The Fight Against Garbage
What's the One Thing You Can Do
You hear about the earth’s waste and pollution crisis everywhere. It’s easy to tune out stories about factories breaking environmental laws on the other side of the country. We’re no longer sensitive to images of oceans drowning in plastics. We easily scroll past reports of landfill toxins poisoning our soil and water. The problem feels too big for just one person to make a difference.
8 million metric tons is the amount of plastic dumped in the ocean each year.
It’s the equivalent of 57,000 blue whales.
You probably recycle at home or work. Maybe you have a reusable water bottle or coffee cup. These actions are valuable, especially when whole families, communities and cities participate. But there are more, very simple, actions that have a significant impact on change. Just look around for opportunities.
The average American produces 4 pounds of waste each day.
Most people first think about recycling to control waste. The truth is reducing waste is far more effective. Why you refuse to accept or buy items you don’t need, you’re creating less waste that needs to be recycled.
Get into the habit of thinking about every item you’re offered. Do you really need it?
Can it serve another purpose later?
Convenience is killing the planet. Much of our waste is from products and packaging created for convenience. Modern life is hectic and some days, using paper plates for dinner or ordering products online is the best we can do. But other days, if we think about our planet first, we can make a different choice – like looking for ways to limit single-use products.
It takes one million years for a glass bottle to decompose in a landfill.
It's one of the longest-lasting man-made materials.
Single-Use or Limited-Use Products
Bags, wraps and containers
Paper and plastic grocery bags, produce bags, sandwich bags. Plastic and tin foil wrap. Plastic leftover containers with lids.
Paper, plastic and styrofoam plates, utensils and napkins
Coffee pods, tea bags, yogurt, ramen, snack packs, etc.
Straws, wet wipes, plastic tape, feminine products, diapers, razors, shower liners
Ordering online for delivery
Reusable or Biodegradable Alternatives
Fabric bags, silicone food wrappers, Bees Wraps, glass containers
Don’t buy single-use paper and plastic for your home. When ordering from a restaurant, let them know when you don’t utensils, napkins, or condiment packets.
Instead of single-serving containers, buy the bigger size and pack your servings in reusable containers.
Stop at the store instead of ordering online, when possible, this also is also for your neighborhood economy.
Reusing items is the second most important thing you can do to help reduce waste. But it’s understandable, sometimes it can be hard to find alternatives for all the plastic, glass and tin packaging. Additionally, many modern products, like clothes, furniture and appliance are not made to last. This all leads to a lot of garbage!
There are a ton of ideas online for reusing and repurposing garbage. Before you throw out that empty bottle of juice, see if the internet has a suggestion for a new use.
“ I make my glass jars into vases.” Jen
“I love buying vintage furniture and painting it to match my décor. It’s better quality and more affordable.” Vicki
“I use rechargeable batteries instead of buying throw-away ones. They cost a little more at first, but I end up saving money. And I never run out of batteries.” Gary
You might be surprised to hear that recycling is complicated. Many consumers don’t understand what items can be recycled and how to recycle them properly. There are countries that take the waste to be recycled and instead of processing it properly, dump it in the ocean. And for domestic recyclers, the cost outweighs the profit.
It's estimated that 79% of items that are sent to be recycled end up in the landfill.
You can’t control many of these factors, but you can:
Learn what can be recycled. Where. And how to prepare it. For example, plastic or glass containers must be clean and without a label.
Buy products that are recyclable.
Buy products made from recycled materials.
Sources: EPA.org, Conservation.org, Nytimes.com, Npr.org, Nationalgeographic.com