Week 14 Recap: Reducing Single-Use Plastic

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that only about 9% of plastics get recycled. The rest end up in the landfill…or the ocean and other waterways…or littering the landscape. We thought this was the perfect week to talk about reducing single-use plastic because July is here and that means it’s Plastic Free July! Plastic Free July is a global movement challenging people to refuse single-use plastics and providing ideas to help them do it. Please consider starting a 7-day challenge to save or otherwise keep track of the plastic you’re throwing away and the plastic you’re recycling. Understanding how much single-use plastic you’re using is the first step in knowing how to reduce it.

We Can’t Recycle Our Way Out of the Plastic Crisis

“The World Is Stuck With Decades of New Plastic It Can’t Recycle: We’ve been hoodwinked into thinking recycling is a solution.”

Zoe Schlanger, Quartz

We have to change how we do things. Though the system is stacked against us, we need to do it for our own sake, as well as the planet’s. As noted here, scientists have found that “Plastic is one of the biggest sources of contamination in the human diet.” It’s in our tap water, but bottled water can be even worse and the bottling process likely leads to more plastic in the water. According to Sherri Mason, a plastics pollution researcher at Pennsylvania State University, “bottled water is often just tap water wrapped in plastic. “If there’s one thing you can do to reduce your plastic ingestion? Don’t use bottled water,” she says.” Do it for the health of the planet and your own health: reserve bottled water for a water emergency. And save yourself a lot of money too.

Click here to read Zoe’s article.

Photo by Thomas White for Quartz

BYOC (Bring Your Own Containers)

One of the most delicious ways to avoid plastic is to bring your own containers to take home blueberries you pick at a local farm. 3 Birds Berry Farm right here in Blacksburg is open for the season. You must pick in a vented bucket, but we have our own we purchased from them years ago and have used them many times. If you don’t have or want to buy a vented bucket, you can bring another container to transfer the berries into. By picking your own berries, you can accomplish three of the actions on our list: Spend time outdoors, support a local food source and reduce single-use plastic by avoiding those plastic pods that blueberries in the store are packaged in. It’s a delicious win-win-win!

Image: 3 Birds Berry Farm

Put Together Your Own Reusable Kit

Putting together a reusable kit like the one described here will make it easier to refuse single-use plastics. Say no to a shopping bag, ask restaurants not to give you disposable utensils, straws or condiments you don’t need, carry your water with you in a reusable bottle instead of buying bottled water, and buy unpackaged produce and put it in your own reusable produce bag. Please share the actions you take to reduce single-use plastics.

Do Not Release Your Balloons Outdoors

As of July 1, 2021, all intentional balloon releases are illegal in Virginia, thanks to citizens and scientists convincing our lawmakers about the hazards of balloons in the environment, especially to wildlife. As we work to reduce our individual plastic use, we need to continue to pursue systemic change with lawmakers and corporations. Read more here.

Start With the Top Four Most Prolific Single-Use Plastics

Carol Davis, Blacksburg’s Sustainability Manager, has a great talk about her journey to reduce her plastics use. She identified her top ten single-use plastics and then worked to reduce or eliminate them. She switched to milk in reusable bottles, unpackaged produce with reusable produce bags, and bulk items in reusable containers. She quit buying some of her favorite foods for a while and then learned to make them!

Even if you’re not quite ready for that, Plastic Free July suggests tackling the top four most prolific single-use plastics:

plastic bags

water bottles

takeaway coffee cups

and plastic straws

Image: Carol Davis

Coming Up…

Week 15 starts tomorrow! Join us as we talk about why we should choose reusables and how we can do this. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook to see daily updates.

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