Plastic is one of the most amazing and revolutionary materials invented and used by man. However, it’s also a material that defies one of the natural processes of nature – decomposition. Unfortunately, plastic doesn’t decay for hundreds or even thousands of years. Would you believe it if we tell you the first plastic item ever produced is still here on Earth?
The inability of plastic to decompose creates a huge global garbage problem. Experts have estimated over 8.3 billion tons of plastic waste is circulating around the world, with only 9% of the material being recycled. This plastic pollution adversely affects wildlife, clogs waterways, causes health problems, and is incredibly unsightly.
Advantages of Plastic-Free Living
You can’t control all that’s happening in the world. However, you definitely have control over the choices you make. If you want to reduce plastic pollution, why not shift to a plastic-free life? Yes, it can be done! In fact, several people have already proven that living without using plastic is possible and provides amazing benefits.
You save money
Updated recycling statistics show that 5 trillion plastic bags are produced annually. Most of these plastic bags are meant to be single use. When you shop for groceries, you are also spending for the plastic bag to contain the items you bought; it’s all included in the receipt. When you throw away the plastic bag after using it, you’re also throwing away money.
On your next grocery run, why not try doing away with plastic bags? You can simply bring reusable bags, jars, and bottles to store your purchases. For example, you can head out to the grain bin and fill your jar with wheat, rice, or corn bits. You can refill a bottle with cooking oil. How about butter or margarine in a jar? A lot of establishments can give you a discount if you use your own containers.
One more thing: many businesses have joined the green revolution by selling refills of shampoo, liquid soap, dishwashing liquid, and many other household items rather than brand-new pre-packaged products. Simply bring your own container and pay for the refill!
You reduce trash
You order a takeout for lunch. Your takeout lunch comes with plastic utensils and a plastic cup for your drink. The entire package may even be placed in a plastic bag, so it would be easier for you to carry your food. After you eat your lunch, you pack everything back in the plastic bag and chuck it in the trash.
That plastic trash is just added into the already huge mountains of rubbish in the landfill. And, as we mentioned earlier, it will stay here for many years as the material is non-biodegradable. It’s this accumulation of plastic that’s causing a headache for your city’s waste management team.
However, by bringing your own utensils, lunch boxes, and water bottle, you no longer need plastic items that you’re going to use just once. In theory, you can use your own recyclable containers for years without ever using throwaway plastic utensils, cups, and bags!
You help save wildlife
It’s the wild animals that suffer terribly from our folly. Animals mistake plastic waste for food; sea turtles, for example, think plastic bags are the jellyfish that they eat for food. Animals may even ingest plastic without knowing it; whales, for example, swallow plastic items along with krill as they strain their food through their baleens.
But being non-biodegradable, these plastics cause blockages in the animals’ digestive systems, causing starvation and death. There are sad photos on the Internet showing animal carcasses with bottle caps, candy wrappers, and other plastic items inside their rib cages.
Ingestion isn’t the only threat that animals face. That plastic 6-pack ring carelessly thrown into the ocean can entangle turtles, sea birds, and sharks. That plastic net from your fruit bag can pose a danger to squirrels, raccoons, and skunks.
By turning away from plastics, you help reduce the amount of plastic waste in the environment. Animals would eat their natural food, not some man-made item that does not dissolve in their guts. There would be less plastic waste that can put them in danger.
You become healthier
In an effort to curb plastic pollution, manufacturers have labeled some of their plastic containers as “biodegradable.” Don’t be fooled—it’s a marketing ploy to appease sustainable customers. The truth is, those plastic items break down into very small plastic particles called microplastics. These microplastics are ingested by fish, poultry, and cattle – the very animals we eat for our nourishment.
Being non-biodegradable, these microplastics pass down from the animals we eat and are absorbed by our digestive system. Being foreign bodies, these are toxic and can cause a lot of serious health problems.
Taking plastic out of the equation means that there will be less microplastics that can infest our meat sources. We are assured of clean, healthy meat that is free from foreign bodies.
Non-plastic materials are sturdier
You might have heard our grandparents complain that today’s stuff is not as durable as they were in their time. They could be more right than you know. Plastic toys easily break down. Plastic furniture falls apart quickly. Well, that’s the nature of plastic — the material is designed to be cheap and brittle so that it’s easier to replace an item.
But, let’s say you choose to have someone restore your grandfather’s old metal toy trucks for your little boy. Those toys are so tough that you don’t need to buy a cheap plastic one for your kid. He’ll play with them vigorously, and these trucks will hold up to the abuse.
How about wrought metal furniture? That’s definitely tougher, longer lasting, and higher in quality than furniture pieces made of plastic. You’d enjoy more years out of your metal furniture than with a plastic set. In the long run, you can save money because you don’t have to replace your set often.
Several decades back, people survived and lived happily without plastic. Recycling and repurposing the stuff they had was the name of the game. Thus, there’s no reason why we can’t do this too. Living a life with less or no plastic is definitely doable.
Guest Author: Lillian Connors is a Senior Content Developer at ACT-ENVIRO, with years of experience in developing content. Throughout her career, she always looked for ways to contribute to the environment in recycling efforts, while providing valuable information with her written articles. She’s deeply into green practices, cherishing the notion that sustainability not only makes us far less dependent on others regarding how we live and do business but also contributes to our planet being a better place to live on. When she’s not trying to improve the things around her (and herself, for that matter), she likes to lose herself in a good book and sip on an occasional appletini.