A Plastic Planet: Impact and solutions

Guest post by Jule Eisendick from The Happy Choices

It’s getting more and more important to protect our environment. We are facing so many environmental issues today. So if you want to see changes, since governments are only making slow progress or none, it’s up to you.

Change your behavior and consumption

How you spend your money is a great way to show companies what you want. I can hear some of you saying: but how can I make a change. If others don´t care I don´t need to change either. That’s a thought you need to get out of your head! You are doing this because YOU want to. Not because others do the same. If you want to become vegan, do it! If you want to love zero waste, do it! If you don’t want to fly anymore, do it! If you want to support clean renewable energy, do it! If you want to pick up litter on the beach or a hiking trail, do it! If you want to refuse plastic bags, and want to bring your reusables, do it!

Don’t care what others do or don’t do, or think!

Every little step you take, every change you make will not be unseen, you can plant tiny seeds into the mind of the people around you. This seed will eventually grow and they will make their own changes.

Plastic and Marine Litter

Marine litter is one of the biggest and most important issues and one great reason why we need to quit/refuse/reduce plastics!

Plastic is made out of fossil fuel. A nonrenewable resource and estimates are that 50% of all the plastic is only used once! Nearly 300 million plastics tons of plastic are produced worldwide every year and every year 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean. About 20% of these are coming from ships or offshore places. 100.000 of ocean wildlife and birds get killed every year because they mistake plastic for food and choke or starve to death with a full stomach, marine mammals can get entangled in the marine litter and choke to death or drown.

And because plastic will last for a long long time (needs 2-600years to break down, and then it will still be there as microplastic) it’s not getting less, it is not disappearing, but it gets more and more each year!

We didn´t start producing plastic this year, but 1907. The first boom of plastic products started in the 30s and since then it gets more and more each year.
So you can imagine how much plastic is in the ocean right now? It hasn’t even been illegal to dump trash into the ocean before 1972!! (London Convention)
Plastic that ends up in the ocean is killing animals, (e.g. whales, birds and fish eat microplastics and plastics and die with a full stomach, wildlife gets entangled and die,…) polluting our water and will impact our health too.
https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/health/case_studies/plastics.html

All photos credit for Jule Eisendick, from The Happy Choices

Plastic and BPA plastic is not biodegradable, so if it ends in the ocean, it will eventually break into smaller pieces, into microplastics that pollute our waters and gets eaten by fish.

Chemicals from the plastics are getting released into the water and some chemicals from the plastic are also known to attract other toxins in the water, so if wildlife is swallowing the plastic bits, they swallow other toxins too.

BPA and other chemicals in plastic are known to be a hormone disruptor. It’s messing with our DNA and can cause infertility so they actually found fishes in BPA concentrated waters they’ve been unfertile and even humans living close to dumps or on dumps (in some developing countries) where women couldn’t become pregnant.

Even in the western world, they tested people who had problems with becoming pregnant for BPA and those you couldn’t get pregnant had a bigger amount of BPA in their blood.

We have 2018 now, and there in some parts of the ocean we already have more microplastic than plankton in the ocean and in 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish!
We do need to see that plastic is also very important and an awesome product for some parts of our lives! I just name a few: medical treatment prevents food waste, great because durable for construction, etc.

But we must treat it with respect and shouldn’t use it excessively for single use! That’s just not necessary.

Since talking about the problem is very important, I believe talking about solutions is even more important.

My top 10 tips on how we all can quickly reduce our plastic footprint in daily life:

  1. Use a reusable water bottle and refill!

In some countries you can refill from the tap, some have refill stations everywhere, or you can ask in coffee shops for a refill. For countries where they don’t have safe tap water and no refill stations, I have a few more Tips on my blog post about “how to refuse plastic water bottles while traveling”

 2. Bring your own cup.

In some coffee shops and even restaurants (mostly northern America) they don’t even offer reusables anymore, some serve even tap water in disposable plastic cups…So be prepared and bring your own cup. For coffee, tea, shakes, juice, water, cocktails, beer, etc. 😀

 3. Refuse single-use plastic cutlery: Bring your own.

I always carry mine with me. They don’t weigh much, and sometimes I don’t need to use them for weeks. But in the one situation when you eat out and you realize: “damn, no reusables, they only offer disposables” you will be happy to have them in your bag.

 4. Bring your own container to take away or leftovers.

If you have a takeaway place where you go regularly they will be very accommodating. If you try a new place, be friendly and ask the waitress to put your take away order into your (clean!!!) container. Bring a small jar if you know there are small plastic containers with dressings/sauce included). If it is not at high peak you have a good chance of being successful with your request. At high peak be understanding it might be a problem and order a sandwich in a paper bag to avoid plastic containers. If you ask for a doggy bag it will most likely be a hard plastic shell or styrofoam. And sometimes only for a tiny amount of leftover food…or just the last slice of pizza. To avoid this overpackaging bring a collapsible silicone or stainless steel container, a mason jar or use your reusable cup to carry the leftover food home.

 5. Buy in bulk sections or bulk stores and bring your reusable bags (easy to make at home from lightweight second-hand fabrics).

 6. Shop plastic free fresh produce.

For smaller stuff like mushrooms, berries, etc. bring some reusable mesh produce bags. (easy to make yourself)

  7. Use soap bars and shampoo bars instead of liquid soap.

 8. Leave plastic packaged snacks in the store.

They are wrapped in plastic, mostly very unhealthy, and have most likely palm oil included (you can read Deás article about palm oil on my blog here.

 9. Cook from scratch.

Nowadays you will find thousands of recipes on the world wide web. From vegan snickers to cauliflower pizza. So no need to buy prepacked food. If you think you don’t have time for cooking: cook one day a week and prepare your food for the whole week! A lot of hard working zero waste peeps do it this way.

 10. Buy second hand.

From clothing to phones other utensils or toys, everything comes in plastic packaging. Even the Tshirt that’s unpackaged on a shelf in the store actually came in a plastic bag but got unpackaged, and if you buy it, it might get packed into a new bag (so just remember your reusable bag if you go shopping). By buying second hand you are saving resources (use what’s already produced) save money, and packaging.

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When traveling Southeast Asia two years ago, I got hit hard by the plastic pollution. That’s when my plastic-free journey started…

I launched my Blog www.thehappychoices.com at the same time. I wanted to share challenges, tips and tricks to make it easier for others to quit/reduce plastic a plastic free in daily life.

 

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