Plastics are durable and inexpensive which means that they are used frequently in packaging, furniture, clothing, electronics, utensils and more. While plastic is used for a wide variety of purposes, it is associated with significant disposal and environmental issues, as many plastics cannot be recycled and reused. Instead, they are thrown out and sent to landfills. Due to its long-lasting nature, plastic takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment. When plastic does eventually break down through weathering and sun exposure, it turns into microplastics which are very small pieces of plastic (generally less than 5 mm in length). While larger plastics pollute the environment in obvious ways, microplastics are so small that they get ingested by wildlife and accumulate through the food chain. Single-use plastics are especially harmful due to their short lifespan and lasting environmental impact.
Single-use plastics are items that are meant to be used once and then disposed of. Some examples of single-use plastics include plastic utensils, grocery bags, packaging, bottles, and straws. Although plastic continues to be widely used, countries are beginning to ban the use of single use plastics. For example, Thailand has implemented a ban on plastic bags in all major retail locations. This is the country’s first step in banning the seven most common ocean polluting plastics by 2025. Similarly, Canada is planning to ban the use of single-use plastics by 2021. On a smaller scale, individual businesses have begun to ban the usage of single-use plastics. This includes United Airlines, which is replacing all straws with biodegradable bamboo alternatives, and the Walt Disney Company which has banned plastic straws and stirrers in all theme parks and resorts.
Whether you live in a location which has implemented single-use plastic bans or not, you can make personal changes to reduce your single-use plastic consumption. Reusable bags, cups, mugs, straws, and utensils are great products that will help you reduce and eliminate your single-use plastic consumption, especially when you’re on the go! Encourage local businesses, communities, and government to implement measures to ban single-use plastics.
National Geographic’s running list of action on plastic pollution
Best eco-friendly alternatives for plastics in your life
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