For the longest time, humans have had this strange love affair with everything plastic. It is easy to understand why, as it is durable, relatively cheap, and versatile. Because of this, and because it is profitable to make, we as a species have developed a habit of nearly giving it away for free. What few people think about when using plastic utensils is their long-term effect on the environment. When aliens or future generations start digging up our remains a couple of thousand years from now, they are most probably going to find a thick layer of plastic before they find anything else.
Mass production of plastic began in the 1950s. Since then humans have made an astonishing 9.1 billion tons of plastic waste. To give some perspective on how much waste that is, 9.1 billion tons is the weight is about 25,000 Empire State buildings combined. The scary part is that half of that amount has been created in the last 13 or so years.
Further analysis determined that out of those 9.1 billion tons only about nine percent are being recycled. Another 12 percent is incinerated while the remaining 79 percent builds all the worlds landfills. It takes anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand years for plastic to break down.
These numbers are worrying, but there is still time to make a significant change. The team behind the research determined that the biggest culprit here is packaging. This is especially true for packaging that is used once and then thrown out.
So how can we reduce plastic waste?
On an individual level, people might make a game out of the situation. Determine how many times you throw out the trash during a week and then do your best to cut that number in half. This does not mean leaving it in the kitchen or garage, but by creating less garbage in the first place.
We can also make a conscious effort not to buy pre-cooked food from the store that is stored in big, plastic containers. Also, do not buy vegetables wrapped in plastic bags but pick up the loose ones and put them in reusable bags.
Ordering less takeout also helps. Almost all takeout comes in a plastic box packed in a plastic bag with plastic utensils. Cooking food during the weekends and consuming leftovers is a healthier and cheaper option always
A reusable grocery bag is also a great way to lower plastic waste. You can store it in your purse, backpack, or car. All it takes is remembering to carry it with you into the store.
When shopping, try to buy in bulk, as It is always easier to buy one bigger container than a bunch of small ones.
Many people do not think about the reusable bags in the market when planning future trips to the store. When you unload the groceries from one trip, you can always store the reusable bags and use them on your next trip.
Parties are another significant source of waste. Most people go for plastic cups and plates when there is an equally suitable paper option available. Paper decomposes much more easily than plastic anyway. The plastic straws and stir sticks also have better alternatives made out of glass, silicone or even bamboo.
Buying bottled water is also a pretty big no-no. Buying a reusable water bottle and refilling it with some filtered water is environmentally friendly and much cheaper.
Finally, drop the plastic wrap and use glass jars or Tupperware instead. That leftover lemon slice keeps equally well in Tupperware as it does in Saran wrap.
Also, do not forget to reward yourself whenever you do something environmentally friendly. Plastic is here to stay, and that is okay, but people can definitely lower the amount they use, and rewarding yourself when you do is okay.