How good do you feel when you throw your plastics into the recycle bin? I was feeling pretty good until I read some 2015 statistics that in the U.S. 50% of recycle collection ends up in landfill. And that the average amount of product actually even sent to recycling is only 30%. Some states are as low as 5%! Uh oh! Let’s just stop using plastic!
Our fast-paced world has us living on drive-through coffee and pre-packaged food and the plastic pile just keeps growing. One 500 Ml water bottle that is used once in only a few minutes takes 450 years or more to break down into microplastic. Over 8 million tons of plastic waste finds it way into the oceans, into fish, and into our food supply. Even recycling of plastic uses more carbon energy in shipping, processing, and creates more plastic waste.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking and moving away from single-use plastic. Here is a quick graphic on single use plastic. That’s a great starting place, and might just get you thinking of more ways you can reduce plastic use.
Skip the Straw A friend of mine encouraged me a few years ago to order drinks in restaurants without a straw. You have your own choice at a fast-food restaurant to not pick one up, or be sure to tell them at the drive-through. Simple. Effective. If you drink smoothies at home, like I do, invest in some plastic re-usable straws- or better yet, some stainless steel – with a bristle brush small enough to fit inside for proper cleaning. Or here’s an idea; don’t use one at all!
Cool Cups Plastic water bottles are a huge pet peeve of mine. Some of the water is just purified city water anyways, so just use a tap! I like to fill a glass bottle and leave it in my car, refilling as needed. You can also carry a mug or thermos with you for coffee stops (some stores offer a discount if you don’t use a takeout cup), or use it to keep water cooler in summer. Plastic water bottles leach chemicals into the water, and are a huge polluter of oceans and waterways.
Green Groceries A quick start is to re-use grocery bags for garbage bin liners in your home. Roll a few up and leave in your car to use the next time you shop. Cloth bags and bins are even better. You can buy (or make from old shirts, pillow cases and sheets) cloth bags of all sizes. Use smaller bags for produce and bulk items. Even just the thoughtful purchase of loose mushrooms in a paper bag versus mushrooms in a styrofoam container with plastic wrap covering is a start. You can also buy loose vegetables without putting them in individual plastic bags. And how exciting; there are now Bulk Barn stores across Canada that allow you to bring your own containers to fill with bulk purchase items. Winner!
Litterless Lunches I remember the days of plastic sandwich bags and individually wrapped cheese slices. I moved to re-usable plastic containers years ago, but there are even better alternatives now. Not just for kids, adults, too can carry bamboo (or even edible) forks and spoons, or I found some great foldable stainless steel ones that pack well in lunch bags. And I love stainless steel lunch boxes. Check here for one Canadian retailer I found. Another pet peeve of mine is single serving sizes; applesauce, chips, cheese strings. Buy larger servings and re-pack for daily snacks. I also try to also have raw almonds, a protein bar, some fruit, or maybe some seeds with me when travelling throughout the day to avoid grabbing something from a drive-thru. I walk my dog daily and along fence row, or the roadside, that’s mostly what you see; coffee cups, pop and water bottles, food wrap. The fast-food industry has played havoc with our food production, our health, and pollution. Just a little pre-planning goes so far.
Fridge Food I love to cook a few meals on the weekend, and then have leftovers for the week. Cello wrap or plastic bags aren’t great choices for food storage. Cello is usually single use, and if you wrap food when it’s warm toxins can leach out of the plastic onto food. I wash and re-use plastic bags when I have them, but my guess is most people don’t do that. One grocery item that’s easy to switch up is buying spinach in bags versus preformed plastic bins. I prefer to buy loose, but can’t always find it, so with plastic bags at least I can re-use them for other items, including dog dropping when we’re out for our daily walk. Just like the garbage bin liners you can buy, why would I buy specific bags for dog droppings when I have plastic around already? Sorry to mix dog waste with a discussion of food storage, but so goes my mind… And how about this alternative now available in the U.S.? Bio-degradable plastic packaging. When you can’t buy local this is a great alternative. My next exciting fridge item I want to try is Food Huggers. I already have some for avocados. It holds a half avocado perfectly to keep it from browning. These huggers come in varying sizes to hold freshness and odour in for cut tomatoes, lemons, onions, etc. in varying sizes. And they can even double as jar lids. Check them out here.
I’ll end with a great dream of mine. I want to financially support and volunteer on ocean cleanup projects. I love marine life. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is mine. I helped make it. It’s one of five main collection gyres in the oceans. Plastic debris from all over the world travels on ocean currents that create a vortex that holds the plastic. The plastics come mostly from land travelling on rivers, or wind, and a lesser amount ocean travel, like ships and oil platforms. The Pacific patch is twice the size of Texas and 9 feet deep. We made this and we own it. There is ingenuity and eager minds inventing systems to help clean this up. And I want to be part of that. I’m on a mission.