While the awareness of plastic consumption and its impacts have been increasing over the years there are still many things that need to be significantly improved. Due to their ease and accessibility, they have become an essential part of daily life. This week, our team performed a challenge to keep a track of all the single-use plastic items we use over the course of three days. To say the least, our team was very shocked by the breakdown of our plastics.
After collection of the data, we separated our single-use plastics into two categories based on their purposes. Firstly, the kitchen and lunch plastic took the majority of the waste, over 80% of all single-use plastics. As high school teenagers, we need to bring a compact lunch with us to school every day, in which there are many one-use plastics, such as zip-lock bags, juice straws or bottles, wrappers for bars or snacks, etc. Alongside teens, working adults with busy schedules also rely on these plastics for ease. Many of these plastic could have been avoided by simply using a container that is reusable. Our school luckily has given us a water bottle refill station in various sections of the school which promote students, like me, to bring reusable plastic water bottles rather than the single-use bottles. Secondly, the plastics surrounding everyday tasks were categorized in a separate section which made up the other 20% of the single-use waste collected. This included thing such as the plastic bags used for groceries. While my parents used a resealable bag on their ordinary trip to the grocery store this week, they bought many items that had plastic packaging that went to the waste immediately after coming home. For instance, my mom bought a pack of socks and a pack of bell peppers. On arriving home the packaging on both items went straight to the trash without a second thought, because the plastic packaging has become a norm in our daily world. While we would like to avoid the buying items that have limited to no plastics, it is a challenge because many items are only available with plastic packaging.
One of the biggest obstacles that were faced in this process was remembering to put the plastic item off to the side. Many time I didn't realize that the item was a single-use plastic because we think of them as recyclable materials. We often justify our plastic use by saying, “Hey, at least it’s recyclable.” But the truth is, only 10% plastic items ever go through the recycling process. Knowing this but realizing in daily life was a big obstacle.
Some advice for other would be to be aware of the amount of plastic used everyday. Doing this activity helped us to realize the amount of plastic used everyday, and therefore helped us to stop wasting plastic on stuff like our lunches. Possibly using glass containers, instead of plastic containers, and to stop using saran wrap to wrap our lunches. Little changes like this will allow everyone to cut down on their plastic usage, and help to save the environment.