No one can argue that we live in a world full of plastic, plastic, and more plastic. When the norm is to take everything ‘to go,’ and to purchase things we want versus need, our everyday lives are surrounded by waste. The reality is: plastic sucks for the environment. Most thin, ‘single-use’ plastics (think plastic utensils, straws, fast food drink cups) aren’t recyclable. This is because it isn’t profitable for companies to recycle them, so they ultimately end up in our landfills and oceans, excreting toxins and harming wildlife. Even after the thousands of years plastic takes to biodegrade, it creates what is called ‘microplastics,’ or miniscule bits of plastic. This means that every single bit of plastic created is still in existence. That’s right folks. Every. Single. One. Think of all that waste!
Lots of people have adopted what is known as a ‘low-waste lifestyle,’ in order to combat this alarming problem. They follow the Five R’s of Recycling (yes, there’s more than the three we had drilled into us in elementary school); Refuse (say no), Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (compost). Most of them are self-explanatory, but the general idea is to avoid creating garbage or buying new. This includes buying groceries in bulk, many things second-hand, and cutting down on any kind of single-use waste altogether, including packaging. This works because it’s all about supply and demand. The only reason companies create things because there is a need for them, created by the consumer. The more the consumer buys, the more the company makes. If enough people refuse to buy such products, there won’t be a demand for them, therefore forcing companies to stop supplying.
I’m not calling for a mass change in lifestyle among everyone, as this obviously isn’t a viable option for many. However, there are a few things you can do to cut down on the amount of waste you create. For example, purchasing a set of metallic straws and cutlery (I even just steal ones from my home), and bringing a reusable water bottle or tumbler with you on the go. Just by doing this you’re going to be cutting down on plastic consumption. Another option is to try thrifting! I’ve found some of my favourite clothes going to my local Value Village, and it’s also cheaper! Plus, it’s all unique! But also keep in mind that you shouldn’t buy for the sake of buying, because that’s still wasteful.
I think many of us don’t even realize how much single-use plastic surrounds us until we actually take a second (or in my case many hours) to look at our lifestyle and what we surround ourselves with. Making simple changes in our lives and being mindful of what we purchase can help to contribute to a greener future, something we all should strive for.