For the month of July, millions of people across 177 countries have pledged to cut down on the amount of plastic they use. That can be going without single-use plastic for one day, one week or the entire month. Plastic Free July has grown into a global movement that helps millions be part of the solution to plastic pollution, and you should too, if you want cleaner streets, oceans and beautiful communities.
When I started my sustainable living and conscious consumption journey I was most passionate about the Amazon Rainforest. I wanted to create awareness around the devastating deforestation and it's effect on our global climate and communities that live within the Amazon. Then the pandemic hit and I realized people don't have the bandwidth for something that seems so far away, even though if they indirectly affected by it. As time passed, I have become more passionate about plastic pollution and grown into an advocate for reducing single-use plastic in my own life and inspiring others to do the same.
Plastic Pollution Prognosis
If you look into the prognosis for plastic pollution in the next 20 years, it looks grim. The PEW Charitable Trusts and SystemiQ, came out with a Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution called “Breaking the Plastic Wave” a couple years ago. It states that the plastic production is expected to DOUBLE in the next 20 years. In the same time plastic pollution is to TRIPLE in terrestrial ecosystems and QUADRUPLE in the oceans. That's pretty intense!
The plastic industry reminds me a lot of how the tobacco industry misled the public, in our case selling people on an idea that plastic is not a problem for your health or otherwise and all you need to do is recycle it properly. Nothing could be further from the truth. The plastic industry has known for decades that recycling plastic is not a financially workable or sustainable solution and about its harmful effects on the environment.
I blogged extensively about micro and macro plastic pollution in the past, especially about the devastating consequences on our health and ecosystems and how we all might ingest a credit cards worth of microplastics each week through the food and water we drink.
Plastic pollution is one of the most important environmental challenges we face today. Plastic is made of fossil fuels and is unhealthy for humans, animals and for the environment. One thing you have to be aware of is that all the plastic ever produced, approximately 8.3 billion metric tons in the last six decades is still here and won’t go anywhere because it takes 500 to 1000s of years to decompose. Microplastics can get into the blood, brain or placenta and cause damage. The harm this is doing to our health are not yet fully scientifically studied, but the indications are overwhelming.
I said this before and can't stress it hard enough, environmental problems are causing health problems.
Further plastic pollution is wreaking havoc in our oceans. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fish and turtles, mistake plastic waste for prey, and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic. It’s devastating!
In the U.S., about 76% of plastic garbage goes into landfills, where it eventually breaks down into microplastics that contaminate the environment and release problematic chemicals.
Unnecessary Usage of Plastic
I am so accustomed to avoid single-use plastic as much as possible that I am baffled when I go into a "regular" household and see all the single-use plastic that's being used I stayed in a friend's house to watch her dog. On of the things that stood out to me were the dog's peeing pads, which are made of plastic. The dog hasn't been potty-trained. He does his business in the house 5-6 times a day on a peeing pad, which I wasn't fully aware of when I agreed to watch him.
The environmentalist in me had a fit every time he did it, when I had to clean it up and put out a new plastic pad. That's up to 2,190 peeing pads per year for one household! What an unnecessary waste I thought to myself! I imagined them ending up in the ocean or somewhere else in nature and thus flowing back to our bodies in form of microplastics in our food, air, water and soil.
It's a disgusting thought but that's the reality of what happens to all the plastic we throw out. We don't think about it, out of sight out of mind.
This is one of many examples of unnecessary single-use plastic usage. The good news is that plenty plastic-free solutions already exist.
The pandemic made plastic pollution worse with disposable face masks, gloves, plastic bags and more. We'll be finding millions of disposable face masks spread all over the globe and oceans for decades to come. 🤦🏼♀️
Now with everything open again (at least in California), you can bring your own bags to supermarkets and your reusable coffee mugs to your coffee shops. Drinking out of glass cup tastes so much better than out of regular paper coffee cups, which are lined with a plastic coating. Heated plastic can leach into food and drinks, so that can mean, depending on how hot your beverage is, that you are actually ingesting some micropalstics while drinking your morning coffee. I personally love my Keep Cup Glass Coffee Mug.
My question to you is: Can I challenge, or better, inspire you to take small steps every day to cut down on plastic waste? Even if it's one thing, such as bringing your own cup or buying a bamboo toothbrush, or avoiding plastic water bottles. Buy water in glass bottles instead or use a reusable water bottle. Here are five tips that are easy and readily available.
5 Tips for Plastic Free July
You can get them anywhere, at least in bigger cities.
You can order these online in many places or buy them at Erewhon (if you live in Los Angeles, California).
5. Reusable containers or jars for food leftovers. I love a good old Mason Jar! They are cheap and look pretty, too. You can get a dozen at Target for under $15.
Here are older posts if you want to go deeper on what you can do to replace single-use plastic.
Stay tuned for more plastic alternative options this month. I am in the process of a product review that I'll share with you soon.