I just started recycling about 6 months ago, and am baffled as to why I was never concerned with it before! I remember any time I moved, I would contact the county trash service and would always be asked, “Would you like to add a recycling bin at no additional charge?” I would always reply, “No thank you.” thinking that I would never remember to do it, and throwing things away were just “so much easier” in my mind. I never thought about the consequences of throwing things away that could be reused.
Why we should limit and eliminate our plastic use:
After researching facts documented in 2018, I’ve learned that over 8 billion tons of plastic each year is disposed of, and less than 10% is actually recycled. Of that 8 billion tons, almost 13 million tons each year is dumped into our oceans. This impacts marine animals, coral reefs, our beaches and even human health. Studies show that 9 out of 10 seabirds, 1 in 3 sea turtles, and over 50% of ocean mammals have consumed plastic pollution in their lifetime. In coral reefs, plastic pollution can slow growth and reproduction, speed up harmful algae growth, and reduce food for fish. While we used to have millions of sea turtles on our planet, scientists believe that we now have less than one million in current population.
What 3 plastic items we can all live without:
1. Plastic Straws
Plastic straws are not able to be recycled. Researchers have currently found no way to recycle these, so they end up in our landfills and in our oceans. It seems that we have become lazy by over-using these. We have the ability to drink out of a cup without needing the use for a straw. In trying to think of some reasons people prefer using straws versus drinking directly from the cup, I’ve come up with these. Using it when you’re driving to avoid spillage, or using when drinking coffee, tea, red wine or other beverages that may stain your teeth (if you’ve come across another reason to use one, please enlighten me!). My conclusion to these objections are simple. We already have several distractions while driving, so why multi-task even more by taking a sip while on the road? I will wait until I reach a stop sign or light to take the lid off of my cup, or even better, bring a cup that already has a built in reusable straw. I completely understand using straws to avoid staining teeth with certain drinks and am all for it! There are several companies out there now that are making reusable silicone or metal straws that even come with pouches that can fit in your purse or pocket for on the go! I have bought these from both Sand Cloud and a company called Kitchen Up that can be found on Amazon.
2. Plastic Bags
Plastic bags can thankfully be recycled, although many people wouldn’t think to do it. You can find a ton of these at your local grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants. The fix is simple: Use cloth or go bagless! This is why I love wholesale stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, etc., because they offer you boxes or you can simply take the items straight to your vehicle! Not looking to have loose items in your vehicle? Keep a few boxes or cloth bags in your car that you can either bring in the store with you, or take your groceries unbagged to the car, and then transfer for convenience. If that doesn’t suit you, you can also ask for paper, which is atleast biodegradeable and a better alternative to plastic. If all else fails, just recycle!
3. Plastic Bottles
I was really a poor example for this one. Growing up an athlete, and still am to this day, I used tons of plastic bottles on a daily basis. They were so convenient to use when at work or playing sports, or driving in my car. It never occurred to me how much I was contributing to plastic pollution. The solution that I have now found is bringing my own reusable bottle with me. If you’re a Starbucks lover, they have several reuseable cups for both hot and cold brew coffee. If you don’t like the prices of their designed bottles, they do have an alternative reusable bottle with straw included for only $4.50, which even gives you a discount on your coffee when you use it! You can also go just about anywhere and bring your own cup to use. If you are looking for filtered water due to poor water quality at home or work, look into investing in a water purifier, which can cost between $20 to $50 on average. If you aren’t ready for even that committment, my advice would be to atleast by the filtered water jugs instead of bottles to conserve. Again, if all else fails, recycle!
How to reduse your use and help protect ocean life! :
In addition to the solutions above for those plastic items, there are other ways that we can all contribute. Keep a recycle bin at work and home in sight near your kitchen. I created a makeshift bin with a storage tub and recycling sticker that I found off Amazon. You will usually get a recycling bin free with your trash pick up service. Be prepared for what you might need throughout the day by bringing your own reusable cup, straw or bag. Find alternatives to these items, or simply go without! This may seem challenging at first, but once you start, I promise it becomes easier, and you will feel great about the impact you are making. After reading all of this, keep in mind, no one is perfect. When I started recycling, there were times that I would forget to bring my items with me, or due to habit, I would just pick up and use that plastic straw that I was given at the restaurant. Especially in America, it has become so easy for us to contribute to the plastic pollution epidemic. We are automatically handed plastic straws at the restaurant, and given plastic bags at our grocery stores. We automatically reach for that plastic bottle at the gas station or gym. We alone are in control of this when it comes down to it. Changing habits that have been embedded in us our entire lives is hard, but if we all make an advancement and effort in some way, shape or form, we can all make a difference!
~ Your Singing Mermaid