Week 14: Reduce Single-Use Plastic

Since the 1950s, 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced. Over half of that has been produced in the last 15 years alone.

A straw with our iced coffee, a plastic bag to carry our takeout, a wrapper on a candy bar: taken individually, each seems harmless. These modern conveniences are so ubiquitous—and so quickly thrown out—that they hardly register in our minds. But single-use plastics come with a steep environmental price—one that we’ll be paying off for millennia. Our plastic addiction is having a devastating impact on our oceans, our wildlife, and our health.

Courtney Lindwall, National Resources Defense Council

Not all plastics are bad though – some are very important, such as surgical gloves – but these cases make up a small percentage of the total plastic production. It would do our society some good if we would take a look at our reliance on plastic and how it is affecting the world in which we live. This week, we are going to look at ways we can Reduce Our Use of Single-Use Plastic.

Single-Use Plastics 101

Did you know, each year there’s enough plastic that’s thrown away to circle the earth four times. It can even impact the environment buried deep within the earth. And, every piece of plastic made still exists today. It accounts for about 10% of generated waste. People in the U.S. are making more plastic waste than ever and not much of it gets recycled. Plastic products are littering our oceans, cities and waterways and are contributing to health issues in animals and humans. It takes plastic over 1,000 years to degrade in landfills and storing plastic in landfills might just be storing future issues. Certain types of plastics are actually toxic, like vinyl or PVC. PVC contains heavy metals and phthalates and when it burns, it creates dioxins. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is in other types of plastics and is a type of chemical that disrupts hormones.

Douglas Lober, ReuseThisBag.com

Single-use plastics are items made primarily from fossil-fuel based chemicals (petrochemicals made from refining crude oil and natural gas). These products are meant to be disposed of immediately after use – like the straw in our drink or the packaging that comes with a lot of items we purchase. Although there are benefits to plastic (like the surgical gloves I mentioned earlier), plastic has also contributed to the increase in the world’s accumulation of waste. Plastic has made it easier for us to purchase out of convenience – purchasing more things, more often. This accumulation of single-use plastic ends up in our landfills and oceans. And since plastic takes over 1000 years to degrade in a landfill, it truly does have a significant impact on our planet and what we are leaving behind for future generations.

For more great data behind single-use plastics, including how to shrink our plastic footprint, check out the following infographic.

Learn More!

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