Recycling is very important, but it won’t solve the global plastic waste crisis.
The Zero Waste movement, started in the mid-1990s, however, promotes some easy ways to avoid being part of the problem. Here are a few tips from experts at National Geographic to get you started.
1. Reusable bags.
It’s a question we hear all the time at the grocery store: Paper or plastic?
If you really want to make a difference, your answer should be neither. Take reusable bags to the store instead.
A trillion plastic shopping bags are used worldwide each year, including 100 billion in the United States.
Reusable bags need to be reused only 11 times to break even with the conventional plastic, according to a U.K. study.
2. Ditch plastic straws.
They’re a nice way to slurp down a soda or shake, but plastic straws are a nuisance to the environment.
More than 100 million single-use straws are thrown away in the United States every day. They wind up in waterways, where they hurt sea animals and break down into micro-plastic, which look like tiny bits of food and get consumed by newborn fish.
Consider using paper, metal or bamboo straws. They each have their pros and cons, but it’s better than the alternative.
3. Don’t litter.
That one may sound like a no-brainer, but is it?
The Ocean Conservancy reports that the only non-plastic item they find on beaches are glass bottles. In fact, 73% of beach litter is plastic, from the filters of cigarette butts to to-go food containers.
And if you’re thinking of tossing a biodegradable plastic bag — just don’t. A new studied published in Environmental Science & Technology found that three types of them didn’t degrade after three years.
Some biodegradable items won’t break down if left in the dark, thrown in the ocean or kept in the oxygen-free environment of a commercial landfill.
— Evan Thompson, Herald writer