While the most important actions in humanity’s push to protect and preserve the environment still require climate action by large corporations, there is still a role to play for individuals. On a large scale, the actions of a single person can add up to make an impact and help our planet. And there is perhaps no easier and directly effective way to do this than to cut out single-use plastic.
Why You Should Cut Out Single Use Plastic
What Is Single-Use Plastic, and Why Is It A Problem?
A single-use plastic item is exactly what it sounds like: a plastic product specifically designed to be used once, then discarded. Every plastic bag used to contain your zucchini at the grocery store is a single-use plastic. Every plasticware packet included in your takeout order–often thrown away totally unused–is a single-use plastic. Every 20-ounce bottle that tumbles out of the soda vending machine at your office is a single-use plastic.
Once thought to be appealing for their low production cost and consumer convenience, it is now obvious that such items have been produced in such unbelievable quantities, and discarded at such an alarming rate, that our ecosystem simply can’t keep up.
How Much Plastic Is Thrown Away Every Day?
Mountains of plastic waste pile up on land and harm animal and plant life across the globe. To get a sense of how enormous the plastic pollution problem is, consider that 9.1 billion tons of plastic has been produced since the introduction of the material to the world in the 1950s. What’s pretty shocking is that virtually every piece of it ever made still exists in some form (according to Earth Day).
How much plastic is that? It’s estimated that the amount of plastic produced every year is equivalent to the entire weight of all the people on Earth. This is simply not sustainable for a healthy planet.
How Much Plastic Is In The Ocean?
Billions of single-use plastic items are wreaking havoc on our waterways, harming the quality of our rivers, lakes, and oceans and killing the wildlife that calls these habitats home.
Earth Day estimates that every day, 8 million pieces of plastic pollution enter our oceans, adding to the 25 trillion macro and 51 trillion microplastics already littering the sea. 165 million tons of plastic is currently either floating or at depth within all marine environments. For a visual perspective of how much plastic pollution this is, our oceans take on one garbage truck full of plastic every minute.
How Do We Reduce Our Reliance On Single Use Plastic Items?
Cutting out single-use plastics is a primary mission at Klean Kanteen, and fortunately, there is no shortage of ways to accomplish this. The most pressing challenge for humanity is the plastic habit–simply put, we have become accustomed to and reliant on plastic goods because of their ubiquity. But just because it’s what most of us know, doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to live.
In fact, there are a number of plastic alternatives that can help us push toward a reduction in plastic pollution and ultimately work toward a plastic-free lifestyle. Only eight states so far have instituted laws banning single use plastic bags, but it is progress. It is, however, much more difficult for large governmental changes to happen quickly, which is why individuals still should take action to replace plastic in their everyday lives. Here are a few simple ways you can reduce your plastic waste.
What Are The Effects Of Using Plastic Straws?
Half a billion plastic straws are used every day by the United States alone, according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The chemicals that compose these straws make it so they aren’t biodegradable, which is terrible. Even worse, they are incapable of being recycled–meaning they will be on this planet for hundreds of years unless they are incinerated (which is even more awful air pollution).
Their small size and light weight make them prone to wide dispersal through the environment, into waterways and other animal habitats, where they can break up into small pieces, choking wildlife or causing other injury while releasing chemicals into the environment.
Are Paper Straws A Feasible Alternative To Plastic Straws?
In some areas, plastic straw bans have gone into effect, with many restaurants and other drink-serving organizations opting instead for paper straws. While there are advantages of course to these over plastic straws–because just about anything is better than plastic–there are reasons why paper straws are not really a feasible mass alternative.
How to replace plastic straws: Steel straws are the way to go. You can buy a few, use them for everything, and never again contribute to the immense amount of plastic waste created by straws. Our straws are made with certified 90-percent post-consumer recycled 18/8 stainless steel, with flexible silicone tips.
They are dishwasher-safe and perfect for most drinks and smoothies, and better than most flexible metal straws (and definitely better than single-use plastic). They come in 2-, 4-, and 6-pack sets, or bundled with some of our favorite bottles and mugs. The one-time investment in sanitary, durable steel straws is a huge step in cutting down plastic waste.
What Are Good Alternatives To Plastic Bottles?
Earth Day estimates that Americans buy about 50 billion water bottles every year–about 13 a month for every single person in the U.S. The best way to get rid of this plastic waste is to invest in a reusable bottle–and of course, it’s better if you invest in one you can use forever.
How to replace plastic bottles: Insulated bottles. Making the right decision for the environment can also be the best way to enjoy your drinks. Plastic bottles can’t hold a candle to our stainless steel bottles when it comes to keeping your drinks hot or cold without any effect on flavor.
Our products come in a huge variety of sizes with mix-and-match lid options and colors, and we even have options for kids’ bottles. Klean Kanteen bottles are durable, attractive, and great for the planet.
What Are Good Alternatives To Plastic Bags?
Humans create five trillion plastic bags every year, and each one can take up to 1,000 years to disintegrate completely. Even worse, Americans create 100 billion bags in waste annually. Single-use plastic bags, like bottles and straws, are a scourge on the environment and are especially dangerous to flying and swimming creatures, which can drown, suffocate, and choke on them very easily.
Earth Day estimates that switching to reusable shopping bags, Americans could eliminate the need for 307 plastic bags–per person, per year. That is an impact that would definitely add up.
How to replace plastic bags: Compostable bags, or even better, reusable totes, are outstanding replacements for plastic bags. Anything that takes single-use plastics out of the game is better! And for those who might defend plastic bags because they can be re-used as food containers, keep in mind that plastic inevitably will retain flavor and odor. Plastic bags will eventually become unusable for your food, at which point they’ll hit the landfill.
Instead, we’d suggest opting for containers from our stainless steel Food Solutions line to replace baggies and tupperware. They’re durable, leakproof, dishwasher-safe, and feature food-grade silicone lids, perfect for storing snacks or meals on the go, or leftovers for later. Plus, unlike plastic baggies, they stack neatly and will stay with you forever. No more plastic waste.
What Are Good Alternatives To Plastic Cups?
More than 500 billion plastic cups–not to mention 29 million tons of plastic foam (aka polystyrene) cups–are used every year, with Americans throwing away 25 billion Styrofoam coffee cups. Like plastic straws, cups are light and can travel long distances quickly, and they break into dangerously small pieces, threatening every ecosystem they enter. But plastic cups are also very poor in terms of quality, too–they don’t insulate temperature well, and they retain flavor and odor so they have poor reusability.
How to replace plastic cups: Whether you’re hosting a party or gathering, or attending one, it’s a good idea to make the switch to stainless steel cups and tumblers. These can effectively eliminate your need for plastic cups because of their high quality construction, wide range of colors and cap combinations, and food-grade steel that is easily washable and reusable no matter how many times you switch beverages.
Cutting down on plastic pollution is a big task, but it’s so necessary for the health of our planet and our environmental future. By seeking out viable plastic alternatives, we can eliminate the need for single-use plastics forever and replace them with high-quality options that are not only better for Earth, but better products, period.