Single Use Plastics – What You Can Do

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The following information and advice, written by Mary Wales, was printed in Nature’s Path Organic Foods Bulletin, July, 2020, and is relayed here with permission. Bracketed comments are mine.

Many corporations and businesses are opting not to use single-use plastics. For example, Starbucks moved to paper straws in 2020, saving the use of one billion plastic straws. The plastic-free movement is being adopted by a number of cities and areas around the world, joining others in the plastic-free movement.

What are single-use plastics? Examples include shopping bags, thin plastic bags used in produce departments, coffee cup lids, water bottles, plastic straws, Styrofoam and plastic take-out containers. The U.N.’s Environmental Report defines single-use plastics as plastic “…items intended to be used only once before they are thrown away or recycled.”

Here are the most common single-use plastics found in the environment, in order of magnitude: cigarette butts [filters contain plastic], plastic drink bottles (one million are purchased around the world every minute), bottle caps, food wrappers, plastic grocery bags, plastic lids, straws and stirrers, and foam take-out containers. Fifty percent of plastic waste is single-use plastic.

Why are single-use plastics bad? Single-use plastics may represent the epitome of today’s throwaway culture. Less than 9% of all the “recycled” plastic is ever reused. Most of it ends up in landfills, oceans, or waterways, and the environment in general. Plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they slowly break down into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics [much of which ends up in the food chain].

Here is a new way of looking at “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle”: REDUCE/REUSE/REFUSE
What can we do about it?
***Bring your own water in a thermal water bottle.
***Ask your coffee shop to use alternatives to plastic tops and straws.
***Put your trash food wrappers/napkins into a bag for trash which you bring along with you.

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