So what’s all the fuss about plastic?
If you take a look around, you start to realise that much of what we eat, drink, or use comes packaged in plastic – a material made from petroleum which is designed to last forever, yet is usually used only once before being thrown away.
While the invention of plastic certainly has its benefits, the short-term convenience of single-use disposables like plastic bags, water bottles, coffee cups and take-away containers carries an inconvenient long-term truth. Worldwide, around 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, contributing roughly 3.5 million tons of waste per year. That’s just plastic bags alone. Add bottles, cups, containers, utensils, food wrappers and straws to the mix and you’ve got a whole lot of waste! This plastic isn’t going away in your lifetime, probably not even in your children’s, children’s, children’s lifetimes – plastic will last for thousands of years.
Currently, only 5% of single-use plastics disposed of are recycled. Roughly 50% is buried in landfills, a small proportion is made into durable goods, and the remaining is “unaccounted for” – lost in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea through drains and waterways. In the ocean, sunlight and wave action causes the plastic to fragment into smaller and smaller pieces, which result in all kinds of hazards for our marine life.
44% of all seabirds, 33% of cetaceans, all sea turtles and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. In some areas of the ocean, concentrations of plastic have been measured to be 40 times greater than that of plankton! Ingestion of plastic, mistaken as food, can lead to internal blockages, dehydration, starvation and ultimately death for many of these animals.
The presence of plastic in the marine food webs presents a huge problem, not only for the animals and ocean ecosystems, but for us. Ever heard the saying, ‘you are what you eat’? Much of the seafood which lands on your plate is likely to have consumed plastic. These small particles of plastic are called ‘POPs’ – persistent organic pollutants as they readily absorb toxic chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides which are used all around the world and leach into our oceans. The plastic that our marine life is eating, we are ultimately eating – and this has all sorts of implications for our health.
Like any problem, the best way to resolve it is to stop it at its source. We need to reduce the amount of plastic being produced, by reducing the amount of plastic we are consuming. Just a generation ago, we packaged our products in re-usable or recyclable materials – glass, metals, and other products designed to last, that could be washed out and used over and over. This is the way to go, and it’s so easy!
Here are some tips to reduce your plastic footprint..
Bring your own – keep a few re-usable bags in the house, in your car and/or your handbag and refuse plastic bags. If you happen to forget your own every now and then, Boomerang Bags are there to save the day!
Ditch bottled water – drink from a glass jar or re-usable bottle. This not only saves on plastic waste, but helps to reduce the environmental costs associated with producing bottled water, and will also save you money.
Say no to plastic produce bags – your fruits and vegetables want to be free – Pack them all straight from the checkout into your re-usable bag, or ask for a cardboard box. To keep them fresh at home, store them in sealed re-usable containers, or wrap leafy greens in a damp cloth. Check out our online Shop for re-useable produce bags.
Buy from bulk food bins – most dry foods such as rice, beans, cereals, dried fruits and nuts can be bought in bulk. Pack them straight into re-usable produce bags, glass jars or containers to save on plastic packaging.
Bring your own cup for coffee on the go.
Bring your own re-usable containers when getting take-away or restaurant left-overs, and also remember your re-usable utensils!