Life in the Time of COVID
By: Maria Casey
Did you know that every minute, we dump a garbage truck-sized pile of plastic into our oceans? That means that by the time you finish reading this post, about eight more will be in our waters. Annually, this works out to over 17 billion pounds, enough to cover every coastline in the world.
Trouble is, our plastic waste is not on our beaches where we can see it, it’s in the ocean where it quietly poisons marine life and makes our planet less hospitable. As if that weren’t enough, we only recycle nine percent of our plastic. Since it takes 400 years to biodegrade, 91 percent of the plastic we create and use today will be with us for the next six generations. If nothing shifts, our consumption habits will irrevocably change the planet and harm many of the beings that inhabit it.
Lest you think that all hope is lost, let us reassure you that your actions make a difference.
If you’re reading this blog, you’re interested in environmental sustainability. Maybe you’ve already started reducing the plastic you consume by choosing reusable produce bags, filling your own containers with bulk foods and cleaning supplies, and bringing your own mug to your local coffee shop.
If so, be proud! You’ve already taken the most important steps to ensure that less plastic ends up in our oceans and landfills.
But even if you’re diligent about avoiding it, plastic is everywhere. Here are a few creative solutions that you can use today to give plastic the longest possible lifespan. Read on to learn how to make your plastic work for you and our planet, and how to recycle it correctly when you’re ready to let it go.
For an Instagram-worthy earth-friendly kitchen or bathroom, you can get out of the plastic game entirely by investing in clear and colored glass bottles or mason jars. You can refill those with cleaning supplies, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and anything else you can think of.
But if you’re not ready to go glass, or if you want to take your eco-friendly impulse up a notch, refill the plastic shampoo, conditioner, and soap bottles that you already have instead. Pro-tip: Write the tare weight on your container before filling it.
Visit Litterless to find stores in your community that support wasteless shopping, and start extending the life of your plastics! After all, they’ll be around for 400 years whether you reuse them or not.
When thinking about plastic, you need to get creative. How can you extend each product’s life as long as possible? Plastic bags are convenient—good chances are that you already have a box of resealable bags in your kitchen. Instead of using them once and then throwing them away, wash them! Let them air dry, then put them back in the drawer for the next time you need to freeze your homemade marinara or bone broth.
Maybe you long for a closet full of one kind of hanger. Or perhaps the minimalist aesthetic is calling you to replace your plastic hangers with wooden ones. Whether you’re in the middle of a closet reset, or just have some extras you’re ready to get rid of, consider donating your plastic hangers to a local second-hand shop, Salvation Army, or Goodwill. This will make sure they have a longer lifecycle before they end up in a landfill, or in the best case scenario, are recycled.
We recommend that you just say no to plastic cutlery by purchasing your own set and keeping it with you at all times. But if you ever end up with unwanted spoons, forks, and knives, save them and bring them to a local homeless shelter or food pantry.
This one is a big one. Plastic recycling is a more complicated process than recycling metal, glass, or paper. There are thousands of different types of plastic, and they have to be sorted before reprocessing. You may think that you’re helping the environment by putting everything you imagine might be recyclable into the bin, but you’re not.
Enter your zip code at berecycled.org to find out what’s actually recyclable in your community. It might surprise you that plastic recycling is still quite limited due to its complexity. When an unrecyclable item ends up in the blue bin due to wishful thinking or lack of knowledge, a bale of perfectly good recyclable items could end up the landfill.
It seems like everything from almonds to frozen berries comes in a plastic bag these days. Once you’ve finished the contents, rinse your bags out, and recycle them! But, did you know that plastic bags can’t be mixed in with curbside recyclables? They have to be processed differently.
Globally, we use 160,000 bags every second. Start collecting yours and discover how much plastic film waste you produce every week. The volume will probably surprise you. Luckily, you can take your newfound plastic haul to more than 18,000 collection stations throughout the United States. Simply type your location into Earth 911 to find out where to bring yours!
Microplastics are a big problem. Washing synthetic clothing releases 3.2 million tons of plastic microfibers into the ocean per year. But, thanks to this incredible product from Guppyfriend, you can protect your clothes while easily keeping waste out of your washer and our oceans!
If we all recycle more plastic, we’ll start to change this world of ours. Here at BUHO, we believe in taking action, one choice at a time. Together, we can turn nine percent into 99.
Do you have any other ideas about how to extend the lives of our plastics? Leave a comment below—we’d love to hear from you!