It would be hard to imagine the modern world without plastic. It’s inexpensive, malleable, moldable, and can be made into an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. From our cars and smartphones to our food packages and medical devices, we live in the age of plastic.
But there is an obvious downside to plastic. Eighty percent of the litter in our oceans and waterways consists of plastic, most of which originated on land. Seabirds, whales, turtles, and other marine life are eating the plastic pollution and dying. On land, plastic has a huge effect on people and wildlife. When plastic is left in the environment as litter, they break down and release harmful chemicals including benzene and dioxins and heavy metals such as cadmium and lead. These deadly toxins are also released when plastics are incinerated or sent to landfills. So what can you do to stop this from happening?
While the phrase reduce, reuse, and recycle has been repeated for decades, it truly describes the best way to deal with plastic. Reduce plastic consumption by cutting disposable plastic out of your life. Bring your own reusable cloth bags to the store so you don’t bring five, ten, or twenty plastic bags home from every shopping trip. If you have a pile of old plastic bags, ask your local grocer if they have a recycling program. Many stores these days recycle grocery bags.
When it comes to bottled water, use less of them and consider buying reusable bottles. Americans throw away 29 billion plastic water bottles every year! And much of that expensive bottled water is no cleaner or better than your tap water which costs a few cents a gallon. Buy reusable stainless steel water bottles and recycle the disposable ones that you use.
You can also recycle old electronic gadgets and phones, along with most plastic containers such as ketchup and soap bottles. Go to your local government website to see the plastic recycling programs in your area. You might even learn about volunteer cleanup days in your area. Picking up trash is a great way to get some exercise, teach children a lesson about the environment, and meet your neighbors. If everyone pitches in and makes an effort, plastic pollution is a problem that can be managed.