Green Tips: Plastic Free July 2023
Green Tips | June 29, 2023
By Peter Aronson
It’s a no-brainer that we need to eliminate plastic waste from our earth.
Plastic production, transport and waste contribute substantially to global warming and plastic pollution is a global disaster, choking oceans, contaminating water supplies and endangering human, plant and animal health.
With Plastic Free July almost here, it’s a great opportunity for everyone to take the pledge and establish plastic-free habits that will last a lifetime.
Plastic Free July was established in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation in Australia to bring attention to the overwhelming dangers of plastic pollution. Over the last 12 years, hundreds of millions of people have participated with a stated goal of eliminating all plastic waste around the world. In 2022, it’s estimated that 140 million people from 195 countries participated in various ways, from educational programs to clean-up days to establishing new plastic-free habits.
According to earthday.org fact sheets, humans produce 400 million tons of plastic waste a year and less than eight percent of that is recycled. Every minute of every day, humans buy a staggering one million plastic water bottles and annually we use five trillion plastic bags, most of which end up in rivers, oceans, landfills or somehow in our food supply. Among the other startling and scary facts: Microplastics are present in almost every water system in the world, and chemicals from plastic containers are found in most urine samples and in most breast milk in the developed world.
“Plastic is now in our blood stream, attaching itself to our heart, lungs, kidneys, and brains,” earthday.org says, adding that “Plastic particles can last for thousands of years.”
The MIT Climate Portal reports, not surprisingly, that the United States produces more plastic waste than any other country. “Something from Amazon.com that was packaged one day ago, you throw the packaging out,” said Christopher Noble, MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative’s Director of Corporate Engagement. “That packaging was used for 24 hours and then is thrown into a landfill.” It will take decades to decompose, and this produces dangerous greenhouse gasses as it does.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that throughout their lifecycle, plastics have a significant carbon footprint, emitting 3.4% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
The plastic industry emits greenhouse gasses at every stage, from material extraction to production to disposal and incineration, according to many reports, including those by MIT and the World Bank. MIT, citing a 2019 report from the Center for International Environmental Law, says the plastic industry by 2030 will be releasing greenhouse gas emissions equal to the entire continent of Africa.
The World Bank, in its 2021 report, explained that plastics originate from fossil fuels, with the plastics industry accounting for six percent of global oil consumption. Thus, if we reduce the use of plastic, we reduce the dependence on oil and the greenhouse-gas producing processes of extracting and distilling oil. Among its other disturbing details: 1) A garbage truck equivalent of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean every minute. Marine plastic pollution breaks down into microplastics and contributes to global warming through GHG emissions and indirectly by impacting ocean organisms; and 2) Open burning of plastic and other waste is a common practice in South Asia and the developing world, with it a particular problem in India and Nepal. This burning leads to the dangerous air pollutant called black carbon and is responsible for half the visible smog in New Delhi. The global warming potential of black carbon is up to 5,000 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.
It’s imperative that we reduce our reliance on plastic. Reefrelief.org lists 50 ways to do so. Below are their most common examples and a few of our own:
- Stop buying bottled water. Use a reusable container and take it with you when you leave the house;
- Stop using plastic bags of any kind. Use reusable cloth bags, including those for vegetables, and take them with you whenever you leave the house;
- Do not purchase fruits and vegetables in plastic containers; Purchase items loose or those in compostable or reusable containers. Shopping at your local farmers market makes this easier;
- Start a plastic-free program at a business, school, building or in your community;
- Use glass, not plastic, storage containers; and
- Use your own reusable cup when purchasing to-go coffee or other drinks.
Search the internet for Plastic Free July events near you. Madison Square Park Conservancy in NYC will hold events, with info here.
Earthday.org’s toolkit for starting a plastic-free life can be found here.
Take our Plastic Free July pledge here!< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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