Statistics around the damage caused by plastic pollution are generally dismal. It is estimated that if current trends continue, plastic waste will outweigh fish by 2050 . Nearly half of all seabird species, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies. Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide – that’s about one million being used every minute. But let’s face it; being overwhelmed by a big problem doesn’t get much done. That’s why the focus of Earth Day, observed on April 22, is on practicable solutions that individuals as well as corporations can undertake to address this mess we’ve got ourselves (and the planet) into.
A number of NZ supermarket chains have promised to phase out single-use plastics from check-outs. It’s a start and certainly the last couple of years have seen an uptake in reusable shopping bags. Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to disposable plastic at the supermarket. This online Plastic Pollution Calculator gives you a snapshot of your personal plastic consumption.
The good news is, plastic has only been around since the early 20th century, and has only been in large-scale use since the 1950s. That’s a pretty long history of humanity managing without it. So, bearing in mind our nanas (or great-nanas at least) got by OK, here are some ways for the modern consumer to contribute to the cause:
Carry a reusable bag with you.
Particularly fabulous example of a reusable shopping bag
Refuse single-serving packaging, excess packaging, straws and other "disposable" plastics. Carry reusable utensils in your purse, backpack or car to use for takeaway food and picnics.
Reduce everyday plastics such as sandwich bags and juice cartons by replacing them with a reusable lunch bag/box and reusable a drink bottle or thermos.
Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. Avoid polystyrene foam it has very low recycling rate.
And finally, sign the Earth Day petition to tell our world leaders and legislators it’s time to end plastic pollution.