Synthetics are present in so many consumer goods we use in our daily lives! But given the environmental impact, it’s important to reduce our use and choose plastic alternatives when possible.
So you’ve heard about plastic waste and now you are wondering what to do about it? We have the answers to the most common questions, like:
- What is plastic?
- Why do we use so much of it?
- How can it be dangerous?
- What are some policy measures that reduce environmental pollution?
- What can you do reduce plastics?
All of those are very important questions. So let’s get to it!
What is plastic?
Plastics can be any type of synthetic or semi-synthetic material that you can mold into a solid object. So anything from flimsy packaging to a sturdy plastic playhouse could fall into this category.
Plastic bags may be the most prominent sign of synthetic material in our daily life. But it’s easy to forget that synthetic material is present in so many other things we buy and use! Whether its food, Styrofoam packing or clothing, there are few limits to its versatility.
Why are plastics widely used?
In a nutshell, plastics are versatile, durable, and relatively inexpensive.
From grocery bags, sneakers, and kitchen cookware, to building materials and automotive design, it almost seems that everything can be made of synthetic materials! It also improves the safety and durability of sporting goods like helmets and mouth guards. And, when it comes to daily life, plastic is in everything from computers and cell phones to televisions. In addition to the plastic bag, most foods – whether it’s granola bars or hamburgers – are wrapped in it. But, there is a downside to its convenience.
Why is synthetic material dangerous?
Synthetics may be a common part of our everyday lives, but they leave a heavy environmental footprint, especially in the ocean. In the 1990s, it was determined that 60 to 80 percent of the ocean’s waste consisted of non-biodegradable plastic. Even worse, the breakdown of synthetic material in the ocean was leading to microplastics. Biologists find these microplastics in animals like fish, seabirds and sea turtles, as they are affecting the food chain. As this can result in malnutrition, blockages, and poisoning, synthetics are devastating wildlife and the ecosystems they live in. It’s no surprise that plastic pollution must be minimized with approximately 270,000 tons of it in waterways.
Plastics have also been leaving their mark on land, too. There were 14.7 million tons of plastic waste in the United States in 2015, not including trash bags. Even worse, recycling amounted to only 2.2 million tons and combusting to 2.5, leaving nearly 10.1 million tons in landfills! While the amount of recycling plastic waste has increased by 4% since 2005, there’s still a long way to go.
What are some policy measures to reduce plastic pollution?
Events like World Environment Day, World Oceans Day, and Zero Waste raise our awareness. Here are some policy measures to reduce plastic waste in the United States.
- As of September 2018, 349 American cities had banned or taxed the use of plastic bags (STAT).
- In May 2017, the city of San Francisco, California and Seattle, Washington banned the distribution of plastic straws. Seattle has also banned the use of synthetic utensils.
- South Carolina has prohibited the use of single-use plastic bags and foam food containers.
But you might be wondering how you can improve the outlook for synthetics within your family and your community.
How can I reduce my usage of synthetic materials?
Given plastics in the ocean affecting human health, it’s important to choose and use alternatives wherever possible. If you’re excited about reducing use, you may want to share these ideas with others on FamilyApp!
- Avoid fully synthetic straws at cafes and restaurants. If you need to use a straw, purchase a stainless steel or glass one instead.
- Stop chewing gum, or at least chew less. Gum is actually made of synthetic rubber, which is a plastic.
- Purchase food from bulk bins and boxes to avoid bags and bottles made of plastics.
- Use reusable containers for storing your food instead of plastic wrap and bags that you will only use once. It’s also a good idea to avoid single serving cups for items like yogurt and juice.
- Avoid sample packs and testers from the drugstore as most come in single-serve packages that use plastics.
- Don’t use disposable dishware like plates and cutlery.
- Use your own reusable cup or thermos for smoothies, coffee, and water.
- Use a reusable bag for all of your purchases.
From banning synthetic shopping bags to tire recycling and fashion design reconstitution, there are many ways people are reducing plastic use!
However, the statistics regarding plastics in the ocean reveal the importance to make a worldwide effort. Do you have any tips for alternatives? Please share them in our comments. Reducing waste and using environmentally friendly alternatives sets a great example for your family and has a positive community impact!