By Anwynn Louw – Digital Marketing Assistant
Biodegradable plastic sounds like the perfect solution to a global effort to reduce plastic pollution. However, how biodegradable are these plastics really? Biodegradable doesn’t necessarily mean compostable, so more often than not, these plastics still end up in landfills across the world.
In more recent years it has become evident that plastics are a major cause of multiple environmental concerns we face today. Across the world, countries such as Kenya and Tanzania have implemented bans on single-use plastic and have enforced strict laws and penalties to those who ignore the ban. Ultimately, it is up to us as humans to make a change, no matter how small, to save our planet.
Here are a few realistic ways people across the world reduce, reuse and recycle plastic:
Instead of paying for a plastic bag every time you pay a visit to your grocery store, why not buy a few reusable carrier shopping bags and keep them with you. In the long run, you will save money by not having to pay for a plastic bag each time you head out for a shop, and you’ll be contributing less plastic to the problem.
Coffee chains such as Starbucks are encouraging people to bring their reusable coffee cups from home, by offering a $10 discount on their coffee. Through offering this incentive they are pushing more people to buy a reusable coffee cup instead of using disposable paper cups. Disposable cups contain Polyurethane plastic, which is not readily recyclable and generally, recyclers don’t want it – so avoid using it.
“Half a trillion disposable cups are manufactured annually around the world; that’s over 70 disposable cups for every person on the planet.” – Ecoffeecup
Avoid purchasing bottled water and invest in a reusable water bottle. Some cities such as Bundanoon in Australia have even banned the sale of bottled water.
Plastic straws, while convenient, are wasteful and can be toxic to your health, as well as our environment. Many straws are produced using harmful chemicals known to be carcinogens – substances known to cause cancer. You can entirely ditch using a straw or make use of alternatives – such as paper or bamboo straws. For a longer lasting substitute, purchase a stainless steel or glass straw. The idea of a glass straw might be more appealing as it is easier to spot whether or not your straw is clean after it comes out of the dishwasher.
Landfills are a big environmental concern. Not only are they an eyesore, but they are also major contributors to pollution. Landfills cause pollution to the environment through contaminating the groundwater, the soil and producing greenhouses gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide. Methane and carbon dioxide are created when biodegradable waste decomposes. Methane is 12 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses are said to be the leading causes of global warming.
The Ocean Conservancy, which is a non-profit environmental advocacy group, have been running beach clean-ups for more than 30 years. In 2016, an astonishing 9200 tons of beach litter was collected in over 100 countries, and 73% of that beach litter was made from plastic. Other waste items such as cotton buds, cigarette filters, cans, metal caps, glass bottles, food wrappers and containers are amongst the top 10 items that make up our current day marine debris.
Marine wildlife often consumes these plastics by mistake; turtles love snacking on jellyfish which can easily be confused for a plastic bag floating in the water. When marine life ingests plastic, it not only impacts their health but if we are to eat fish with plastic in their stomachs, it will have a negative impact on our health as well.
Recycling should be part of our everyday lives. This process involves collecting and separating/sorting your waste and then taking it to your nearest recycling depot for further processing. If you actively make recycling part of your life today, you will be making a positive contribution to the environment and help in leading the way to a more sustainable and healthier world.
In June 2018, the United Nations published a comprehensive report focusing on the various experiences and assessments, as well as possible measures and regulations, to help fight plastic pollution. Read more here.
This is how you reduce, reuse, and recycle at home and the office:
It may seem daunting to begin recycling if you have never done so before, but once you start it gets easier and becomes a way of life. Here are some tips on where to start and what you can do to decrease the negative impact humans are having on our world.
Create a recycling station
Start by creating a recycle station, this will make sorting your waste much easier. Make sure you have a bin for plastic, paper and metal. Design labels for each bin or have a different coloured bin for the different materials. You’re allowed to get as creative as you’d like. Before tossing away any kind of container be sure to give it a rinse before you bin it.
Buy recycled paper and print on both sides
Printing on both sides of the sheet of paper is an easy way to reduce the amount of paper you use every day. Another way of using less paper is to avoid printing emails. Through recycling one ton of paper you can save 17 trees!
Invest in a little countertop composter. They are equipped with a filter to ensure that no unpleasant odours escape. When you buy fruit or vegetables you pay for the whole thing, so why not use all of it? You can use your kitchen scraps and provide great nutrients to your garden, so go on and start compositing.
Build an EcoBrick
An EcoBrick is built from 2lt bottles filled with non-biodegradable waste, such as single-use plastic bags, laminated paper, and plastic straws. A good idea is to keep the bottles close to your bin, fill them up until you cannot squeeze the bottle. You can use the back of a wooden spoon to push down all the plastics and get even more into each bottle.
This concept was first used in early 2000 in Guatemala, by a passionate eco-warrior, Susana Heisse. These bricks have gained traction and are used all around the world to build boundary walls, benches for parks and gardens, and even schools in rural communities like HUSK bottle school in Cambodia.
Do some research to find out where your nearest EcoBrick drop-off point is.