According to the Washington Post the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is made up of 79,000 tons of plastic debris, is now three times the size of France and by 2050, there will be more plastics in the ocean than fish.
And according to Surfrider Foundation
Plastics comprise up to 90% of floating marine debris.
Plastics do not biodegrade, but instead break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins, and enter our food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life.
It is estimated that Americans go through about 100 billion plastic bags a year, or 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
CHANGE YOUR MINDSET
The first step in rising above plastic pollution is changing our mindset. Plastic pollution is out of sight, out of mind for a lot of people and we have become too comfortable with plastics. I don't know how many times I have asked for no straw or mentioned that I didn't need a bag and still got one because it has become engrained in our routines as consumers. Seriously, I've seen someone put a single
banana in a plastic bag at the grocery store! I'll repeat that... A SINGLE BANANA!
STOP SUCKING... ON SINGLE USE PLASTIC STRAWS
Disposable plastic straws, 1. aren't disposable at all, and 2. make up the majority of trash that I see laying around. 500 million straws are used and discarded every day in the U.S. alone! Thats enough straws to wrap around the Earth 2.5 times... a DAY... A. DAY! The solution... just say "no straw please" when ordering drinks, and if your server tries to lay them on the table, tell them "no thank you" because you know that those straws are just going to get thrown out when they clean up the table.
If you are a straw lover opt for a reusable option. I keep a metal straw in my bag. I use it all the time and its super easy to clean. I added that last part because I had a server tell me once that I was going to have to clean my straw after I drank water out of it which seemed silly when I could just use one of her plastic straws and throw it away.... it was really hard to smile and nod through that one. Bamboo is also an excellent option if you don't want to forgo the straw completely.
BYOB... BRING YOUR OWN BAMBOO CUTLERY
More than 100 million pieces of plastic cutlery are used in the U.S. every day... I get it we are all working for the weekend... hustling' hard.. and busy living our best lives and sometimes that means grabbing food on the go. But nothing ruins that salad, sushi, or veggie burger more than a side of plastic! There are so many options out there for reusable cutlery that are lightweight and compact so you can keep it in your bag for whenever you need it!
REDUCE, REFUSE, REUSE
In 2010, about 690,000 tons of waste HDPE plastic "bags, sacks and wraps" were generated in the United States, but only 4.3% of this total was recycled. Plastic is everywhere, especially in the food industry. Its a marketing ploy to get us to buy more... if I want zucchini I need to grab a pre-packaged 3 pack on a styrofoam plate wrapped in plastic wrap. Yes I am aware than I can bust that bad boy open and only purchase a single zucchini, but guess where that styrofoam and plastic is going to end up... in the trash. So why do we even need it in the first place? And don't get me started on pre-cut fruits and vegetables in plastic containers. The solution: buy the whole apple and cut the darn thing up yourself. Even better throw those apple slices in a reusable snack bag. As for food storage at home beeswax wraps are all the rage! Literally the only thing I have found that keeps my avocado fresh for days (ha like I have left over avocado, but you get the idea and yes they do actually work)!
BAN THE BAG
Did you know that banning single use plastic bags is banned in Florida?! Yea you read that right! According to the U.S. International Trade Commission an estimated 100 billion plastic bags a year, or about 360 bags per year for every man, woman and child in the country are consumed in the U.S. Those 100 billion plastic bags, if tied together, would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times! Additionally, cleanup up plastic bags is extremely costly. California spends an estimated $25 million annually to landfill discarded plastic bags, and public agencies spend more than $500 million annually in litter cleanup. Bags that aren't cleaned up end up in the waterways and eventually in the stomachs of marine life, we know this because they wash up..dead...onto the beach with their stomachs filled with plastic.
Most stores sell reusable bags, some even small enough to fit into your pocket! Forgot your reusable bag... no worries! Store still offer paper bags that are recyclable, unlike their plastic counterparts. Even better, most stores will offer you a discount when you bring your own bag!
BUT FIRST...COFFEE...IN A REUSABLE CUP
Did you know that Starbucks coffee cups are NOT recyclable?! And that putting them in the recycling bin can compromise the items that actually are recyclable? But coffee is life so what do I do? No you don't have to give up your coffee habit... but you can bring your own cup! Bonus! Just like reusable bags, most places will offer a discount when you bring your own cup!
Are you one to enjoy your coffee at home, but only want to brew one cup? Its so nice that we have the single cup coffee pots available with their cute little pods, right? Well guess where all those little pods end up? Yeaaa in the landfill because most of them are not recyclable. Fortunately reusable cups are available or did you know that you don't have to brew all 12 cups on a 12-cup coffee pot? Yup, you can choose to only fill it up with 1 cup and enjoy!
STAY HYDRATED WITH A REUSABLE BOTTLE
Not so fun fact, it takes more water to produce a bottled water than the amount the bottle actually holds... Yup, producing plastic bottles for U.S. bottled water consumption in 2006 required 3 liters of water to produce each 1 liter of bottled water. And, production of these water bottles require the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy for transportation. Yoooooo! To top that off 49.4 billion plastic water bottles were sold in the United States in 2015. The recycling rate for plastic bottles was only 31.1% which translates to roughly 34 billion plastic bottles that were littered or went into a landfill in 2015.
Because I hate doing math, I'm going to quote some brilliant minds from Penn State who speak with a different green message...The use of a $20 reusable water bottle can save the average American $6,180 after five years of use, which is the bare minimum life expectancy of a reusable water bottle. Do you know how many plane tickets and bikinis you can get for that?! Or even better you can invest it in a Kangen Water machine!
HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS... CIGARETTE BUTTS THAT IS!
Over 4.5 TRILLION cigarettes are littered worldwide each year! Cigarette butts are composed of cellulose acetate, a form of PLASTIC, which can take an estimated 2 to 25 years to decompose. Not to mention they are saturated with over 165 chemicals which leak into our waterways, now you might be wondering how one little butt can contaminate an enormous ocean, but with over 4.5 trillion butts littered each year all those chemicals start to add up.
BALLOONS BLOW - DON'T LET THEM GO!
Balloons are meant to be happy, they are a symbol of celebration and often remembrance. And while it might be a nice gesture to release balloons, the harsh truth is that those balloons don't end up in heaven or outer space... but, most of the time, in the ocean or the stomach of a marine animal. Balloons blow... so please don't let them go (even the latex "biodegradable" ones). Just don't...
THE BOTTOM LINE...
It starts with a simple shift in our mindset and snowballs into a revolution. Just like plastics, sustainable options are entering our everyday lives making our day to day habits easier. Why stay stuck on something that isn't working. Change your habits and change the planet.
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