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Seven Reasons to Trash the Idea of Buying Plastic

plastic water bottlesThe world at large has a number of concerns.  The amount of plastic in landfills is a major concern for some, but should be on the radar for all.  Consider the following facts:

-          Global consumption of plastics has increased from 5.5 million tons in the 1950s to 110 million tons in 2009.

-          Today’s average American disposes of about 33 million tons of plastic.  Despite recycling efforts, only 6.5% is recycled.  Another 7 to 8% is involved in waste-to-energy projects.

-          The rest of the used plastic makes its way to landfills, where decomposition takes more than 1000 years.

Despite recycling and energy pursuits, increased usage of plastics is still a serious issue.  While broader global efforts are paramount for the health of our planet, each individual plays an integral role.  The more people work together and take little steps, the more the impact will be.  A little bit of work (even just word of mouth) goes a long way to inspire a bigger audience.  Here’s how you can help curb the accumulation of plastic in landfills.

Swallow the Gum Habit

Gum was originally composed of tree sap, but manufacturers began using plastic in its ingredients.  Maybe your elementary school teachers weren’t trying to ruin your chewing pleasure, but perhaps they were saving you from chewing on synthetic elements?  You can thank them and the environment by saying no to gum chewing and gum’s plastic wrappers.

Trade Bottles for Boxes

To save room and make products appear more attractive, manufacturers began using plastics to store or encase products, such as laundry detergent.  At the end of the day, the quality of a given product is not influenced by its plastic housing.  Plastic is not improving the product.  The design of plastic bottles may be more appealing and help marketing, but you just want something that washes your clothes, right?  Many times, the same stuff comes in boxes.  From detergents and dishwasher soap, to plenty of foods on sale at your grocery store, changing your mind on buying the plastic can go a long way.

Buy in Bulk

Have you taken notice of bulk-buy options at supermarkets?  Rather than packaged coffee, you can purchase beans in bulk for example.  Buying beans, granola, and other staples in bulk is definitely convenient and cheaper, but it also cuts down on the individual packaging.    Furthermore, buying bulk sometimes means your groceries won’t fit into the individual plastic bags at the end of each grocer’s checkout line.  That’s less bags that end up in the garbage.  However, if you do buy small quantities, don’t forget that most markets now sell reusable cotton bags, eliminating the need for a number of plastic bags per trip.

Stop the Flood of Plastic Bottles

Having eight glasses of water per day is healthy and certainly suggested by many health care professionals.  However, the abundance of bottled-water purchases produces 1.5 million tons of waste per year.  Drinking fresh water is healthy, but the continuous purchase of the plastic, containing the water, is not.  There are plenty of alternatives.  Purify your own water, or invest in a single reusable water bottle.  This is a big trend that’s spreading more to states and cities each month, with some areas actually banning the sale of bottled water.  

Spark Conservation in Others

Alternatives to plastic are everywhere.  Sometimes it takes a regression from habits to progress.  For example, most lighters are made of plastic parts and casing.  Most are purchased to light cigarettes and candles.  However, despite the practical use, it’s not practical to create more, unneeded waste.  Matches serve the same ends, and plastics are not used in their construction.  Help make choosing these other options a habit for everyone.

Freeze Consumption of Frozen Foods

Plastic packaging is often aligned with frozen foods.  Aside from the unneeded waste, frozen foods offer very little health benefits to consumers, often made with preservatives.  Freeze your steps the next time your grocery store visit takes you down the frozen-foods aisle.  You’re bettering the environment and your body by buying what you need fresh and without plastic wrappers..

Change Those Diapers

We all wore diapers at one point.  We have something in common.  Let’s continue the commonality by swapping disposable diapers for cloth diapers.  Disposable diapers, like water bottles, are products of modern manufacturing.  As we can see above, modernity does not ensure practicality or conservation.  7.6 billion tons of disposable diapers are discarded per year.  Like plastic water bottles, disposable diapers were theoretically created to make life better, but in the end this convenience has come with an environmental cost.

This is a guest post by Ben Shaver who is a Philadelphia resident with a passion for sustainability and working towards making green solutions economical as well as ethical. His passion carries over to his work and currently works at Quench Water Coolers which offer a bottleless solution to water needs.