Data from the United Nations reports that 400 million metric tons of plastic waste are produced across the world every year. While plastics play a key role in day-to-day life, this excess production can negatively affect the environment as well as human health.
Only around 6% of the plastic waste generated in the U.S. is recycled, according to recent data from the Environmental Protection Agency—meaning the rest of the plastic waste contributes to these adverse effects. Most plastics are not biodegradable and can be difficult to dispose of. The burning of plastic, which is required to dispose of it, releases toxic gases into the environment. Eventually, these toxins make their way into the food supply and can affect humans’ health.
Plastic also causes pollution via microplastics—plastic particles smaller than 5 millimeters in size that can be found in water, air and land. Microplastics pose a problem because, like other plastics, they are not biodegradable. But in addition, microplastics can impact human health by entering the body through ingestion and inhalation.
The good news is that if you are looking to reduce plastic usage, there are many ways to do so. In fact, many of these measures are small, convenient changes you can make that add up in the long run. Consider the following tips to help make a positive impact.
1. Invest in Reusables.
While completely eliminating plastic usage is usually not feasible, you can help reduce your consumption by investing in reusable items. Reports find that nearly half of all plastic waste is from single-use plastics. Consider switching to reusable water bottles, shopping bags and silverware to help reduce plastic use where possible. By switching to reusables, you can help keep plastic out of landfills and reduce the effects of plastic disposal.
2. Check Out the Packaging.
The abundance of plastic today makes it difficult to even take a trip to the grocery store without using single-use plastics for uses such as packaging. Luckily, there are a few ways to help mitigate this issue. Consider the following:
- Shop at bulk supply stores rather than traditional grocery stores so you can bring your own containers and eliminate the need for excessive plastic packaging.
- Look for loose items in the store, such as nonpackaged fruit and vegetables. Fresh produce is more likely to be free of packaging.
- Avoid items like frozen meals, which are most likely to have some type of plastic packaging.
- Keep an eye out for alternative packaging. Some brands are now packaging foods and other products in paper or glass to help reduce the environmental impact.
3. Reuse the Plastic You Already Have.
Another way to reduce your plastic use is to reuse the disposable plastic products you do have. You can repurpose old containers and make them into useful items in many different ways. For example, you can make an old gum container into something such as a credit card holder or an on-the-go sewing kit. You can also use old milk jugs as watering cans and old peanut butter containers as storage for your snacks. When it comes to reusing disposables, the possibilities are endless, and any small change you make can help you make a positive impact.
There are ways you can help mitigate the problems that plastic usage is causing to the environment and human health. From decreasing your use of single-use plastics to being more aware of the packaging the products you buy come in, there are various opportunities for you to help make a positive impact. Making a difference is not about being perfect but making small changes in your life.