According to the United Nations Environment Programme, more than 99% of plastics today are produced from non-renewable sources such as oil, natural gas and coal. Despite the use of such non-renewable resources, 300 million tonnes of plastic a year are discarded as waste – that’s equivalent to the weight of the entire human population.
Of all the plastic that has ever been produced, just 9% has been recycled, 12% has been incinerated and the rest 79% has ended up in landfills or as pollutants in the environment. Of that 79%, an unknown amount enters the environment as barely detectable micro-plastics.
What can we do to change things around? How can we reduce our plastic consumption and our environmental impact? Here are 10 ideas you can apply to your daily life.
1. Avoid single use plastics such as drinking straw and plastic cutlery
It's generally thought that we use plastic cutlery for 3 minutes before throwing it away, while it can take up to 200 years for a straw to decompose. Prefer the use of straw made of natural, sustainable and recyclable materials such as glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
2. Opt for natural and organic chewing gums
Depending on the conditions it can take up to 100 years for a piece of chewing gum made of plastic to decompose.
3. Use shampoo/soap bars instead of liquid shampoo/soap in bottles
Besides the plastic packaging, liquid shampoo can contain synthetic ingredients such as silicon which can take up to 500 years to decompose.
4. Avoid buying plastic containers for food storage
Storing your food in plastic containers can be harmful both for you and the environment. Plastic containers liberate micro-plastic in waterways every time you wash or use them. Consider using stainless steel or glass containers instead.
5. Choose eco-friendly, sustainable or secondhand products
There are more and more sustainable brands providing a wide range of products (e.g. toothbrushes, phone cases – just to name a few) made of sustainable and eco-friendly materials. Buying items second hand reduces the amount of newly produced plastic.
6. Avoid regular (plastic) glitter
Glitter is made from plastic and pollutes our water system as micro plastic. Natural and biodegradable glitter is a great option to celebrate in a sustainable way.
7. Drink your coffee from a reusable cup, and your water from a reusable bottle
It takes up to 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose. Plastic packaging is commonly found in the oceans and impacts life of marine mammals who mistake them for food. Plastic lids often end up in seabirds stomachs.
8. Compost food waste and avoid using plastic trash bags
Most of the time trash bags are incinerated, buried or end up in landfill which contributes to greenhouse effect. Consider using biodegradable trash bags and composting your food waste.
9. Avoid packaged food
We come across a lot of plastic packaging on a daily basis, while doing our groceries or ordering takeaway food. An easy way to reduce single use packaging is to use reusable vegetable/fruit bags for your groceries. When ordering takeaway food to pick up, ask if you can use your own reusable food container. When buying packaged food prefer non plastic or sustainable packaging.
10. Avoid buying clothes with plastic (e.g. viscose, rayon, polyester)
Clothing and other plastic items are among the leading causes of micro plastic water pollution. It is thought that people ingest around 5 grams of micro-plastic every week.
Prefer clothes made of natural materials such as cotton. Avoid clothing items made of mix materials (e.g. 50% cotton, 50% polyester) as they are very difficult to recycle or repurpose.
- Ten Tips To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint by WWF
- How much oil is used to make plastic by EIA
- The Environmental Impact Of Food Packaging by FoodPrint
- The Foodprint Of Food Packaging by FoodPrint
- The Environmental Impact Of Chewing Gum: Everything You Need To Know by Hugh
- Produits cosmétiques: toxiques pour l'environnement by RTBF