At this point we all know that we should be using less plastic, so why do we keep buying more? The biggest issues people face when they commit to using less plastic are the lack of convenience and/or availability (though the two can be related). Plastic has become so ingrained into our everyday lives that we don’t even notice it.
Have you ever tried to go without plastic for one day? From the time you wake you till the time you go to sleep, how much plastic do you consume? Make a list. Do you buy coffee outside? Are the cups plastic? Do you buy water or any other drinks during the day? What kind of lunch do you have? Do you snack during the day? Most snack packaging is from mixed materials and is generally not recycled. Speaking of recycling, most of us are really bad at it. Take a look at this list of what can and cannot be recycled. While you’re at it, take a look at TerraCycle and how they recycle (and how you can recycle with them).
If you decide to do the exercise you might find that you are putting more thought and effort into your shopping. Less plastic doesn’t always have to mean more effort. The first steps (which make a big difference) are the easiest to make – carrying a refillable water bottle; buying loose vegetables rather than ones wrapped in plastic; picking up the oats, which are in a carton box, rather than the ones in a plastic bag. The changes will depend on your personal shopping habits. Take a look at these examples.
Still not convinced? Let’s go through some of the reasons why you should use less plastic.
1. It’s harmful to the environment
Yes, this is the most basic reason, but it is also the most important one. And while we all know that it is harmful, we don’t always see the full picture. Most of us have probably heard that
By 2050 there will be a tonne of plastic for every tonne of fish. (Recycling technologies)
But it’s not just the final product and its overuse that is harming the environment. Most plastic isn’t being recycled, because of a lack of infrastructure, so it ends up in landfills. On top of that, the production process of plastic is one of the leading causes of carbon emissions contributing to global warming. It takes a lot of energy and resources both to make plastic and to recycle it and more than 90% is being produced from fossil fuels.
Creating bottled water takes 2000 times the energy than it does to produce tap water!
You can read more on the topic here.
2. It can be harmful to humans
BPA-free is the new favorite tag on everything made from plastic. That’s because BPA or bisphenol-A, alongside phthalates (additives used in the synthesis of plastics phthalates), are the two main plastic-related classes of chemicals, which are harmful to humans.
It’s easy to forget that the colorful plastics we are so used to in our daily lives actually start out as fossil fuels. Plastic is made from oil. This not only means that as such it repels water and sticks to petroleum-based objects like plastic debris (a big concern because of the amounts of plastic debris in oceans), but it is also not the safest material out there.
Toxic chemicals from plastics are found in the blood and tissue of nearly everyone. Exposure to them has been linked to a number of health problems (Perils of plastics: risks to human health and the environment).
3. It enters the food chain
It has become clear and we have all seen pictures of animals dying because they have ingested plastic. Microplastics are not only entering the food chains of fish and birds, but also our own. It has been suggested that avid mussel eaters might eat up to 11,000 microplastics a year. It’s not just fresh fish, though. Microplastics have also been found in canned fish and sea salt (How you’re eating microplastics – and don’t even realize).
Ultimately, the solutions will have to come from innovation, infrastructure and society. On the innovation side, we need to make products that have a minimum risk for microplastic pollution. (When plastic is part of the food chain)
Society plays a key role in reducing plastic. If we all use less plastic, there will be less plastic.
4. It will outlive you, your kids, their kids…
This is a hard reason to stretch out. There’s not much to it. If we use less plastic, we might just feel less guilty about what we leave for the next generations.
5. Save money
Starting with the basics. The fact that you will not have to pay for water if you bring a refillable bottle saves you a lot of money in the long run. Depending on how much you drink and what your bottle costs, you’ll most probably have made your money back within the first week of using it.
In many supermarkets, buying vegetables loose is actually cheaper. Prepackaged vegetables (potatoes, carrots, onions) can be much cheaper if you buy them loose. Not only do they often come at a lower price point, but you also have the benefits of choosing both the quality and quantity of your veggies. This is especially good if you end up throwing away vegetables because the pack you bought was too big.
If you drink a lot of coffee, it might be well worth investing in a reusable coffee mug. Many places offer discounts if you bring a reusable cup. You can get anything from 25p to 50p off your coffee if you use your own cup. Not only is this great for the environment, but it’s also great for your wallet.
6. Be more conscious
We become so accustomed to our lives that we start doing many things automatically. While this could be beneficial when it comes to developing good habits, it could also leave you feeling less present. In that sense being more conscious is linked to being more mindful. And that simply means being more aware and more present. Be more conscious of how your choices affect the environment. But also be more conscious about your decisions in general. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle and mindfulness can get you out of that cycle.
7. Live better, feel better, be better
Using less plastic feels great. There’s less guilt, less trash and it often leads to a more healthy lifestyle. When you attempt to use less and less plastic, you start doing more research. You may realize that you can make some of the products you buy at the store at home and save money doing so. You might start buying less processed or frozen food and get into cooking. You may find you chose to visit your local vegetable store more often because they don’t use plastic. You may even find products you didn’t know existed, such as an electric lighter.
Producers who actively think about their packaging and are aware of their influence on the environment are probably putting more effort and care into their products, as well. That extra thought goes to show that the manufacturer values their product as well as their customers. Choosing to shop from someone who doesn’t use single-use plastic packaging, demonstrates your appreciation for their extra effort. Often times it’s smaller companies or local shops that are doing this, so you can feel even better knowing that you are supporting a smaller business.
In general, using less plastic is not only great for the environment. It’s good for your wallet, your consciousness and often times – your health.
Have you thought about using fewer plastics? Share in the comments.
Featured image source: www.pinterest.com
Currently going into her final year of English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. Gery has been writing in a personal blog since 2014 and has been published in publications StudentVoices and FictionHub on Medium. She debuted her first play 'Liminality' at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is already planning her next project.