One of the primary missions of the zero waste lifestyle is to limit the amount of plastic in the world.
Plastic is an oil compound that became popularized in the 1950’s with action figures, dolls, TV dinners, and a variety of other items that are labelled as both disposable and non-disposable. Plastic was a revolutionary innovation that allowed for people to have unbreakable containers, fast food in anywhere you want, microwavable dinners, action figures and games for kids to play with. Unfortunately, plastic isn’t indestructible, once these items break, start falling apart, or don’t work anymore- they are thrown in the trash. They will then either last forever in the landfill or turn into micro-plastics that will live forever in our oceans.
Yes, many of the plastic water bottles, containers, bags, and other items can be recycled. Do we know if they are actually being recycled. Currently, in the United States only 9% of all plastic is recycled. It wasn’t until the China recycling ban that the US didn’t start to become aware of their plastic waste.
Over the years, the topic of plastic has continued to gain buzz within activist communities but also popular media. Last year, the Huff Post published an article by Dana Ellis Hunnes, an adjunct professor at USLA Fielding-School of Public Health, titled Plastic: It’s What’s For Dinner, where she explains that “according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) 30 percent of all fish have plastic in them.” This means that when you order fish from a restaurant or the grocery store, there is a possibility that you could be eating plastic. If that doesn’t gross you out, I don’t know what will.
At the beginning of August, Tesco, a popular UK grocery chain, made a statement explaining that they will be banning all plastic bags and providing reusable option that would cost customers an extra 10p (50 cents in US). Considering that most reusable bags usually cost a couple of dollars, getting a reusable bag for 50 cents is a steal. Back in 2015, Tesco started charging their customers 5p (25 cents) for plastic bags. By banning plastic bags altogether, they are reducing their environmental impact even more and making it easier for everyone to stop using plastic bags. Why can’t we do this in the United States?
When I walk into a local grocery store, I see people walk out with at least 10 plastic bags. Sometimes they have a bag for each item that they purchased. Not to mention the free plastic bags that people put their produce in whilst shopping. All of this plastic seems unnecessary when you could use reusable bags.
On August 14th 2017, Dana Ellis Hunnes wrote another article titled, Plastic Plastic Literally Everywhere. In this post she explains how 8% of the world’s oil goes to making plastic products. That may not seem like a lot of oil, but when you think about the amount of human rights violations, environmental, and cultural issues that have revolved around oil, it seems as if we should be limiting our use of oil as much as we can.
Everyone can make difference by using mesh bags for produce and reusable bags for their groceries. However, until the grocery stores stop stocking disposable plastic bags, people will continue to use them. Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, has also created a petition, that everyone is welcomed to sign and propose to their elected officials in the help to ban plastic goods.
It may seem that you can’t make a difference, especially in the current state of our political climate and government. That is not true. You can always make a difference. The more you talk to your local grocery stores and state officials, the more people you will inspire to do the same. I hope this petition inspires more companies to go plastic free! For now, take a look at your local food stores and explore your package free options.