Why Go Plastic Free? The Key To A Cleaner & Greener Planet
Going plastic-free is a movement that is gaining momentum as more and more people become aware of the negative impact plastic has on our environment. From polluting our oceans and harming marine life to contributing to climate change, the reasons to go plastic-free are numerous.
Why Go Plastic-Free – 5 TOP REASONS
- Stop the pollution of our natural world
- Minimize harm to wildlife
- Look after your health
- Lower carbon emissions
- Plastic is forever!
How Harmful Is Plastic?
As the development and uptake of plastic is relatively recent we are yet to understand the full implications excessive plastic waste is having on us and the planet.
Here is what we do know….
Plastic Pollutes the Oceans, Waterways & Land
Disposable plastic finds its way into our waterways and oceans where it can harm wildlife, contaminate the food chain, and take thousands of years to break down. It has been estimated that over 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year.
There is no corner of the earth that is safe from plastic contamination. A plastic bag was found 10,975 meters below the surface of the ocean inside the Mariana Trench.
How much plastic is in the ocean?
The Ocean Cleanup estimates that 107 and 290 million metric tons of plastic were emitted into the ocean between 1950 and 2015. Data on the percentages vary depending on the location but the majority of plastic in the ocean is single-use plastic items or fishing industry waste such as nets, lines, floats, pots and traps. Nets that have been discarded are known as ghost nets and they continue to entangle marine creatures.
It is difficult to truly quantify how much plastic is in the ocean as the area is so vast and as plastic breaks into smaller microplastics it’s harder to monitor.
How Plastic Affects Marine Life
- Entanglement: Marine animals, such as sharks, dolphins, turtles, whales, and seals, can become entangled in plastic waste, leading to injury and death.
- Ingestion: Many marine animals mistake plastic debris for food, leading to blockages in their digestive systems and death.
- Habitat Destruction: Plastic pollution can damage and destroy crucial habitats, such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, which provide vital shelter and food sources for many species.
- Chemical Toxicity: Plastic can also release toxic chemicals into the ocean, which can be harmful to marine life. For example, plastic can absorb pollutants like oil, heavy metals, and pesticides, which can be ingested by marine animals.
- Disrupting Food Chains: Plastic pollution can also disrupt the food chain by causing the death of small organisms, which are an important food source for larger species
Plastic Production and Transport Creates Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Plastic production and transport are contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. It takes resources to turn the raw materials into plastic products, then additional energy and resources to get them to us via delivery trucks or planes.
What Happens When Plastic Breaks Down In Nature?
Every single item of plastic that has been made still exists and even as plastic “breaks down” it just breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces of microplastic.
Is Microplastic In Everything?!
Microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles smaller than 5mm, have been found in a wide range of products and environments. They are present in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. The impact of microplastics on human health and the environment is still being researched but there in laboratory tests, microplastics have been shown to cause damage to human cells,
Recycling Plastic Is Almost Impossible & Energy Intensive
Less than 10% of plastic is recycled meaning the other 90% is in landfill or somewhere in our natural world. Even if plastic were recycled, this takes energy and resources which could be better used elsewhere.
How To Go Plastic Free
Going plastic-free can seem overwhelming because plastic is so deeply ingrained in our lives that it is impossible to completely avoid it. Don’t aim for 100%, start by making small changes in your daily habits and make better choices with the food, clothing, and other things you need to buy. Set yourself up with a set of reusable products so that you are able to say no to plastic without drastically changing your lifestyle. This will be a more sustainable and long-lasting way to reduce your waste.
What is the best alternative to plastic?
The collective realization of the catastrophic impacts of plastic has brought about many “eco” alternatives. The rise of “bioplastic”, “biodegradable” & “compostable” products means businesses can offer a plastic-free and “eco-friendly” alternative without having to change the habits of their customers. On the other side of the coin, consumers often put too much trust in a brand marketing their product as such. Greenwashing is false advertising that misleads consumers into thinking they are making a responsible and environmentally friendly choice when buying a product.
We are supportive of technological advancements that reduce plastic but they need to be accompanied by testing and strong standard & certifications.
Are bioplastics a good alternative to fossil fuel plastic?
It has been found that many “compostable” bioplastics do not in fact break down in home compost. Only around 10% of people have a composting system at home and many more have no access to industrial composting through their local waste collection service. The majority of bioplastics end up in the same place as regular plastic – landfill where they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas as they break down. If thrown into the environment, they pose threats similar to PET plastic.
“They are basically the same as plastic and don’t decompose in the way most people think they do,” said Rebecca Burgess, CEO of City to Sea, a UK environmental nonprofit that was formed to reduce plastic in the oceans. “They often end up as rubbish littering our streets and oceans and killing marine life. Bioplastics are a ‘false solution’ as they are single use and there are limited options to compost them… Reducing the amount of single-use packaging we use is the only solution.”
The idea that we can carry on business as usual with the convenience of single-use products is delaying the inevitable we need to quit single-use everything. Even products made from paper, bamboo or other plant-based materials are energy intensive to produce and still create a waste problem when they are discarded after a short time.
How To Reduce Your Plastic Use
- 1. Stop Buying Bottled Drinks
- 2. Start A Veggie Garden
- 3. Use Solid Toiletries
- 4. BYO Coffee Cup
- 5. Take Reusable Shopping Bags
- 6. Bulk Food Shopping
- 7. Refill Liquids
- 8. Dine In Instead Of Takeaway or BYO Containers
- 9. Look For Fabrics Made Of Natural Fibres
- 10. Refuse Receipts & Try Paperless Billing
Support Local Businesses that Provide Plastic-Free Alternatives
This is one of the most important reasons to go plastic-free. By choosing to shop at businesses that provide alternatives to single-use plastics, you can show them support and encourage further innovation in their products. Not only will this help minimize the amount of disposed plastic in our environment, but it will keep more money flowing into local businesses – a win-win situation for everyone! Look for companies that specialize in creating eco-friendly products or sustainable packaging options. Shopping at these places helps lower your own environmental impact as well as support local businesses.
Is It Possible For The World To Go Plastic-Free?
Not entirely and definitely not overnight. There are some areas like medicine and technology where plastic will continue even in single-use form.
The fossil fuel industry is the producer of plastic so it will continue to put monetary interests in front of the state of the planet and will continue to spend big money on lobbying governments and trying to manipulate public perception. The food, beauty & fashion industry needs a big shakeup and the change starts with people like you and me saying enough is enough and demanding better.
We can start by making the switch to a plastic-free lifestyle as well as be an activist that stands up for the planet and its people.