11 ways to reduce the release of plastic into the world
Ways to reduce the release of plastic into the atmosphere
Today, 300 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced every year, almost the equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. It is imperative that individuals, businesses, and governments alike start making changes to reduce the release of plastic into the world. The effects of plastic pollution is far reaching and can cause permanent damage to ecosystems and our own health. Ocean pollution is largely caused by plastic trash that can cause entanglement and that degrades to the point where it becomes microplastics that are ingested by various organisms and can end up on our own dinner plate. Additionally, the degradation can lead to toxins being released from the plastic, which are also harmful to metabolic rate and growth. A 2016 Ellen Macarthur study found that at this rate if we don’t increase the application of recycled plastics and continue using virgin plastic, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. To find effective plastic pollution solutions, it is necessary to understand the causes of plastic pollution and stop it at the source. It is important to not only reprocess plastic waste, but also eliminate the unnecessary use of it. There are some cases where recycled plastic is a viable alternative and where single-use plastics could be replaced or discarded all together. If recycled plastic was more widely used and the majority of products were made from recycled plastic, it would cut down on greenhouse gas emissions from the production of virgin plastic, reduce the amount of plastic waste ending up in the environment, and cut down on the amount of land needed for landfills. Currently, HDPE and PET are the most widely recycled types of plastic, but even their maximum recycling rates barely reach 30%.
How many pounds of plastic are recycled each year
Although there are 300 million tonnes of plastic waste produced annually and the effects of plastic pollution are well known, unfortunately only about 8% of it gets recycled. This is not enough to reduce waste in the world and counteract its consequences. It is a largely due to a lack of incentive, infrastructure, and knowledge about different polymers and their recyclability. The plastic waste problem is one that requires numerous types of solutions and actions, at the individual, corporate, and government level. With the tonnes of plastic in the ocean, we need to find ways to reduce plastic waste and help keep these ecosystems intact. While HDPE and PET are largely recycled, we need to keep finding ways to add more polymers to this list, such as LDPE, and opt for plastics that are easier to recycle moving forward. There are many ways to reduce plastic waste and we will cover them below and you can check out our FAQs if you have more questions.
What do companies do to save nature
Companies are beginning to take more responsibility and do something to minimize their role in producing plastic waste. It is also becoming increasingly mandatory for businesses to learn how to reduce plastic pollution. This comes with incentive from government policies such as the plastic tax coming to the UK in April for the manufacturing of plastic objects, as well as pressure from customers looking to purchase more sustainable products and support more sustainability-oriented companies. There are different programs that companies can be part of that provide guidelines for companies to reduce their plastic footprint and that hold them accountable and track their progress on these goals. These programs include the Ellen Macarthur plastic coalition and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. Some of the actions companies can take is to redesign their products and packaging for increased recyclability and increased recycled content, whether it be PP, PET, HDPE, or whatever polymer is easily recycled in the area or industry. They can also form partnerships with plastic recycling companies to find value in the waste they produce. Recommendations also include decreasing the amount of plastic packaging that is used and incentivizing plastic bag recycling or providing alternatives. Large companies that hold the largest responsibility for plastic production and waste in the world are leading the way with these goals and hopefully making it the norm for companies of all sizes. For example, The Coca-Cola Company has set design collection and partnership goals to increase incentives that support the development of more sustainable plastic collection and reuse infrastructure. The company also launched its World Without Waste campaign to reach an industry-first goal of collecting and recycling the equivalent of every bottle or can it sells globally by 2030.
Use reusable bottle
Single use bottles and jars make up about 30% of plastic waste ending up in the ocean and natural environment. While companies need to work on make their bottle products out of easily recyclable plastics like HDPE, a simple waste solution that you can implement in your life is to use alternatives to plastic bottles such as reusable bottles and in turn reduce plastic pollution on beaches.
Buy clothes made from recycled materials
Did you know that 400% more clothes are produced today than were produced 20 years ago? The ease and low cost of production has led to the dominance of fast fashion made up of synthetic materials clothing using cheaper materials like polyester. However, this has also led to less durable garments and more clothes ending up in landfills. In the US alone, 35kg of textile waste are produced on average per person. To avoid contributing to this problem individuals can choose clothing made from recycled materials from companies addressing and minimizing their plastic and textile waste. Many companies and designers such as Adidas, Girlfriend Collective, Stella McCartney, and Attire make it a point to make their garments and production processes as sustainable as possible to help reduce waste. It also applies to their packaging and making sure that it is recyclable as well thus opting for globally recycled material like PET or HDPE instead of one like PVC.
Choose the right toothbrush
Plastic toothbrushes have been the norm for generations, but with dentists recommending you replace your toothbrush every couple of months, it leads to a lot of plastic waste being generated. As a simple waste solution, people can choose wooden or bamboo toothbrushes that may also have natural bristles instead of a completely plastic one made of PA for example. Additionally, there are also toothbrushes made from recycled plastic, but it is important to check plastic recycling symbols to make sure the item is actually recyclable depending on the polymer.
Say no to plastic straws
Plastic straws were one of the first items to be banned and known for the damage they bring to the environment and being a large component of ocean pollution. Luckily many restaurants and commercial places have switched to alternatives to plastic straws such as compostable or biodegradable straws. Another option is having a reusable straw made from bamboo, wood, or metal. Instead of choosing materials made from ABS or another virgin plastic that is not commonly recycled, do some research and seek recycled and more sustainable alternatives!
Clean your ears with paper or bamboo sticks.
Another item that people don’t often think about as a large contributor to plastic waste when it comes to seeking plastic alternatives are Q-tips, commonly made with PS. Alternatively, you may use paper or bamboo-based q-tips to minimize the plastic problems in your lifestyle and reduce the litter in the sea.
Say no to disposable plastic cutlery
Disposable cutlery makes up a big portion of plastic waste. Why is single-use plastic bad? It reduces the life cycle and value of a product to a single use while it can last decades after being thrown out. Annually, 40,000,000,000 plastic forks, spoons, and knives are used and thrown away. Fortunately, more people are starting to refuse single-use plastic. Although there are alternatives to single-use plastic that are increasingly being circulated, they still need to be implemented at greater rates. These alternatives include materials such as bamboo, compostable, or biodegradable cutlery made form pressed cardboard or wood instead of others like PC.
Carry a shopping bag
Shopping bags and food plastic packaging are one of the biggest threats to marine life. Animals like turtles confuse them for jellyfish and choke on them. Every year, 100 billion plastic bags are thrown out as plastic packaging. Additionally, most plastic bag product packaging is made of HDPE, LDPE, HIPS, or PE and sometimes these polymers are only recycled on a case-to-case basis because they can jam recycling machinery. Instead, opt for reusable cloth bags to use instead of plastic ones when you go shopping.
Use reusable coffee or teacups
Instead of getting to-go coffee cups for hot drinks, get your own reusable to-go cup to minimize the effects of plastic pollution in the ocean. Not only will it keep your drink warmer for longer, but it will cut back on plastic waste. For a product made from plastic, disposable cups and lid rarely get recycled. You may think the cardboard cups might be compostable or biodegradable but most have a plastic lining that makes them impossible to break down and so they live on for hundreds of years in the environment or landfills and contribute to litter in the ocean.
Use reusable vegetable bags
Another case where there are sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic available is when purchasing vegetables. Instead of using the plastic bags provided at grocery stores and adding to the pollution problem with plastic bags, invest in some reusable vegetable storage bags or use cloth bags to separate and pack your vegetables.
Do not use air fresheners
Effective plastic waste management must take even the smallest most inconspicuous items into account. Air fresheners are another type of plastic objects and source of unnecessary plastic waste that can be avoided with candles or incense.
Buy milk in paper cartons or glass bottle
While many companies are making the switch to more sustainable containers instead of single-use plastic items, plastic bottles are still the norm. When grocery shopping and buying products like milk, opt for paper cartons or glass containers as alternatives to plastic bottles.
What to do with plastic?
What is the government doing about plastic pollution? There are an increasing number of regulations being implemented by governments around the world addressing single use plastic recycling but there is still a lot more that needs to be done. There are ways of using technology to reduce waste and increase the efficiency of recycling, but many changes still need to take place in the way businesses operate and consumers shop. Individuals need to educate themselves on the type of plastic recycling available in their communities and learn more about different types of plastics and what types of plastic bags are recyclable. Businesses and packaging manufacturers should opt for as much recycled content as possible and design their products to be recyclable. By using platforms like MikaCycle, individuals can connect with buyers looking for recycled content or sell recycled plastic to interested parties and support the scaling of plastic recycling.