Good, Better, Best — Eliminating Plastic Waste

Good, Better, Best — Eliminating Plastic Waste

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This is the second in a series of articles about decreasing the quantity of the commonest supplies amongst family waste.

The prime three supplies filling American rubbish bins are paper, meals waste, and plastic. Of the three, plastic would be the most problematic. Not solely does its manufacturing use nonrenewable pure sources and power, however not like paper and meals waste, it’s neither biodegradable nor simply recyclable. Nonexistent a century in the past, plastic now makes up about 13% of the waste stream.

It could also be potential to return to a plastic-free life-style, however plastic is so ubiquitous in the present day that even probably the most devoted environmentalist should eradicate plastic incrementally. Here are some good, higher, and greatest steps you possibly can take to scale back plastic waste.

Plastic Waste

In 2017, the newest 12 months for which EPA information is obtainable, 35.4 million tons of plastic waste was generated. Plastic waste has grown from 8.2% of the waste generated in 1990 to 13.2% in 2017. Most plastic waste comes from sturdy items, containers, and packaging.

Besides the plastic that’s captured within the waste stream, 8 million tons of plastic wash into the oceans, and 22 million kilos find yourself within the Great Lakes every year. It is predicted that if we proceed to recycle lower than 10% of our plastic, by midcentury, the oceans will comprise extra plastic than fish.

Even although plastic doesn’t biodegrade like pure supplies, it does break down. When it does, plastic could release toxic chemicals. The ensuing small particles of plastic are microplastics, that are dangerous to animals and bioaccumulate, probably making a well being hazard for people.


Usually, the only step to scale back any waste materials is to recycle, though plastic recycling is much less easy than different supplies. In truth, there’s a crisis in plastics recycling, partly because of China’s ban on contaminated recycling imports.

But some communities nonetheless settle for some plastics within the curbside recycling bins. If yours is one in every of them, recycling is an effective place to begin decreasing plastic waste. Avoid wishful recycling by familiarizing your self along with your neighborhood’s recycling pointers and following them scrupulously.

Because plastics recycling continues to be so restricted, begin by decreasing your plastic use within the first place, starting with simple changes in your purchasing. Eliminate single-use plastics: swap to reusable grocery bags, water bottles, and utensils. Before shopping for home goods, similar to storage bins and measuring cups, produced from plastic, search for sturdy options. Once you’ve achieved these steps, you may be able to do even higher.


Even should you can recycle some plastics curbside, obtain the iRecycle app or search the Earth911 recycling database in your laptop to discover a recycler close to you that accepts a wider vary of plastics. Set up an space in your house or storage to gather recyclable plastics till there is sufficient to make a visit to the recycler.

As plastic gadgets in your house put on out, regularly change them with ones produced from extra sustainable supplies. Prowl thrift shops and classic outlets for the kinds of supplies individuals used earlier than plastic, and go to web sites (like this one) for info on new merchandise that assist a plastic-free life-style.

Choose one use of plastic at a time to systematically eradicate: plastic wrap and different food storage containers; straws, toys, and shaving supplies. Start being attentive to product packaging, which is likely one of the largest sources of plastic. Start to experiment with homemade cleaners to keep away from all these plastic bottles and tubs.


Changes to your purchasing habits that started with bringing your individual baggage may have grown to incorporate shopping for bulk merchandise in your individual reusable containers.

But to keep away from plastic packaging fully, most individuals might want to keep away from conventional grocery shops. They could even need to make vital modifications to their eating regimen, eliminating most ready and packaged meals in change for residence cooking components purchased in bulk at co-ops or farmers’ markets.

Once your on a regular basis habits are in place, make plans to keep away from plastic throughout much less peculiar experiences, like whenever you fly or host a party.

It is likely to be unimaginable to go 100% plastic-free on this planet in the present day. Plastic reveals up in all types of locations — like ballpoint pens and water filters — which are straightforward to miss. Some gadgets don’t have plastic-free options, and also you might need to make onerous selections about making exceptions or doing with out. When that occurs, discover inspiration and guidance from individuals who’ve already made main modifications to realize a sustainable, plastic-free life.

Read half three on this sequence: Good, Better, Best — Reducing Metal Waste

Editor’s observe: This article was initially revealed on April 13, 2020.