In my last post, I explained why plastic pollution is a problem. However, that isn’t all. The problems caused by plastic aren’t limited to what I covered in the post. Plastic pollution causes a myriad of issues, all of which have a staggering combined effect. Suffice to say that plastic is hurting the environment – and doing a damned good job of it.
It’s uplifting seeing news of companies taking steps to make a change. They can do things on a big level – so it’s great when they do. However, we can’t place all our hopes on them. There’s a lot that we can do as individuals to help reduce the problem little by little. And it is this concerted individual effort that counts.
So, here are nine ways in which you can help reduce plastic pollution. Make a change today – you’ll feel better for it.
- Determine what plastic products you use most
Perform a plastic audit. Keep tabs on the things you throw out, and make a list. While most other points here are suggestions geared towards the average person, this one will help you determine what you need to cut out. You can use a very basic format, like this one:
– Plastic bags (15) (18) (23)
– Coffee cups (2) (3) (6)
– Wet wipes (1 box) (2 boxes)
– Plastic forks (2) (3) (5)
Categorize your waste into different types of items, and strike the total out when you add more to it. Keeping the list on eye level near your trashcan might be a good idea. After a week or two, you’ll know what plastic items you use/waste most, and so that’s what you need to work on reducing or reusing.
- Find your nearest plastic recycling center
A very small percentage of used plastic is recycled. Unfortunately, I live hundreds of miles from a recycling center – but you may not! Lots of recycling centers and services have popped up recently, some of which even offer incentives. Look for one in your area, and make a routine for dropping stuff off there.
- Pick up trash when you can
If you live near an area that sees a lot of plastic pollution (forest, unofficial picnic or camping spot, beach, river), you can chip in by picking up the trash every few days or weeks. Beach cleans have been gaining popularity, and more and more people have started to take the initiative to step out and help. It doesn’t take much time, and you’d make a large impact – especially if you’re with a group of people.
- Buy veggies at your local farmer’s market
In supermarkets, a lot of fruits and vegetables come encased in plastic to increase their shelf life. The solution to this problem is simple: buy your food from a farmer’s market. It’s sometimes more expensive, but the thing is, not all items will be pricier. Find out the ones that aren’t, and buy those from the farmer’s market. That’s better than nothing, right?
- Use reusable menstrual products
This one’s for the ladies. All disposable pads come in a plastic package, with plastic wings, and a plastic base. Tampons have a plastic applicator, and come in individual plastic sachets. How many of these do you use each month? The switch to cloth pads and menstrual cups can be pricey and awkward initially, but after the first couple months, you’ll be glad you did it.
- Reuse plastic containers
A lot of single-use plastic containers can be reused. For instance, take yogurt cups. I wouldn’t suggest reusing them to store food, but they can be used as makeshift pen stands, or to hold any object that you won’t eat, and which won’t seep into the cup. Hell, you can use them to grow plants in. That’s what I’d do.
- Carry a cloth bag while shopping
Most grocery stores and retail outlets hand out their stuff in plastic bags. Although plastic bags are reusable, how many of us honestly reuse them? Some might use them twice, but that’s the end of that. A simple cloth bag, costing a few dollars, will last you years – and you’ll use it hundreds of times. It can be stylish, and have cool features too!
- Use reusable cups and straws
So, you go out somewhere and pick up a coffee at a Starbucks outlet. That’s a plastic mug you couldn’t have avoided buying…or could you? Reusable coffee mugs are nifty little things – often collapsible. You can fold them down to a small disc, and carry them with you. Some outlets such as Starbucks offer a reusable cup discount, too!
- Use reusable water bottles
If you’re in the habit of buying bottled water – or if you do it when you’re visiting a foreign place, I’d strongly suggest getting a reusable bottle instead. You’ll be helping the environment, and cutting down on costs. Reusable bottles are sturdy, and will last you a good many years. I’ve been using mine for over 4 years now. All it needs is cleaning every few months, and that’s all.
So there you go – nine simple tips which you can incorporate into your lifestyle, which’ll have a massive impact on the amount of plastic waste you produce. To make a greater impact share this article with your friends and neighbours.
PS – Although this post is about reducing plastic pollution, metal and glass items can also cause many of the problems associated with plastic. So please make sure to not throw away your bottles and cans, and if you see metal or glass items lying on the beach or in the wild, pick them up and take them for recycling. Many recycling centers will pay you for them.