Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Single-Use Plastics Are Simple to Do Without


by Jane Laping


Plastics have become ubiquitous in our environment. Not only do we find them on the shelves in retail stores and for sale online, but they are also litter on our roadways, in streams, rivers and oceans, and are quickly filling up our landfills. Furthermore, microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic that have been eroded from larger pieces – have been found in sea life as well as humans. We ingest a credit cards worth of microplastics every week.


Plastics are manufactured from oil and gas that are subsidized by our government. There is an equity issue too. Plastic factories are usually located in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.


Plastics have become a huge problem across the globe, especially since China stopped taking plastics for recycling in 2017. Beaches in SE Asia are covered in plastic waste, mostly waste from shipping.


The responsibility for all this waste falls on us as Americans. In 2019, US plastic waste generation was approximately five times more than the global per-person average.


What can we do about all this plastic? LOTS. The first step is to stop buying it. Remember the meaning of the chasing arrows in the recycling symbol? Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Now there are six more Rs in the updated list for the 21st century: Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Repair, Repurpose, and the last option – Recycle.


When shopping, look for items packaged in glass, metal, or cardboard instead of plastic. If you cannot find them, purchase a larger container and refill it. A good example of that is liquid hand soap. Or you can simply refuse liquid hand soap and use bar soap that is usually wrapped in paper.


Liquid laundry detergent comes in very large plastic containers. By not using more than the manufacturers instructions, you can make the amount last longer. You can often get by with less than recommended. If you purchase powdered detergent in a cardboard box, you are refusing that giant plastic jug. You can also buy detergent sheets that dissolve in water.


If you can pay a little more for a reusable product, there are many options to replace single-use disposable plastics. The most obvious is to carry your own reusable water bottle. There are also reusable sandwich and food storage bags made of silicone. Beeswax wraps can replace plastic wrap. Or use repurposed plastic tubs (margarine, yogurt) to store food at no additional cost. Better yet, invest in glass food storage containers.


If making changes to your shopping list and routine sounds overwhelming, you can advocate for controls on single-use plastics by using your voice. Read as much as you can, search the web, and attend webinars and meetings about plastic waste. When you feel confident in your knowledge, then it is time to make your voice heard.


If your local store doesnt stock non-plastic containers, talk to your store manager and tell them you arent the only person who wants them. Post a request/complaint on the stores FB page. Talk with your family, friends, and neighbors about your concerns.


Call/text/email your local and state elected officials about banning specific plastic items such as plastic bags, Styrofoam take-out containers and cups, plastic straws, and stirrers. More than 500 states, cities, and counties have banned plastic bags at point of purchase.


If you need help, join a local group involved in single-use plastic reduction and take your cues from them. Whatever changes you can make will be appreciated by all of Gods creatures. No more straws up turtle noses, no more plastic filling up whale stomachs, no more six-pack rings around turtlesand gullsnecks.


The biggest impact of eliminating plastic production will be less oil and gas production and refining. Extraction of fossil fuels such as oil and gas and manufacturing of plastics is a major contributor to climate change. We are now witnessing the climate impacts that scientists have been telling us about for years: more intense hurricanes, more frequent flooding and wildfires, rising sea levels caused by increased water temperatures, and extreme temperature fluctuations.


We need to act to stop this desecration of Gods creation and we need to act quickly if we are to maintain a habitable planet where humans can live as God intended.


Jane Laping is the current Vice Moderator of Presbyterians for Earth Care and is active in environmental issues from a faith perspective at the local and regional level. For more than two years she has been involved with Plastic Free WNC, a regional group with the goal of getting state and local laws passed that would limit the use of single-use plastics.

No comments:

Post a Comment