Around 8.8 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. Some of this plastic ends up wrapped around birds, or ingested by fish and whales. How many pictures of sea turtles tangled in plastic or choking on straws do we have to see before we act? When it comes to saving our oceans and our planet, every bit of help counts. Our actions as individuals may not seem like much, but in the long run they’ll add up to significant change.
What can you do today to lessen the plastic that clings to our waters? Read on to find out.
- Don’t reach for single-use straws.
Billions of straws are used once then thrown in the US alone. These plastic straws don’t live longer than 30 minutes before they’re tossed. If using a straw is necessary, invest in a reusable straw. There are many kinds of reusable straws made of different sustainable materials on the market. Some are made of bamboo, stainless steel, or glass.
- BYOB: Bring your own bag.
Plastic bags are used for only 15 minutes before they’re thrown away. These plastic bags however, will last in our landfills and oceans for centuries. Use reusable bags for groceries and shopping, and net bags for fruit and vegetables. Make sure you wash these bags to ensure they last long and to prevent cross-contamination.
- Reuse plastic containers for raw meats, or take-out.
We all have plastic containers and tupperwares at home. Don’t just throw them away, or else you’re contributing to the excessive plastic waste! Bring them the next time you go grocery shopping or eat out. These can be used for raw meats and other items that are usually placed in plastic bags. If you often have left-overs after eating in a restaurant, or are visiting a café for something to-go, bring your reusable containers along. Lessening paper waste also helps.
- Invest in a reusable water bottle and/or reusable cup.
Drink a lot of coffee? Even those paper cups aren’t so good for the environment. They’re often lined with plastic to keep them sturdy. Also, because they contain liquid waste (leftover coffee) when thrown, these cups aren’t recyclable. Instead, get a reusable cup for your hot drinks, and a bottle for your cold ones. You can fill up your water bottle at restaurants or cafés to lessen plastic bottle waste.
- Stick to matches instead of lighters.
Lighters are a convenient way to carry around a bit of flame, but they contribute a lot to the plastic waste that ends up in our rivers. Birds have even been seen with lighters in their stomachs. If using matches is too much of a hassle, it’s probably also time to drop the smoking habit. It’s not helping you, the people around you, or the environment. Can’t quit but want to lessen your waste? Search for refillable metal lighters that will last you decades.
- Stay away from microbeads.
Microbeads are little plastic balls used in beauty products like exfoliating scrubs. These not only irritate your skin, but they’re also a big part of the plastic waste that’s in our oceans. To refresh your face of its dead layers, stick to chemical exfoliants in creams or pads instead. If you really need a good physical scrub, make your own with ingredients like sugar and sea salt.
- Avoid buying frozen/ready-made food.
Fresh is definitely best! A lot of frozen food are packaged in plastic. Even the cardboard boxes are often lined with plastic. Stick to fresh produce instead so you can use reusable containers to pack them. Not only will you take care of your body, but also our oceans!
- Say goodbye to gum.
Gum is hard to dispose of because it contains a polymer, essentially making gum a plastic product. Instead of chewing on plastic, look for all-natural gum made of chicle, which is biodegradable and chemical-free.
- Refuse plastic cutlery and cups.
The Philippines is a country notorious for food delivery. If you’re eating the food at home, make sure to tell the restaurant not to include plastic forks and spoons or paper cups.
- Look for glass or cardboard.
When shopping, look for products in glass containers over plastic. These are recyclable and more durable. Oftentimes, products like soy sauce, olive oil, and vinegar that have glass bottle alternatives are cheaper. Buy things like detergent in bulk so that they come in cardboard instead of individually wrapped plastic or sachets. The less plastic, the better!
Last June 12, Nico and I went plogging: jogging while picking up trash. We ran 10k in the direction of Antipolo armed with gloves and garbage bags. Want to see how much we collected? Watch the video below.
How are you reducing your plastic waste? Let me know in the comments!