It’s impossible to grocery shop in the United States without coming across single-use plastic. We put our produce selections into thin plastic bags before we put it in the cart. Premade meals are in plastic wrap or containers. Take out is in plastic with utensils made of, you guessed it, plastic. Straws, candy wrappers, water bottles, the list goes on and on and on. 

How is plastic packaging affecting our environment? Keep reading and find out. Along the way, we’ll include any solutions or tips that can help you do your part. 

What Is Plastic?

Quite a few components fall under the general category of plastic. They are synthetic materials created from natural sources like coal, natural gas, salt, cellulose, and crude oil. In 1988, The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) created a system to classify plastics by numbers one through seven. The classification distinguishes whether it can be recycled.


Types of Plastic

You can typically find the SPI code at the bottom of your container. The number inside the round-edged triangle stands for the categories listed below. 

Type 1 - Polyethylene Terephthalate

Type 2 - High-Density Polyethylene

Type 3 - Polyvinyl Chloride

Type 4 - Low-Density Polyethylene

Type 5 - Polypropylene 

Type 6 - Polystyrene

Type 7 - All the Other Plastics

How Is Plastic Impacting The Environment?

Some of the plastics in those seven categories are commonly thrown into the recycling bin while others not so often. That doesn’t mean your plastics are actually recycled. We think when we throw our empty milk bottles into the blue or green container near our garbage that we are green but, as it leaves our sight. it also leaves our mind. 

The fact is, only nine percent of the plastic created in the world is recycled. It was first created in 1907, since then humans have created more than 8 billion metric tons of synthetic polymers.  Plastics take more than 400 years to break down, which is horrifying to comprehend. Ninety-one percent of it is somewhere taking up space and littering our Earth.


Where Does It End Up?

We think our recycled plastic is disposed of responsibly or we don’t recycle. Either way, here are a few places your used SOLO cups might end up. 

Soil

Waterways

Lakes

Oceans

Animals

Food and Water

Certain plastics release chemicals in the soil, which end up in local water sources and the surrounding ecosystem. These added synthetics leach chemicals into the drinking water. 


How Can I Help?

We are glad that you asked. There are quite a few things you can do your part to help lessen the impact of plastic on the environment. Here are some suggestions from Eathday.org

Reduce 

Try to figure out how much you use. We realize that it is impossible to stop using plastics all together, but there are ways in which we can diminish how much we put into the system. Products like peanut butter, milk, and mustard come in glass jars as well as plastic. Choose those instead.

Eco-friendly packing. Paper and cotton bags. Zero waste concept

Source: Freepik.com

Reuse

I’ve stopped purchasing new plastic containers for leftovers. I reuse what I have and wash sturdy take-out containers make use of those as well. Wash out those empty glass jars that once held your mustard or peanut butter. They make versatile containers for everything from nails to salad dressings. 

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Don’t purchase bottled water. Install a water filter to your faucet or get a filtered pitcher. Get a reusable bottle made from metal and make it a habit of bringing it with you wherever you go. Most places will allow you to fill your water bottle for free. You can take it one step further and bring your reusable bottles and mugs to the coffee shop instead of using disposable ones. 

Purchase plastic-free items like glass food storage containers and cutlery made from wood

Refuse

Ask for glass opposed to plastic cups when out and refuse a straw. Don’t use plastic beverage tops when out. 

glass bottle and colored stripes paper straws

Source: Freepik.com

Remove

When you come across plastic trash outside of your home pick it up and throw it away. It’s a shame everyone can’t take care of themselves, but we need to be proactive if we want to make a difference.

Recycle

This step goes a bit further than putting your plastics into a designated container. Make sure you are recycling appropriately and cleaning out your plastics before putting them in the bin. Return those plastic shopping bags to stores that recycle them. Water filters are made from plastic and need to be recycled appropriately. Do your research and know how it works in your area then comply. 

recycle symbol at the center of trash

Source: Freepik.com

Rally

Join the rest of us in doing our part to let the rest of the people in our communities know how to help as well. Start a group, join a local environmental party in your area. Vote for candidates that support eco-friendly initiatives and focused on diminishing plastic waste. There are plenty of ways you can get involved. 


Where Are We Headed?

Scientists project that by the year 2050 humans will have created and wasted 26 billions tons of plastic. Elephants weigh anywhere from 2.5 to 7 tons, so it is difficult to imagine that amount of decaying plastic. Currently, our oceans there is roughly the equivalent of 25 million elephants, and the number climbs higher every year.  


In The End

We still believe humans can make a difference and turn around the negative impact our species is having on this planet. It is imperative that we all work together, educate each other, and find innovative new ways to lighten the impact of single-use plastic in our society.

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