5 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste and Pollution

Updated on December 21, 2016
Michael Kismet profile image

Michael is an author with a passion for the environment and he is trying to save the planet, one reader at a time!

Plastic in our oceans
Plastic in our oceans | Source

Plastic Bottle Usage

How many plastic water/soda bottles do you personally go through in a week?

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The Effects of Plastic Pollution

Our species's overuse of plastic has become an environmental epidemic, that continues to spread in very undesirable places on the planet. Plastic is being used in many faucets of our daily lives, from micro-beads contained in facial washes, and even in chewing gum. Plastic is not bio degradable and simply will break down into smaller particles that inevitably get to places we never meant for them to go–such as our oceans.

Every year our oceans are being littered with plastic waste, to the point of having vast islands of plastic and garbage. Look around you, whoever you are and virtually wherever you are, most likely you are surrounded by plastic items. Everyone is to blame, but it’s not too late, we can still change the way we treat our world. There is still time to save the only planet we've ever called home. Let’s reduce plastic waste by limiting our need on plastic products.

Plastic waste kills hundreds of thousands of marine animals every year, and those numbers are only going upward. The small particle in plastic even get eaten by fishes, and it is toxic for them, spreading to other fishes that might feed on even smaller fishes. If we are to undo the damage we’ve done, we must reduce plastic waste and further usage of any plastics immediately. Here are five easy ways to reduce your plastic usage.

1. Switch to Reusable Shopping Bags

Bring a reusable container or bag with you to shopping excursions, they can fit conveniently anywhere; such as your car, purse, or backpack. Many grocery stores even offer a discount on their varied goods if you shop with a non plastic, reusable shopping bag. So, if helping to save our planet isn't enough of an incentive, how about saving some green to boot?

Alternatives to plastic water bottles
Alternatives to plastic water bottles | Source

2. Use Plastic Free Products

Take a stand and make a commitment to only buy your items and goods in glass containers, instead of plastic. If we can all band together and buy less products that are primarily made of plastic, we can directly affect the supply. Less demand equals less supply. Here are just a few alternatives to commonly plastic items:

  • Instead of using plastic water bottles, invest in a metal, reusable water container.
  • Use sustainable metal "Zippo" lighters, instead of throwaway plastic ones.
  • Consider toys that are make out of wood and other natural materials, there are even wooden legos out there.
  • Go with metal or wooden straws, and ditch plastic straws that end up in land fills.
  • Switch to wooden toothbrushes and hairbrushes that last much longer.

3. Stop Chewing Gum

Yes, gum has plastic in it. Most gum these days has polyethylene and a polyvinyl acetate synthesized by scientists. Chewing gum use to be made with a natural rubber from tree sap. Not only does gum contain unnatural plastic elements, it is also packaged in plastic. Gum is supposed to be recyclable, but when was the last time you recycled your used chewing gum?

4. Quit Smoking Cigarettes

Quit smoking cigarettes, which contains plastic, you can find cigarette butts everywhere. Yet another reason to encourage people around you to stop smoking! The toxic smoke from the cellulose acetate(a type of plastic) is more harmful than the other 4,000 chemicals contained in one cigarette. I am personally flabbergasted as to why people continue to smoke, knowing this information. Yikes!

Fortunately, this does not apply to a majority of the public, but everyone knows at least one person that smokes regularly. So you might want to consider spreading this tidbit of information. Not only are you saving a family member or a friend, you're also saving the planet.

5. Avoid Plastic Packaging for Food

In a more conscientious world emerging, store bought foods are using less plastic, and hopefully one day will forgo it all together. But being a realist, I know people will still buy prepackaged food for convenience purposes. What we can do is to buy less frozen foods, which is heavily packaged in plastics. Plus, you will be cutting back on the processed food we are all too accustomed to eating these days.

Facts on plastic pollution
Facts on plastic pollution | Source

Shocking Facts About Plastic

  • 30-40 million tons of plastic waste is produced every year in the United States. Additionally, less than five percent of that is recovered, through the process of recycling.
  • Ending up in countless landfills, toxic plastic components seep into ground water, polluting the very water we drink. These compounds are severely detrimental to the human body, causing tumors, cancers, birth defects, and a host of other ailments.
  • Public entities in California alone spend more than $290 million dollars cleaning up coastal plastic trash, annually.
  • An average American office employee uses over 400 disposable plastic, paper, Styrofoam cups a year alone.
  • Recent studies and statistics from the Environmental Protection Agency report that only about two percent of plastic bags are being recycled in the U.S. The remaining 98% end up in our oceans and landfills, where they do massive harm to our ecosystems.
  • If just one human being switched to reusable bags for their entire lifetime, it would remove roughly 24 thousand plastic based bags from our planet.
  • Plastic bags are derived from petroleum products and natural gas, both are non-renewable resources, and churning them out causes gas rates to go up.

Raising Awareness of Plastic Waste

Ultimately, the best course of action individuals can take is to raise awareness. The fate of our precious planet and it's sustainability is in our hands. What kind of world do we really want our children to inherit? Please feel free to share this important article with a friend or on any social media platform.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Smita 

        20 months ago

        Good......

      • simplehappylife profile image

        SA 

        22 months ago

        Great tips. I knew cigs had tons of toxic chemicals in them, I never realized they actually contained plastic! Wow. Glad I don't smoke anymore ;) As far as the gum, it's nearly impossible to find gum without aspartame at any local convenient/dept. store. That stuff is poison in and of itself. Glad I can say I stay away from that crap as well. BUT, it's the plastic shopping bags that's the most difficult for me. When I shop, I fill an entire buggy of food (I have to feed tall, athletic people). Even though I save them and reuse them in various ways, they still ultimately end up in the garbage. I do like shopping at Sams Club, because EVERYONE is forced to figure out what they'll use to tote their stuff away.

      • Cyndi10 profile image

        Cynthia B Turner 

        23 months ago from Georgia

        Plastic is a difficult habit to break. I look around the kitchen and there is plastic everywhere. For example with the exception of three items, all of the spices are in plastic containers. I have plastic containers for leftovers. Every appliance has a plastic component. And, unfortunately, the list goes on. The changes you mentioned will make an impact. Bringing it to our attention could help us think of other ways to cutback on our dependence on plastic.

        Thank you for giving us some useful tips to help make a difference in our abusive habits. Take care.

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