Have you ever stopped to think that plastic takeout containers, shopping bags, straws, spoons, forks, cups, and lids are all made to be used once and then tossed into the trash? In today’s world, there are many things we use just once. And a lot of single-use items cannot be composted or recycled.
No matter the size, plastics do not break down easily or biodegrade. As a result, almost all of the plastics ever made still exist. To make matters worse, almost all lightweight, single-use plastic items are too small or too difficult to recycle, so they end up in landfills. Plastic straws are a prime example of the sort of plastic item Americans have grown accustomed to using once and throwing away.
It’s hard to picture something as small as a plastic straw being an issue. A school bus is much larger. Imagine 125 school buses lined up. This line would be over a mile long. Now picture the inside of all of those buses completely stuffed with plastic straws. This is how many plastic straws Americans use in just one day, about 500 million. Now you can begin to see the magnitude of the problem.
The good news is that we can all do our part to help. Just remember that it is always better to refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle than to use something once and then throw it away. You can help by remembering to make simple changes each day. Start with a goal of changing one plastic habit per week or month and then add new changes throughout the year. Talk to your friends and family about making these changes, too!
Here is how you can be part of the solution
•Just say no to plastic straws or stir sticks at restaurants or places where they are offered. If you really like using straws, consider buying a reusable one and taking it with you. Check out The Last Plastic Straw Movement.
•Instead of plastic shopping bags, use reusable shopping bags.
•Try to use fewer disposable items. At fast food restaurants, take a refillable water bottle or cup and use it instead of a throwaway cup. Be sure to decline the disposable serving ware. When buying fruits or vegetables at the store, use reusable bags or consider not using bags at all.
•Cut down on plastic and Styrofoam by using compostable plates and requesting compostable takeaway containers.
•Make your own takeout kit. You can carry your own reusable containers instead of asking for single-use carry-out containers.
•Did you know that some groceries have a bulk food area? You may be able to bring your own reusable containers from home to fill with food instead of using the plastic bags provided.
After you have refused and reused all that you can, recycle all the plastics that are recyclable in your community. Each of us can do our part by reducing the use of non-recyclable plastics and being realistic about what goes into curbside recycling carts. When in doubt, go find out! Your local solid waste authority has the answers for what is recyclable where you live.
For more ideas, read Simple Ways to Beat Plastic Pollution.
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