10 ways to ditch plastics

Back in January, we wrote about the flood of plastic trash that’s polluting our waterways. We’re going to revisit that post again today, add some more details, and include a few more suggestions about what you can do to reduce your use of plastic.

Plastic is, literally, everywhere. We use plastic utensils, plates, cups and even tablecloths. We bring our groceries home in plastic bags, and those groceries are packed with plastic as well – plastic bottles for our soda and water, plastic liners in juices and in tin cans, plastic containers around our meats and veggies.

It all seems so convenient … but we’re paying a steep price: Every single piece of plastic ever made still exists in some way, shape or form. That’s because plastic does not biodegrade. If you burn it, it releases toxic pollution; if you shred it, it becomes tinier bits that are even harder to clean up.  What’s worse, plastic — which is made from oil — contains chemicals that have been proven to disrupt our endocrine systems, cause cancers and more. Yet we still use it, and we find new uses for it every day. 

Here are a few frightening facts, borrowed from environmentalist Sarah Wilson, the Plastic Pollution Coalition and ecowatch.com:

  • Plastic in the ocean now outnumbers sea life six to one.
  • All (yes, all) sea turtle species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
  • One million sea birds are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.  
    Photo courtesy Plastic Pollution Coalition.
    Photo courtesy Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  • Plastic chemicals, like BPA, are absorbed by the body. They disrupt hormones and your endocrine system.
  • Plastic contains BPA, DDT and PCB — extremely toxic chemicals. The health effects of these include cancer, male infertility, miscarriages and low birth weight, developmental delay, nervous system damage, endocrine system damage and liver damage. .
  • In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. 

What can we do to change this? Here are 10 simple — and not-so-simple — ways to start.

1.)  Stop using plastic cutlery. Keep a metal knife, fork and spoon at work and use them for your lunch. Buy a camping knife, spoon and fork set and keep it in your car, lunchbox, purse, or whatever you have with you every day. When your takeout food comes, you can tell them to keep the plastic ware.

2.)  Stop using plastic straws, which account for a large portion of the pollution in our waterways. Sip your drink like a grownup, or purchase  stainless steel, bamboo or paper straws and use those instead (you can find any of these at a number of online retailers).

3.)  Skip the plastic bags when you grocery shop. Take along reusable bags instead, or ask for paper bags.

4.)  Drink water from the tap, and take along a glass or stainless steel water bottle for drinks on the go.

5.)  Take your own travel mug to the coffee shop — the disposable cups you’re drinking out of have a plastic lining and a plastic lid.

6.)  Avoid, to the best of your ability, buying items packaged in plastic — be it a plastic bag or a plastic wrapper. Admittedly, this won’t be easy, but it’s worth looking a little longer for non-plastic packaging.

7.)  Patronize restaurants that offer cardboard takeout containers instead of plastic ones, and encourage other restaurants to make the switch.

8.)  Skip the plastic toothbrush, opting for one made of bamboo (also available at online retailers).

9.)  Buy wax paper or aluminum

foil instead of plastic wrap.

10.)  Store leftovers in reusable glass containers.