If you haven’t heard the great Plastic Straw Debate of 2018, you do not watch the news or look at any social media sites. It is the latest conversation that is upsetting the masses. There are those that want them banished immediately, and then there area those who are incensed, defending disabled people who must use plastic straws daily. This isn’t a new problem. We as a nation use an enormous amount of plastic for convenience, and recycling seems to be the solution for many. But what we really need to do is use less. This also goes for glass, paper and aluminum, but today’s post will focus solely on plastic, because of the recent uproar.
It has long been recognized that plastic items take a long time to biodegrade. In fact, plastic can stay in landfills for up to 500 years before breaking down completely. That’s longer than your lifetime, your kids’ lifetime and your grand kids’ lifetime. Is that plastic straw really worth it? These items are also a danger for our sea life. Have you seen the pictures of sea turtles with a straw protruding from their little snouts? It’s heart-breaking. The sea turtle is now the poster child for the anti-plastic straw debate — and that is a good thing. We need to understand how unnecessary they are for most people.
Let’s educate ourselves on what is really going on. We throw our trash in the trash bin, and the nice trash people take it away for us. We wipe our hands off smugly and go back to our lives, but that isn’t the last of your trash. Even if you are dutifully recycling, there will still be tons and tons (and TONS) of plastic items in our landfills. What can we do as individuals to stop this nonsense and still have the creature comforts we are used to?
Let’s talk about plastic:
- There are many reusable alternatives available that are washable — and convenient. Metal (we just got metal straws at the Webolutions office, and they are very sleek.) There are also bamboo straws, paper straws and even pasta straws have shown up in an Italian restaurant in Wisconsin. and they are a big hit.
- Of course, the disabled can continue to use the plastic straws they need, because these are critical for their specific needs, this should not even be up for debate. But, with Starbucks eliminating their infamous green sippers by next year, it will reduce straws in landfills by 1 billion per year! And this is just one company. Marriott hotels are also removing plastic straws from their 6,500 hotels within the next year, which is another billion straws and one-quarter billion plastic stir-sticks that won’t be piled up in the trash.
Other Single-Use Plastic Items
- So many items are used for a matter of minutes and then thrown away. Plastic grocery bags are used on average for 12 minutes before being thrown away.
- Plastic utensils –these are convenient for picnics and parties, so we don’t have to do dishes after the festivities, but again, they are used for only minutes before being thrown into the garbage can.
We need to reduce the amount of plastic we use, and not depend on just throwing everything in the recycle bin. Some ideas:
- Let’s all just stop buying plastic water bottles, right? There are so many alternatives for reusable water bottles (and much more attractive and functional). If you are serving water at an event, put out a big pitcher with reusable cups. People are apt to feel more special, anyway.
- Buy your milk or juice in paper cartons instead of plastic jugs.
- Shop at warehouse stores (Costco, Sam’s Club). You will get more product with less packaging.
- Use canvas bags for your grocery shopping. They are prolific, hold a lot more than their plastic counterparts and are washable.
If you do have to use plastic items (let’s face it, it would be difficult to go completely “zero waste” in our culture.) There are fun and useful ways to reuse items that you would normally throw away or toss into the recycle bin.
We have a Webolutions Pinterest account and I’ve created a board dedicated to the Reuse of Plastic Items. Check it out: https://www.pinterest.com/webolutions/reuse-plastic-items/
What are your ideas? Share them on our Facebook page.
You may think you are doing a great job of recycling, but 25% of the United States doesn’t recycle. And many items are recycled that shouldn’t be or must be removed due to contamination. Contaminates in the recycling process increases the overall cost, can damage the sorting equipment and devalues the recyclability of the items put in the bin.
I found a great reference site for recycling guidelines:
A quick summary:
Bottles & Cans – Aluminum, glass bottles, plastic bottles, aerosol cans (I didn’t know this), all emptied. Metal lids may be recycled, but must be removed
Boxes – flattened, paper towel tubes, semi-clean pizza boxes, (NO paper cups, plates or books).
Paper – newspaper, magazines, food and beverage cartons emptied. (NO used tissues (eww), or used paper towels (I didn’t know this either) paper napkins.
Plastic – kitchen, laundry, bottles, and containers emptied (NO bubble wrap, candy wrappers, plastic flower pots, chip bags, grocery bags, “K-cups” or individual coffee creamers)
There really is a garbage crisis, and we all need to join together to keep our planet clean enough to live on. It’s a team effort. What have you done to help the planet today?