Over the last 50 years or so, plastic has become a staple in our everyday lives. It’s found in everything from shopping bags to food packaging, household appliances, garden hoses, plumbing pipes, counter tops, cars, chewing gum, furniture… you name it!
Plastic is in so many products that it’s hard to think we could ever live without it.
However, as you may know, plastic has a downside with significant damaging effects to our environment and the wildlife within it…
The Problem With Plastic
The problem with plastic isn’t so much to do with how we use it, but rather what happens when we’re done using it.
Generally, the life of a polyethylene plastic bag we get at the supermarket goes as follows:
- Mass produced,
- Used once (maybe twice); and then…
- Thrown away!
And the problem is, polyethylene isn’t as biodegradable as other materials…
…actually, it isn’t biodegradable at all.
Unlike paper, wood or food products that are biodegradable, the polyethylene found in plastic bags, bottles and wraps is photodegradable – meaning it is broken down by prolonged exposure to sunlight.
“So, what’s the problem with that? We just need to put the plastic under the sunlight and hey presto, it disappears, right?”
Well, kind of…
… but it’s not quite that simple.
Firstly, when plastic makes its way to landfills, it’s only the polyethylene on the surface of the landfill that is exposed to sunlight.
Meaning, the plastic below the surface layer, covered by other bits of junk, never sees the light of day – mummifying in its tomb of rubbish for years to come.
The second problem comes down to the elements of plastic that do get broken down by the sun. Because, unfortunately, even though they get broken down, they’ll still exist in one form or another.
Most of the plastics we use contain toxic chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer, which can, sadly, find its way into the guts of animals – especially when the plastic is broken down by sunlight while floating in the ocean.
And to make matters worse…
…it’s estimated that only 9% of the plastic we use worldwide is actually being recycled.
That’s just scary when you think about the 8.3 billion metric tons that has been produced over the years…
What’s Being Done About It
Recently, States around Australia have begun banning the sale and supply of single use plastic bags, with New Zealand looking to follow within the next year.
According to the U.N. more than 60 countries around the world have also chosen to ban the bags in a pitch to reduce further damage to our planet…
… but, is that really enough?
It’s going to take more than simply picking up litter and recycling to solve this problem.
It’s going to take a complete shift in worldwide culture as a whole…
This shift won’t be easy, and it won’t be overnight.
However, taking small positive steps, day-by-day, in the right direction will help reduce the world’s demand and, hopefully, its gargantuan supply of plastic.
Luckily, more and more individuals are joining the movement; using initiative to rebel against the unnecessary use of plastic…
Coffee lovers are trading plastic takeaway lids for reusable keep cups. Others are saying no to plastic drinking straws. While some are switching to bamboo and other biodegradable materials to replace the plastic in their toothbrushes.
What You Can Do To Help
How much you contribute, and the impact you have on the future of our environment, is up to you.
Below you’ll find a list of simple changes you can put in action today that will help you decrease your plastic consumption without the fuss.
- Take your own canvas shopping bags to the supermarket.
- Switch to bamboo and other biodegradable toothbrush handles.
- Take your own glass coffee keep cups to cafes when you need a takeaway caffeine hit.
- Use glass refillable water bottles instead of store bought plastic bottles.
- Stop chewing gum.
- Use glass containers for your packed lunches instead of plastic containers.
- Stop using plastic plates and cutlery.
- Use metal razors instead of disposable plastic razors.
- Stop using plastic straws.