By Elena Zevallos
July 2, 2021
An unfortunate symptom of summer holidays and beach fun is the amount of trash left over - strewn across the sand and swept into the ocean. Just because we don’t see the waste building up in the deeper parts of the ocean doesn’t mean it isn’t harming large numbers of marine species and decimating ecosystems. Additionally, waste swept inland impacts our environment in ways we don’t often see. Chemicals from slow-disintegrating materials enter water streams, seeping into aquatic reserves that we end up consuming and into animals that we might eat. And often these single-use materials (especially plastic and styrofoam) will stick around for centuries while leaching toxic chemicals into our waters and lands.
According to UNEP, the world generates more than two billion tons of trash each year. Landfills are responsible for being the third-largest methane producer in the world - a gas more potent than carbon dioxide. This has huge implications on human health via environmental sources - like the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe. And the worst part is that the amount of waste generated, leading to enormous landfills across the globe, is rapidly increasing each year.
So while we consider our daily consumption of products and the waste it leaves, let’s tackle the solutions. We can:
Avoid packaged foods. If you have no choice for, let’s say pasta, opt for something wrapped in paper or compostable material.
Say no to single-use items!
Purchase reusable materials and containers
Buy secondhand clothes/items
Avoid throwing away food - make a creative dish out of it or compost!
Focus on recycling more and brainstorm on ways to upcycle
Participate in beach or neighborhood clean-ups and spread awareness on the importance of reducing waste/not littering!
We cannot avoid trash in our lives completely, but avoiding single-use products is a start. By following these simple tips, we can help maximize solutions and alleviate our global waste issue. Amongst many more environmental problems, trash requires serious attention and immediate action as it intertwines with a variety of other climate concerns. From the residual chemicals seeping into our water and soil to the litter infiltrating ecosystems to the tons of toxic gas it emits into our atmosphere, the severity of waste pollution calls for individual action too. So how can you work on making this summer, and the rest of your years, less wasteful?