Plastics--what can we do without them? They’re handy, convenient, durable, colorful--so what’s the problem?
They’re everywhere. In homes, stores, scattered in the streets and in the oceans--that’s the problem.
Plastic production has caused disastrous outcomes--not only for the environment but also to humans that several countries have banned single-use plastics.
EU countries have voted to ban plastic plates, drinking straws, and other single-use plastic products to help contain huge amounts of plastic waste in the environment and in the world's oceans.
Kenya banned plastics in 2017 due to serious sewage problems and unsafe drinking water. Violators could face prison time for up to 4 years.
Similar to Kenya, Rwanda also has prison time for plastic users and sellers. The Rwandan government also passed a law to promote plastic education. Children at an early age know how long plastic bags take to decompose.
While Costa Rica had set an ambitious goal to get rid of all disposable plastic items by 2021.
Heavily populated China banned the use and manufacture of very thin plastic bags in 2008 as these get tossed out easily.
The use of microplastics in cosmetic products has not been allowed in New Zealand since 2018.
And in France, plastic bags have been non-existent in daily life since 2017!
Each of these countries’ goal to gradually ban single-use plastic products is by no means utopian.
The practice of people taking their own jute bags, canvas totes, or organic cotton bags for shopping shows that many products can be used to replace harmful single-use plastics.
The effects of plastic use on marine animals and birds are undeniable. Many of these animals starve to death with a full stomach of plastics brought in by cargo ships that illegally dispose waste in seawater.
Similarly, waste left behind on the beach that was carried in during flooding and thin plastic bags carried by the wind ended up in the ocean.
Various studies on garbage found that plastics make up the largest part of marine garbage.
Another source of fine plastic particles is water from our washing machines. Fabric made of synthetic materials is broken down into tiny fibers when washed.
These tiny particles get into the water which treatment plants don’t filter out. Ending up in seawater or sewage systems and again back to land.
Plastics don’t decompose and are chemically very stable. They only disintegrate into smaller and smaller particles.
If plastic materials get into the environment or into the water as waste, the decay can last for many decades affecting generations after another.
There may only be a few people who are likely to succeed without plastic.
Being mindful of your every action needs a lot of discipline and practice. But anyone can start small and work their way up!
Here are some ideas for plastic-free alternatives for your everyday life:
Coffee on the go. Take a thermal reusable cup with you.
Shop with a backpack, fabric, jute bag, fruit net. The fabric bag for daily shopping fits in every jacket pocket. Just like the AMRITA cloth tote and jute bags! Your fruit net can carry fruits and vegetables.
Fast food. If you prefer fast food or takeout, don’t take the cutlery that is often included. Bring one with you. This is also great for a salad or yogurt when you are traveling.
Natural fiber clothing. When washing synthetic fibers like polyester, tiny pieces of fiber come loose and end up in sewage. Since they cannot be filtered out, they ultimately end up in the sea. Therefore, pay attention to natural fibers such as organic cotton and the information on the label when buying clothing.
Solid, liquid, or wax-like plastics in cosmetics. These materials serve as abrasives, binders, or fillers. Natural cosmetics that don’t contain plastic are a better alternative. Many solid soaps don’t need plastic. They foam up and can be used as shower gel, shampoo, or hair treatment.
Avoid elaborately packed products. These are often seen in organic products. Packaging makes up a large part of the plastic waste. There are now stores that encourage customers to bring their own containers.
Tap water. Instead of buying expensive bottled water, fill your own water bottle with tap water to avoid unnecessary waste.
Reuse, recycle, repair, refurbish. Buy products in reusable containers. Recycle or repair equipment, furniture, or other devices. If you don’t know-how, get on the Internet to find out how to revamp your old everyday objects and make them usable again.Preserve what is available. If repairs are no longer possible, pay attention to the longevity of your next purchase.
Wax paper.When packing food for lunch or travel, use wax paper instead of aluminum foil or cling films.
Separate garbage. Even if it seems tedious in everyday life, consistent waste separation makes sense. If you sort glass and paper for recycling, you’ll see how much waste is in your trash bin and how much you can still reuse and recycle!
We all use plastic every day. They can be valuable and innovative materials to use but when they end up in the environment as waste, it becomes a major problem.
To completely ban the use of single-use plastics in our daily lives may seem impossible and far-fetched but it can be done!
Each contribution helps reduce the amount of plastic waste everywhere.
Got a “plastic” tip? Share them with us and let’s get rid of plastics everywhere--together!