It’s thought that the oceans will contain more plastic weight than fish by 2050. Here are 9 things you can do to try to prevent that.
The constant barrage of plastic in our oceans and landfills is not only killing marine life and surface vegetation but also leaching toxins into your body. The Earth cannot digest plastic; once it exists, it will never completely biodegrade.
Cut out these nine types of plastic for a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.
1. Coffee cups
Disposable takeaway coffee cups are not recyclable, contrary to what you might believe. Takeaway cups are the second biggest contributor to waste after plastic bottles, due to the polyethylene lining, a type of resin material made from plastic. Though it may appear to be a cardboard cup, the lining is almost always plastic.
What to use instead: reusable coffee mugs or a stainless steel thermos.
These are some of the worst single-use plastic items out there. Ask yourself, are straws even necessary? Straws inevitably end up in our oceans, where marine life mistake them for food. The next time you’re at a restaurant or getting takeaway, simply ask for no straw!
What to use instead: glass or stainless steel reusable straws, or none at all.
3. Chewing gum
Did you know modern gum is actually made from a synthetic, plastic based rubber? When invented, gum was originally made from chicle, a natural rubber based in tree sap. Now, gum is made from polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate, some of the same products used to line disposable coffee cups. It’s best to skip this product, and it’s unnecessary packaging altogether.
What to use instead: chew on fresh mint leaves or organic mints bought in bulk.
4. Plastic shopping and produce bags
Plastic produce bags are virtually unnecessary, aren’t you going to wash your fruits and veggies once you’re home anyway? If you find yourself still squeamish at the idea of putting them in a cart alone, purchase some reusable cloth or canvas bags to place them in. While you’re at it, give up plastic shopping bags altogether! Not only is a reusable bag more durable, it eliminates the possibility of marine life fatally ingesting them.
What to use instead: reusable hemp, cotton or canvas bags.
5. Plastic water bottles
Plastic water bottles are another single-use plastic item that are arguably the easiest on this list to give up. Reusable water bottles, namely those that are BPA free if you do choose to use a plastic variety, are sold in most shops and are easily accessible online. Not only do plastic water bottles leach chemicals into your drinking water, they contribute to over a million tons of plastic waste each year.
What to use instead: glass or stainless steel reusable bottles, or BPA free plastic bottles.
6. Polyethylene microbeads
Another plastic polluting our oceans are items like microplastics, which are tiny beads or balls of plastic commonly added to popular face wash brands like Clean & Clear or Neutrogena. Polyethylene microbeads are added under the guise of exfoliation, but most waste treatment facilities are unable to process them and tons end up in oceans each year.
What to use instead: an exfoliating wash with apricot shells, salt or sugar.
7. Choosing milk in returnable glass bottles
While most milk comes in a cardboard carton, it is almost always lined with plastic and not wax, contrary to popular belief. Because of this, it is never fully recyclable. Choosing a milk brand that comes in a refillable glass bottle cuts down on waste. Plus, the container can always be washed and used to store other bulk food items.
What to use instead: refillable glass bottles.
8. Plastic toothbrushes and toothpaste tubes
Toothbrushes and toothpaste are a lifelong product used by billions of individuals. While not only the handles of toothbrushes are made of plastic, so are the bristles (most commonly made of nylon). A great alternative is a bamboo toothbrush, though the bristles won’t be 100% plastic-free unless they’re made of pig hair. To eliminate toothpaste tubes, simply make your own toothpaste at home and use a reusable glass jar to store it! There are dozens of recipes online, mostly commonly containing baking soda, coconut oil, peppermint essential oil and some type of sweetener.
What to use instead: bamboo toothbrushes with pig hair bristles and DIY toothpaste.