Plastic Free!  Can you take the Challenge?

Did you go “plastic-free” in July? If you’re like me, this may be the first time someone has brought up the concept of a “Plastic Free July”. And, yes, we know that it’s September but the idea is still applicable! Can you go a whole month without plastic? Once you start considering just how much of what we use contains plastic, you’ll be hard-pressed to figure out how you go just one single day without using some sort of plastic!  

As I look at my desk right now I see lots of it. In my pen cup, computer stand, the keyboard I am using to write on right now, label printers, headphones, mug (not plastic) with tea bag. Wait, what? Yes, my tea bag is made of a mix of paper and plastic which I found out by doing research for this blog. That got me to wondering… What other products have some sneaky plastic in them?

Here are some surprising items:

  • Chewing gum – That’s right, “gum-based” is trade secret lingo used by manufacturers so they don’t have to disclose their ingredients. Most gum bases contain polyethylene — the same plastic that makes plastic bottles and bags.
  • Aluminum soda cans – An epoxy resin lining inside the can contains plastic. Without this lining, a can of Coke would corrode in three days, says a Wired article on aluminum cans.
  • Sea salt – Not made with plastic but contaminated with microplastics!  One study found that 36 out of 39 brands of sea salt were found to have microplastics. The same study found that an average adult consumes 2,000 microplastic particles every year just from ingesting salt.
  • Exfoliants with micro-beads
  • Whitening toothpaste that uses microbeads
  • The kitchen sponge
  • The fish on your plate
  • Cigarette butts – The most common form of trash found on the beach is not just paper and tobacco, the filter is made of a type of plastic that takes 12 years to degrade. Once it does degrade it turns into those microplastics that might show up in your sea salt!

If this list made you wary of the products you are using it may be time to take stock of just how much plastic we are using here on earth.  

Take this fact sheet from earthday.org:

FACT #1

More than 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016. That is up from about 300 billion only a decade ago.

FACT #2

 

About one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. That’s nearly 2 million every minute.

FACT #3

 

More than half a billion plastic straws are used every day around the world.

FACT #4

Over half of the world’s plastic thrown out in 2015 was plastic packaging. That’s over 141 million metric tons.

FACT #5

FACT #6

The amount of bubble wrap that is produced annually is enough to wrap around the Equator ten times.

FACT #7

The world uses 500 billion plastic cups every year.

 

FACT #8

16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside and use plastic lids.

FACT #9

The world produces more than 14 million US tons of polystyrene (plastic foam) each year. Americans alone throw away around 25 billion Styrofoam cups every year.

FACT #10

Around the world, people litter more than 4.5 trillion cigarette buttsevery year.

 

Haven’t had enough? How about this: If plastic production and consumption continue as usual, by 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean. We are literally smothering ourselves and our environment with plastic.

Let’s not allow plastic to take over the earth and our bodies! 

What can we do to help? By changing our habits and taking it one step at a time. Living ‘plastic-free” is a process and a lifestyle change. And maybe ‘plastic-free’ is almost impossible in this modern-day and age. How about just going for a ‘plastic-lite’ lifestyle? You can make small changes right now and you don’t have to wait until next July to reduce your plastic consumption. Start small. Create easy to maintain new habits then tackle something more challenging. We may never be able to eliminate those plastic prescription bottles, but can you come up with a solution for your toothpaste that doesn’t come in a plastic tube? Hint: mix equal parts of coconut oil with baking soda. You can add some essential oil for flavor and stevia to sweeten. Then, put in a glass jar or glass pump bottle.

Here are some simple changes you can make today to get started reducing your plastic consumption:

  • Commit to using reusable shopping bags or baskets with handles — It is estimated that the average time a plastic bag is in use is just 12 minutes. Single-use plastic takes 500 (or more) years to degrade in a landfill. And, imagine how much cuter you will look with a basket full of fruits and veggies at the next farmer’s market!
  • Commit to only using glass bottles
  • Buy bread in paper. Now you’re probably wondering how to keep it from going stale, remember the bread box? What a concept!
  • Make your own cleaning supplies and reuse those plastic containers.
  • Buy your meat and cheese from the deli and ask to have them wrapped in paper.
  • Buy bar soap instead of liquid soap
  • Purchase dry grains and rice at the bulk bar in your favorite grocery store.  Yours doesn’t have one? It’s time to switch!
  • Carry your own utensils so you won’t need a spork.
  • Use food wrappers made of beeswax coated cotton instead of plastic wrap.
  • Need more? See how others are living a plastic-free life – check out:  Erin Rhodes,  Beth Terry, and Lindsay Miles

It’s easy to get overwhelmed but now that you know some places where plastic is lurking in everyday products, it’s going to be easier to get rid of the plastic right under your nose!

See you in the next blog!

Deb Fries is a freelance designer and writer, she has worked with Julianna Rae in the Graphics department and Customer Service.  She now writes lifestyle pieces for the blog at www.juliannarae.com/blog