According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Americans tossed 3.01 million tons of plastic bags, sacks, and shrink wraps in landfills in 2017 while only about 9.4% of those plastics were actually recycled. That leaves about 91% of the plastics produced in America polluting oceans, beaches, rivers, forests, and other natural habitats, as well as our own neighborhoods! During the 2019 fiscal year, Georgia College alone recycled 62.65 tons of material which primarily consisted of plastics and cardboard.
Even when we do recycle, many items are burned or shipped away to other places because repurposing the products can be expensive. China even stopped purchasing our recycled materials in 2017 because most of the materials they received were not actually recyclable. Check out this article published by WBUR that gives an in-depth look at the truth behind the plastics recycling industry.
Plastic is found in the stomachs of innocent sea turtles and formed together into giant floating trash islands. In addition, approximately 1 million birds per year are killed after mistaking plastic for food. An article published by the Washington Post stated that by 2050, scientists expect there to be more trash than fish in the ocean. As you can see, plastic use is a big problem, so we have a few solutions to help you cut back on your day-to-day plastic use! Cities like Seattle and New York have already banned single-use plastics to cut down on municipal waste. Commit to these 5 simple switches to help reduce your single-use plastic waste so that we can have a greener GC campus and a greener world!
- Substitute plastic straws with pasta straws
Metal and silicone straws are fairly common alternatives for plastic straws, but they are not compostable. If you really want to switch to an eco-friendly product, try a pasta straw. These guys work just as well as a regular straw and can be composted after you’re done using them. They are a great option if you hate soggy paper straws as well!
- Use reusable shopping bags when buying groceries
Caving into plastic bag use happens to many people. To avoid using these baggies, create a zero-waste tote kit to keep in your car or purse so it is nearby when you go out shopping. If you are forgetful, try shopping at a store you know will offer paper bags as a replacement so you can recycle after. Purchasing items like bagitos, made of recycled water bottles, are helpful when you do not have much space, but want to stay eco-friendly!
- Switch your plastic ware to metal/glass containers
You can find plastic ware in kitchens across America. Replace these non-biodegradable products with metal or glass containers instead. For more inspiration to make the switch, eating from plastic products sends about 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles into your body each year according to an article published by National Geographic. We are uncertain how these plastics affect human health. For the sake of animals and your own well-being, ditch the plastic containers.
- Exchange cling wrap for beeswax wrap or soy wax paper
Cling wrap preserves food without the hassle of finding another container but unfortunately cannot be recycled. Instead, opt for environmentally friendly beeswax or soy wax paper to keep your food fresh. These products are reusable and work just as well as cling wrap and keep plastics out of landfills! Give them a try if you haven’t already. It’s worth the investment!
- Reusable Water Bottles
Avoid purchasing those large containers of water at the store! Try a reusable metal canteen or other reusable drink container of your choice. If you absolutely have to purchase a drink stored in a plastic bottle, be sure that you properly recycle it afterwards!
Living a green life starts with a choice. A choice of awareness, a choice of activism, and a choice to purchase products that will not harm ourselves and the environment. If you are just beginning to go green, take the switch one step at a time. Try moving through our 5-point list instead of taking on all of them at once. Going green should be a lifestyle, not a compulsive decision!