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Green Tips: Reducing Plastic Use

Green Tips | May 17, 2019

Plastic waste is overwhelming the world. Scientists have cataloged 8.3 billion tons of plastic that have been produced, discarded or burned over the last 60 years. Plastic takes 400 years to degrade and can be found everywhere. Even the computer or mobile phone you’re reading this on contains plastic. Ninety-one percent of the plastic Americans use is never recycled.  It is estimated that by mid-century, plastic in our oceans will outweigh the sealife.

You can make an impact on the environment by reducing the amount of plastic you use. Try some of our tips below.

Forget the straw. We throw away 500 billion plastic straws a day in the U.S. Straws are less likely to be recycled and can end up in our waterways.  Researchers have found microplastics in marine life in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.   If you really need to use one, buy a reusable stainless steel or glass straw. Some come with their own cleaning brush.  

Bring your own containers. Food co-ops and many grocery stores let you buy many items in bulk. You can bring your own reusable containers for buying cereal, pasta and similar foods.

BYOB and BYOC. Bring your own bottle or cup. In the United States, it takes  17 billion barrels of oil to manufacture 50 billion disposable water bottles each year. Because used cups are soiled, they cannot be recycled and must be thrown away.

Next time, try bringing your own cup or bottle to the store. An added benefit is that your coffee tastes better in a ceramic or stainless steel container, and, because these are usually insulated, it will stay warmer longer.

Pack your lunch in reusable containers and avoid plasticware both at home and on the go. When you eat out, bring your own containers for leftovers, since restaurants often use plastic.

Dump disposable diapers. The EPA estimates that we 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers end up in our landfills each year. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. You can use a diaper service, which still allows you to lower your baby’s carbon footprint because their economies of scale means they use less electricity and water than individuals would if washing diapers at home. Also, because they have to meet board of health standards, they’re actually cleaner.

Opt for reusable shopping bags. The New York State recently passed a law banning most single-use plastic bags. The law goes into effect in March 2020 but there’s no time like the present for starting to bring your own bags. A consumer who opts for reusable bags for shopping means 22,000 fewer plastic bags are used.

Choose easily recyclable plastic. If you must use plastic, look for these recycling numbers on plastic items: #1 (polyethylene terephthalate or PETE) or #2 (high density polyethylene or HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics. The former is commonly used for bottled beverages and the latter is used in milk jugs, juice containers, household cleaners and more.

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