Today is World Environment Day, an UN day to focus on awareness and action to protect our environment. World Environment Day is the “people’s day for doing something to take care of the Earth.” This year, the theme is beating plastic pollution. This is a timely topic for Saratoga Springs, as initiatives to end the use of plastic bags and plastic straws have grown in support. We hope that you will take a moment today to think about your own plastic consumption, and what steps you might take to reduce the amount of single-use or disposable plastic that you use.
Here are some global numbers about our plastics use. We purchase one million plastic drink bottles every minute. We produce 300 million tonnes of plastic waste every year! That is a lot of plastic, but even worse is that over 40% of all the plastic produced is designed to be used only once. The news gets more depressing, though. Only 9% of all plastic waste ever produced has been recycled; the majority ends up in a landfill or the natural environment (Geyer et al. 2017). The June 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine states that 9 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans each year. The UN estimates that if current trends continue, our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Plastic bags are a huge source of plastic waste. Annually, we use up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags, but only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling. Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year.
None of these items need to come in plastic.
What can you do to beat plastic pollution?
- Skip the straw at local restaurants and bars
- Bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store, clothing store, or anywhere else you shop
- Bring your own cloth produce bags to the grocery store
- Donate to organizations, like Sustainable Saratoga, that are making a difference through education and advocacy to reduce our plastic consumption
- Support legislation designed to eliminate single-use plastic bags
- Demand greater recycling options in your area
- Use refillable water bottles and travel mugs
- Choose products with less or no packaging
- Take a walk and pick up plastic litter along roads and trails (Google “plogging”)
- Raise awareness about alternatives to disposable plastic items