Every environmentally-aware citizen joins the tirade against “plastic” sooner or later. Even if you do not know much about the details, there is no question that plastic is a gigantic problem around the globe, without exception.
Personally, I never saw the infamous “Plastic Island” floating off the coast of Indonesia even though it was apparently close by, but the thought of it was enough to open my eyes to the underwater havoc plastic is wreaking in the earth’s oceans.
No less catastrophic are the consequences for terra firma and the delicate ecosystems we see around us each day.
It seems completely unbelievable to imagine a whole island of plastic, which has slowly accumulated in the middle of the ocean.
“How disgusting!” we all think, as we carefully remove plastic-packaged shopping items from plastic bags into the grocery cupboard; or pour milk from a plastic container into our morning coffee.
If you want in on the team who thinks the natural world is awesome and wants to see it survive (and replenish itself) in all its beauty, then plastic waste reduction is a real necessity; and an urgent one.
Here are ten tips to get you started:
1. Choose reusable items wherever possible
This one seems obvious, but it is easy to compromise if we do not take time to plan our movements, read labels, explore alternatives, and make intentional decisions.
Ask questions about products and take a stand against once-off consumables by choosing reusables.
It not only decreases your impact on the environment but often works out to less money spent on useless junk in the long-run.
2. Ditch plastic straws
Heard it before? Then why are you still using plastic straws – or takeout coffee cups for that matter?
Buy some beautiful stainless-steel straws and pop them in every bag you own; and your children’s backpacks. Why not follow movements like #ditchthestraw and #plasticfree?
Where possible, repurpose the plastic containers and use them in other ways.
Make flower pots of yogurt containers, bird feeders of plastic bottles, and “eco” bricks from unrecyclable plastic paraphernalia.
Donate unwanted plastic equipment (like that step ladder you never use) to charities or aid organisations instead of throwing it in the dump.
4. Plastic education
Learn the differences in plastic composition and choose products accordingly.
Though plastic is still plastic in any form, there are types like Polyethylene Terephthalate(PET) which is biodegradable.
These types still require chemical decomposition and emit carbon dioxide during the process.
5. Speak up
Be the person at the supermarket who have brought their own reusable shopping bags and has some extras in the car just in case.
Say no to extra fruit plastic covers. Decline the offer of a plastic bag if there are few enough items to just pop them into your handbag or carry them.
Show off your reusable bags when you use them as beach bags, or luggage, or picnic baskets.
Perhaps you’ll influence a few other people to jump on board.
6. Get creative
There’s no reason to pass on plastic if you have creative ways of using it or repurposing it.
It is far better to get creative about ways to avoid plastic, however, and to seek out eco-friendly materials.
These have the added benefit of disposing of themselves in non-harmful ways, saving you time and energy compared to ‘responsible’ plastic use.
7. Support local reduction and recycling initiatives
Support local recycling initiatives by recycling plastic and encouraging others to do it, too.
Support educational initiatives by being a good example of how plastic and other recycling is supposed to look in a regular home on a regular day.
8. Recycle even if it is inconvenient
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. This common educational slogan is scattered throughout schools and on billboards.
Maybe we have become complacent about what it truly means in our lifestyles. Recycling and composting, for example, takes thought to set up in your home.
It may require a change in how you do things. It will be worth it!
9. Make more informed purchasing decisions
The general consumer buys on impulse and visual appeal, or pricing comparisons. Most people don’t even think of plastic before they decide to purchase an item.
Choose products which use recycled plastic. Start noticing. Start thinking.
That’s all that is required to make better decisions and move towards a reduction in plastic around your home and, by extension, your environment.
10. Don’t be a plastic snob
We all need a shove in the right direction sometimes but try not to be the person who criticises others in their choice to use plastic.
Rants about how ‘industry’ and ‘corporations’ have destroyed the environment ring hollow from behind the takeout beverage with its plastic lid and plastic straw and plastic-lined heat sleeve.
If plastic is no longer a part of your life then, by all means, go ahead and shout it. We need to walk the walk before we talk the talk.