticware destinated for the landfill. When you get take-out or carry-away make sure to leave a note for the restaurant to leave the plastic utensils and condiment packages out, too.
Did you know that 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups are thrown away every year? Some major chains like Starbucks will actually give you a discount if you bring in your reusable coffee cup or tumbler. It doesn’t have to be a specific brand, but try to take one with a lid that you can close and make sure it’s clean before handing it to the barista. To keep your coffee or tea warm, get a double-walled or insulated tumbler. They come in porcelain, stainless, and even glass—and many coffee shops carry them in store if you don’t have one yet. Try to get one that won’t hold onto to smells or tastes, so you can use it for whatever you’re drinking. Plastic tumblers repeatedly used for coffee tend to add a hint of that coffee flavor to anything you’re drinking.
Don’t judge a book by its cover; cans are actually lined with plastic! To reduce your soda can waste you can opt for your own in-home soda maker. Not only is this a great alternative to single-use plastics, but it creates a crisp, carbonated beverage every time you want a sip of something fizzy. Like bottled water, there’s a significant savings available to you when you switch from store bought sodas to a home carbonation system.
How to Make the Switch to Reusable Alternatives
Getting rid of all your single-use plastics all at once might be a bit ambitious, especially if you’re constantly on the go or you have small children in tow. Plastic is ubiquitous and making the switch to a greener lifestyle may take you some time, but with a little bit of patience, you’ll be on your way to replacing single-use plastics with greener alternatives. The first thing you need to do is go through your kitchen and take an inventory of all single-use plastics that you use, so you can replace them with longer lasting alternatives as you run out.
Looking for more ways to go eco-friendly in the kitchen? Try batch-prepping your meals for the week to save energy!
- U.S. National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, FL (decomposition times); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program – Retrieved from: https://www.des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/water/wmb/coastal/trash/documents/marine_debris.pdf
- World Economic Forum, January 2016, The New Plastics Economy Rethinking the Future of Plastics – Retrieved from:http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf
- National Geographic, July 19, 2017, HERE’S HOW MUCH PLASTIC TRASH IS LITTERING THE EARTH – Retrieved from: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/
- Earth Day.org (n.d.) Fact Sheet: Single Use Plastics – Retrieved from: https://www.earthday.org/2018/03/29/fact-sheet-single-use-plastics/