10 Simple Ways to Wage War on Plastic Pollution
Plastic is a wonder material, with endless uses. It's also an environmental menace because it's not easily biodegradable. It litters the world's beaches, kills marine life and is a huge contributor to landfill sites. Phthalates and Bisphenol A, chemicals used in plastic food and drink containers, are known to have the potential to damage human health, with extra risks for babies and children. You can't avoid plastic products, but you can cut down on their use.
1.Ditch plastic carrier bags - not only single use bags, but also the sturdier type that is reusable. It's estimated that a staggering 100 billion plastic bags, made using 12 million barrels of oil, are used annually in the US alone. A 'bag for life', made of a washable material that degrades, such as cotton or hemp. Reused plastic bags may harbour bacteria and can be a health hazard.
2.Find substitutes for plastic items in the home. Buy wooden clothes pegs. Use cotton cloths instead of sponges for washing. If you have to use sponge scourers, you can wash and reuse them when they get grubby. Plastic tubs for food leftovers last for years and are the eco-friendly alternative to miles of clingfilm wrap.
3.Say no to bubble wrap. Tightly packed crumpled paper usually does the job just as well. Also, don't use padded envelopes if the contents aren't delicate.
4.Go retro with children's (and pets') toys and furnishings. The plastic versions are highly likely to go to landfill in only a couple of years. Wooden or wicker toy boxes and children's chairs look better and are recyclable. Good quality items even have a resale value, and some become treasured family heirlooms.
5.Shop smart when it comes to packaging. Lots of manufacturers traditionally use or have switched to paper packaging: eggs, coffee, washing powder, toilet paper and cat litter are just a few. Buy loose fruit and vegetables instead of pre-packaged. Read the labels on packaging. You may think that those clear plastic bags that products like apples are packed in are recyclable, but often they aren't.
6.Think design. Many goods include plastic purely to add colour, not functionality. Cutlery and many household utensils works just as well without plastic handles and last longer in the dishwasher.
7.Squash or smash your trash. Compressing the stuff you're throwing out could halve the number of trash bags you put out for collection.
8.Beware of polypropylene, a synthetic plastic polymer that lurks in places you'd least expect it. It's widely used in teabags, for example. It's also very commonly used in carpets and mats. Quality alternatives are always available.
9.Gardens are places for nature to thrive, so why not fit them out accordingly? Plastic planters and garden furniture may be cheap but it's not durable. Terracotta or ceramic pots last forever, age beautifully and are in keeping with their environment. They also have a resale value if in good condition (which isn't hard to do).
10. Give up chewing gum. One of its key ingredients is a synthetic rubber known as polymerized styrene-butadiene. It might not be conventional plastic, but it's still a by-product of petroleum fouls sidewalks worldwide.
It's impossible to go plastic-free, but reduction, recycling and awareness of the hazard it poses, to people and the planet, are the first steps in a desperately needed global clean-up.