Paper, Plastic or Our Planet? Tips for Sustainability
Think that your plastic doesn't make it to the ocean? Think again! Check out these top tips for green living and see how to reduce ocean pollution to save our sea turtles, corals and more!
Sea Turtles Mistake Plastics for their Favorite Food - Jellyfish
Plastic Pollution Solutions for our Ecosystem!
Live in the middle of the country? Always recycle? Your plastic waste still makes it to the ocean!
All plastics break down into microplastics, tiny particles of plastics that have now entered our entire food chain and water supplies, even in the most remote areas on the planet. Plastic pollution is one of the top conservation, environmental and health issues we face today.
Does My Plastic Make Its Way to the Ocean?
The U.S. sent China and other countries 157,000 20-ft shipping containers of plastic waste a year, according to the 2018 US Census Bureau. These countries take our plastic waste as a source of income, even though they are not known to be users or exporters of recycled plastic and have limited solutions for recycling. Plastic waste from these shipments and the plastic landfills in these poor nations is one of the top sources of ocean pollution.
Sadly, less than 20% of our plastic waste ever gets recycled.
Plastic Pollution and the Plight of the Sea Turtles
Plastic in the ocean kills marine life. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for their favorite food, jellyfish! Plastic straws get stuck in the beach turtle nasal passages and impede their ability to breath. Fish and marine birds often mistake bottle tops and plastic pieces for food, causing them to die from starvation from plastic filled bellies.
And now the zooplankton, and their food source phytoplankton, the tiny sea creatures that produces ~82% of the worlds oxygen, are also impacted by microplastics. Microplastics block phytoplankton sunlight, and zooplankton are eating microplastic with unknown consequences, according to a recent study published in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. Even the tiny creatures that makeup corals in our coral reefs are starting to eat plastics, reports National Geographic, and these plastics carry bacteria that can kill them and is suspected to contribute to coral reefs getting sick and dying.
Learn more with our interactive Paper, Plastic or our Planet class! Great for families, parties, schools and kids!
Plastic pollution also has unknown health effects on humans, but plastic is building up in our organs, causing increased concerns by doctors for systemic health issues.
Plastic Pollution Solutions
You can make a difference every single day by changing the way you shop and consume. Don't just do it for the beach turtles, do it for a healthy you!
1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
With the economic rules of supply and demand, what and how you buy makes the biggest difference! Many manufacturer attempts at providing more compostable alternatives have been rejected by consumers, including alternative bags for chips, which were found to be too crinkly sounding.
Buy compostable alternatives for plastic, such as compostable garbage bags.
Buy alternative packaging like paper packaging wherever possible.
Buy products with less plastic packaging.
Plus when you reduce your plastic purchase, you reduce the CO2 required to produce it which in turn mitigates global warming! Plastics are made of fossil fuels and their extraction and production process both are contributing causes of climate change. Learn more about how this helps our oceans with our entertaining and educational CO2 Calamity class.
2. Ask for No Straw or Lid
Americans use over 500 Million straws a year, claims the Be Straw Free Campaign, with most ending up in the landfills and oceans. We use an additional 23 pounds of disposable cup waste each year. Reject the straw or bring a reusable one. Avoid the lid or bring a reusable cup.
Say no to the straw and lid or bring a reusable cup or straw with you
3. Keep Reusable Bottles & Bags In Your Car
A single person uses 167 disposable water bottles each year. Additionally, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags each year, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Keep reusable shopping bags and bottles in your car.
If you can't avoid the plastic bag, always recycle them at your local grocery store (lookup recycling plastic near me on the web).
4. Glass & Aluminum, NOT Foam & Plastic
Glass and Aluminum containers are 100% recyclable and can be endlessly recycled. Most Styrofoam disposed of today will still be in landfills 500 years from now as it is not fully recyclable.
When you have a choice of drinks, purchase in aluminum cans and glass bottles, not plastic or foam. Consider bringing to-go containers to your favorite restaurant for your next meal for those leftovers!
Keep a care kit of a reusable bag, bottle and to-go containers in your car
5. Donate or Recycle Unwanted Clothing
Today's fast-fashion is becoming a fast problem with more clothing making its way into the waste stream. As many fibers including polyester, nylon, acrylic, and other synthetic fibers are now made of plastics, every time you throw out old clothing, you can contribute to the plastic pollution problem.
Buy higher quality clothes and natural fibers whenever possible.
Donate unwanted clothing!
Recycle unusable clothes and textiles at your local textile recycling service.
Even better, recycled textiles get reused for insulation for more energy efficient homes!
Can I Really Make a Difference?
While it is nearly impossible to avoid plastic in our lives, every single choice we make every single day makes a big difference. Public pressure has led to recent laws calling on the end to microplastics in our products, such as toothpastes and beauty products. Countries and states are now enacting bans on plastic bags and single use plastics. We are seeing a shift in governments holding manufacturers more accountable to bearing the cost of recycling for their products.
Manufacturer supply follows consumer demand, and public pressure makes a difference to worldwide policies, so keep making the right choices every day!