Today, billions of plastic bags and bottles are used every year in the U.S. alone. What happens to all of this trash? 50% is buried in landfills, 5% is recycled, some is used to produce durable plastic goods and the rest remains “unaccounted for,” which is akin to saying, “lost in the environment” from where it eventually gets washed into the oceans.
Progress and change is occurring, slowly. In September, California became the first U.S. state to ban all single use plastic bags and is forcing a surcharge of all paper, compostable and re-usable bags. While the U.S. is only starting with projects like these now, many European countries have taken this a few steps further already. In Switzerland, for example, only specific trash bags are accepted for disposal and these can only be purchased in supermarkets for $3 per 9-gallon bag.
Photo Source, Ken Graham/Getty Images, National Geographic
A challenge for a healthier ocean in 2015
The six most common disposable plastic items are: bottles, bags, straws, utensils, lids and cups. Now here’s a challenge to 2015, try to refuse as many of these as possible. Here are some tips on how to refuse plastic items with ease.
Instead of accepting the single use plastic bags at stores, say no thanks and instead bring your own re-usable one. Some stores are even endorsing this. At CVS you can get a tag for your reusable bag, scan it every time you use it and you’ll get $1 off on every fourth purchase.
Break the bottle habit
Buy a reusable plastic bottle and eliminate the need for single-use plastic water bottles. When you’re at fast food restaurants, cafés or gas stations, ask to be served in your bottle rather than accepting a single use plastic cup. Some places also give you discounts for bringing in your own bottle, or don’t charge you extra if the bottle is bigger than their cup.
Sporks over (disposable plastic) knives
Invest in a spork or two. They can cost as little as $1 and make your life much more sustainable. An added perk: they come in all sorts of colors!!
Skip the straws
Disposable plastic straws are bad for the environment and technically totally unnecessary. Think of refusing a straw just like taking one instead of two or three paper napkins. You don’t need the additional napkins, they just make cleaning and wiping your hands easier. Be considerate, refuse the straw.