The problem with plastic.
The ongoing problem with plastic continues, and it's only becoming worse with grocery shops individually wrapping their fruits and vegetables to preserve their lifespan. Why aren't people caring enough and why haven't we replaced plastic with a better solution?
Plastic is everywhere. Literally. And we all use it – probably more than we realise. The bags we put our groceries in at the supermarket: plastic. The containers we store our leftover takeaway in plastic. The straw we sip our organic cold-pressed OJ from plastic. Bags, water bottles, food containers, straws, cups, utensils, the list is endless. Plastic really is everywhere. Recently, supermarkets have even started to individually wrap various fruit and vegetables in plastic… unnecessary? I think so.
Let me ask you this: do you really know the damage that plastic causes? Sure, we all probably know that it can’t be that great but I’ll be the first to admit that before I did some research I felt perfectly comfortable sipping from my Mount Franklin water bottle while eating “salad” (pizza… obvs) from a plastic container.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: plastic is a substance that the Earth CANNOT digest. It’s not that it doesn’t want to – though I’m sure plastic ain’t that tasty – it’s that it genuinely can’t. This means that every single itty-bitty bit of plastic ever created still exists. Every bit. Ever. Just let that sink in. It’s not biodegradable; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces and never goes away.
Plastic has a huge impact on the natural environment – our water, land, wildlife and food chain are all affected and harmed by plastic. And we human folk are also affected by plastic. Richard Harth, an associate professor at the Arizona State University, suggests that ‘chemicals leached by plastics are in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine distribution and other ailments’.
Australians only consume 4 billion plastic bags every year. That’s approximately 10 million every single day. Of these 4 billion, only 3 percent are recycled. This means that 97 percent of all plastic bags end up in our environment or in landfill. It certainly seems that this plastic issue is a glaringly obvious problem… so, what’s being done?
Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) is one movement that is trying to make a difference. PPC is a global alliance of individuals, organisations, businesses and policy makers who are working towards a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts.
PPC runs and supports a number of programs worldwide, which aim to contribute to a plastic free world. One of these is the Plastic Free Schools program – a program that aims to measurably reduce plastic pollution on school campuses around the world, with a special focus on the reduction, and ultimately the elimination, of plastic bottles, plastic straws and utensils, and plastic food packaging. PPC encourages individuals and communities to educate themselves and others on the dangers of plastic.
Closer to home, in Australia, we have Clean Up Australia – a movement which encourages individuals and communities to clean up, fix up, and conserve our environment. Clean Up Australia also runs the campaign ‘Say NO to Plastic Bags’which brings together a wide variety of people within various communities. The aim is to live by the mantraRefuse, Reduce and Recycle in order to reduce our consumption of plastic bags. Below is an example of things we can do…
Refuse—if you are only buying a few items, carry them instead of getting a bag!
Reduce—count the number of plastic bags you use in a week, and aim to reduce that number the next week.
Recycle—find a local supermarket that offers recycling for plastic bags.
There are also a lot of really simple things that we can do in our day-to-day lives in order to reduce how much plastic we use.
- Buy a stainless steel drink bottle… it literally will cost you five bucks and you can wash and reuse over and over.
- Take your own bags to the supermarket… props to ALDI for forcing us to all get into this habit by not providing free plastic bags.
- Use glass containers to store left over food. Sure it might cost a bit more to start with, but again you can reuse them forever.
- Don’t use a straw when consuming liquids… like, seriously, do you really need one? Otherwise, if you really must, buy your own stainless steel one… how hip!
That’s just a few tips. Click here for 100 more ways to go plastic free.
To be honest, this problem can be easily fixed if we all educate ourselves on the damage that plastic does to our world. As clichéd as it may sound, if we all did one thing to reduce our consumption of plastic it would make a huge impact.
All the research I did for this article prompted me to throw out all of my plastic containers which, to be honest, I’ve had since I left the nest six years ago. I then took myself down to Kmizzle (Kmart for the non-dedicated) to pick up a new drink bottle. What will you do?