The P Word

plastic pollution

The Plastic Problem 

300 million tons of plastics are produced each year with 8 million tons of plastics ending up in our oceans.  Half of plastics produced are designed to be single-use, which is a major problem.

The average working life of a plastic bag from the grocery store to the garbage can in your home is approximately 15 minutes.  And that’s for an item that we realize and think of as plastic pollution. What about the average working life of everyday items we don’t think about? A bag of potato chips – 5 minutes ? Floss picks – 2 minutes?  Tea bags – 7 minutes?

Plastics are everywhere and 99% of plastics are derived from non-renewable, polluting sources such as oil, natural gas and coal. It takes about ¼ liter of oil to produce a 1-liter plastic water bottle.   Currently 8% of our oil reserves are used to produce plastic, which is expected to increase to 20% by 2050 if current plastic consumption levels continue.

8.3 Billion Tons – 79% in Landfills, or The Environment 

Most plastics are not recycled.  Since the 1950s, researchers have estimated that 8.3 billion tons of plastic has been produced.  Roughly 9% of that has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated and the remaining 79% has accumulated in either landfills, dumps or our natural environment.  

Plastic is a pollutant from the beginning and nearly impossible to breakdown.   The quality that makes plastic so appealing, its resistance to degradation, is also why it is problematic.  Most plastics will never fully degrade, but rather continue to breakdown into smaller pieces that ultimately end up in our tap water and food.

Consumer Choice is Key to Making a Difference

Plastic isn’t going away, but consumers have the power to make better choices.  First we need to change our mindset from single-use to multi-use and/or reusable.  Second, we must make mindful choices of what plastic products we buy and where we buy them.

Coca Cola is the number one plastic polluter in the world, yet, at the 2020 World Economic Forum in Davos, Coca Cola announced that it has no intention of moving away from plastic packing because consumers still buy them and, in their belief, prefer them.   

Plastic may seem impossible to escape, but there are some easy changes you can make today:

  1. If you have easy access to clean drinking water, carry a reusable water bottle.  Refill at trusted public drinking sources, restaurants and coffee shops. (A reusable water bottle such as Swell or Que will also save you money.)
  2. Use a reusable coffee cup if you must have coffee on the go.  Try a Stojo reusable coffee cup.   
  3. Use reusable grocery bags and produce bags.  Most reusable grocery bags can be purchased at your local grocery store.  Checkout this list of reusable produce bags.
  4. Consider switching to eco friendly and plastic free products for shampoo, laundry detergent and other everyday essentials. Checkout Dropps detergent and items at the Zero Waste Store.
  5. Make better choices – Show Coca Cola who is in charge!
  6. Zero Waste 101: Everything You Need to Know.
  7. Buy in bulk and avoid single serving packaging.  
February 19, 2020

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