By Elena Zevallos:
Remember that plastic to-go cup you purchased at your local coffee shop earlier today? Or perhaps something bigger - a shampoo bottle with a fancy name and picture that will be disposed after use? How much single-use plastic do you think we use each day?
Plastic usage in our society has become an unconscious habit. Even with an increasing global awareness of the damage of this material, we still use a heavy amount of it per day - whether single-use or not. Plastic that we may possess for a minute (such as take out silverware and containers) will last for hundreds more years on the planet. For the most part, plastic is not recyclable - even though manufacturers claim it to be so. Just because it has the recycling symbol doesn’t actually mean it gets recycled! Recycling facilities are only able to re-melt and reuse a small amount of the trillions of plastic that’s discarded each year. In the US, approximately 9% of plastic is recycled. Around 300 million tons of different kinds of plastic are manufactured and bought yearly, and the production hits a new record every year. If this continues, by 2050 the amount of plastic in landfills will add up to 35,000 times the weight of the Empire State Building.
Even while we may aim to transition our lifestyle towards a plastic-free one, it can oftentimes seem inevitable to avoid plastic. Liquid laundry detergent really only comes in a plastic bottle. The packaging in an Amazon shipment is almost always some kind of cellophane. One of our campaigns here at Sustainable Future is called “Go Plastic-Free For One Month”. At first glance, this may seem like an impossible feat. Step into almost any shop out there and you’re surrounded by items that have some kind of plastic on or around it.
Individuals such as you and I might not be able to change the world of plastic production by ourselves. But we can at least start by doing our part to cut down on our consumption. It’s through collective effort that people can contribute to the plastic-free movement.
Let’s call it plastic detoxing. Just like any regular detox that may aid in our health, we can also do the same for the health of our environment.
Simple acts such as avoiding pre-packaged foods while going for fresh produce and bulk items, turning down single-use items offered to you at restaurants, investing in a reusable cup or purchasing items in glass containers are always preferable alternatives that prove both safer for your health and the planet’s.
Safer for our health?
Because plastic is made of crude oil and contains chemicals such as BPA (bisphenol A), recent studies have shown the noxious effects of having food wrapped or water bottled in plastic. But not too long ago, companies were in denial of the chemical’s health detriment. And it made most of the world’s population ignorant to this fact.
BPA - which resides in most plastic packaging - almost inevitably leeches onto foods and water which can be extremely harmful to humans. It’s been linked to cause birth defects in women, lung illness in children (including asthma) and hormonal and insulin problems in both genders. Sure, plastic packaging can properly preserve a food’s freshness for a long period of time, but is it really worth putting everyone’s health at risk?
So now the question arises: is it easy to detox plastic from your life for, say, a month?
It may be inconvenient - but perhaps it can also be fun! Most of us are often confronted with too many options in our shopping life that selecting something to purchase can be overwhelming. But if we can put restrictions on what we purchase for the betterment of the environment and our own health, then it can feel satisfactory. And these days, global brands and small businesses alike are starting to respond to the plastic pandemic by producing less of them and promoting alternatives such as glass, steel and recyclable materials.
In the hopes that we can commit ourselves to this kind of lifestyle, can we also detox our lives from these deleterious chemicals? Can we choose to support companies that seek to improve the environment? And what creative ideas can we come up with that can make it easier for us to ditch plastic and lean towards alternative methods?
Our plastic-free campaign presents a long list of simple yet effective ways to reduce our daily consumption of this material. If we commit ourselves to one month of following this list - and maybe coming up with other creative methods along the way - perhaps it can exercise a new habit: living as conscious and plastic-free a life as we can!