Purge plastic from your daily diet
By Sonia Duggan
Pictures of trash on beaches, a whale found with a belly full of garbage, and turtles with plastic straws up their nose are no laughing matter. They are all just a tiny snapshot of reality today.
The impact of the world’s overuse of plastic is causing havoc on the environment.
For over 20 years, China was the recipient of millions of tons of paper and plastics per year from the U.S. and it was a profitable business for the U.S. for many local cities with recycling programs. In 2017, China made the decision to ban imported nonindustrial plastic waste, and the country also added more restrictions for imported paper waste. Stateside, many cities are no longer making a profit and recyclables are now a drain on budgets, and in some cases, costing as much as they previously earned.
Recycling facilities cannot handle all the trash and millions of Americans are not following proper recycling protocol. Republic Services, a local waste collector said, “We collect the items in the curbside recycling container. Once those items arrive to the recycling facility, they are sorted or processed. If the items are not recyclable, items such as garden hoses, dirty diapers, plastic grocery bags, etc. – these items are trash and they will go to the landfill. They cannot be recycled. It is important that residents who participate in the recycling program put only items that can be recycled (cardboard, newspapers, soda cans, etc.) into their recycling container.”
Plastic bags are one of the most widespread types of litter. An estimated 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide; roughly one million bags per minute. It is estimated that only one-half percent of these bags are recycled and the rest head to landfills and oceans according to conservingnow.com.
The pose a big risk for cities, clogging drains and contributing to flooding – then when the bags make it to the oceans, they get caught in currents and can strangle marine life.
While Dallas once flirted with a bag ban, it is no longer in effect. Some countries and U.S. cities have imposed bans or fees to discourage the use of plastic bags altogether. Don’t accept plastic bags from stores. Instead, keep reusable bags on your front seat and remember to take them into any retail store. Hopefully, it will soon become part of your daily routine.
We brush our teeth every day, but did you ever stop to think about your toothbrush and what is it made of? Toothbrushes are made from a mix of plastic materials that combine elements of rubber, crude oil as well as some extra plastic and cardboard that goes into their packaging.
North America wastes over one billion toothbrushes per year thatalso come packed in plastic packaging adding roughly 15 million pounds of plastic to our landfills. The handles alone can take 1000 years to decompose!
Don’t accept the free toothbrush from your dentist. There are multiple toothbrush options available. Make the effort to purchase biodegradable toothbrushes made out of sustainable materials such as bamboo.
Our love affair with plastic water bottles is another drain on resources. Over 17 million barrels of oil are used to make the bottles. Earthday.org reports that Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the U.S. “That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually,” they said.
In addition, only 20% of those plastic bottles are recycled and the other 80% end up in landfills and oceans.
The Container Recycling Institute reports that U.S. water quality standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for tap water are more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water.
“Most Americans pay a monthly water bill for municipal tap water at an average cost of $2 per 1000 gallons,” according to the American Water Works Association (AWWA). “Filtering tap water by means of a filter installed under the kitchen sink brings the cost up to about 10 cents a gallon, and a tabletop filter increases the cost to 25 cents a gallon.”
Personal care/beauty products that individuals use daily are one of the biggest plastic culprits – shampoo, deodorant, liquid soap, lotion, toothbrushes and so much more. Did you know around two billion razors are thrown away each year? Most end up in landfills, and, like toothbrushes, they are made from multiple materials that cannot be recycled.
Take action today and make a plan to reduce your personal carbon footprint. Switch to items in plastic-free packaging and buy from companies that offer refills.
When food shopping, shop local sources and farmers markets whenever possible. For necessary shopping trips to the store, bring reusable grocery and produce bags. Purchase items from bulk bins and place them in a glass or stainless-steel storage container.
Small changes can yield big results. Take action now and purge your home of single use plastics by swapping products. Future generations will thank you.