In the spirit of Earth Week, we are continuing the conversation around global plastic usage and waste. Recently, we have seen plastic waste highlighted as a part of the regular news cycle. We are especially tuned into the good news—from the rising popularity of zero-waste lifestyles to the banning of single-use plastic worldwide in places like the United Kingdom and Berkeley. People are starting to move from awareness to action on our global plastic problem.
Some startling facts: only 9 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. The other 91 percent is still out there—it could be in the oceans, in a landfill, or along freeways. This is largely due to the fact that roughly half of all plastic produced each year is intended for a single-use product, such as a plastic fork or a chip bag.
The world also is sorely lacking in plastic recycling infrastructure, meaning even products with the potential to be recycled, like plastic water bottles, are ending up in landfills. To make matters worse, plastic never biodegrades; instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, finding its way into everything from fish to drinking water to table salt. It is estimated that there is one ton of plastic for each living person on this planet.
Additionally, most virgin plastics are petroleum-based. This means that if current trends in oil consumption and plastic production continues, economists project that plastics will account for 20 percent of all oil consumption by 2050.
Non-recyclable and non-compostable plastic pose serious threats to human health and the earth’s climate. Although curing this plastic epidemic will require global policy change, demand for a cleaner world starts with the individual. Here are a few simple steps you can take to make an impact:
1) Carry a reusable water bottle. Americans use approximately 50 billion plastic water bottles every year! Most cafes and restaurants will be more than happy to fill up your water bottle. There are a bunch of eco-friendly companies out there to choose from. It’s a wise investment too—instead of spending $365 a year ($1 a day) on single-use plastic bottles, the same volume of tap water costs less than ten cents!
2) Bring your own shopping bags. Whether you’re buying groceries or clothes, avoid single-use plastic bags. Keeping a small bag in your purse, backpack, in the car, or by the front door will ensure you never leave home without one. You can even take it to the next level by bringing your own reusable produce bags to the grocery store, which you can make yourself or purchase!
3) Say no to the straw. Straws represent a throwaway culture in which we use something once, sometimes only for a few minutes, and then toss it into the trash. Think twice about whether or not you really need a straw—this can help cultivate a more conscious mindset around the environmental impacts of our actions. Thankfully, there are paper and metal straw alternatives!
These easy changes will help you do your part in moving the world towards a more sustainable, plastic-free future. When you’re ready to graduate to the next step of plastic-free living, read these tips from our favorite Zero Waste Bloggers.
We at ReGrained understand this and hold sustainability at the core of our mission. Read what our CEO had to say about our leadership around developing compostable packaging, our setbacks, and our goals for the future. Or if you prefer to listen to a deep dive, check out his Interview on Positively Green Podcast on “The Truth Behind Sustainable Packaging”
If you’re passionate about packaging waste or have other insights regarding compostable packaging, please reach out to us!