The overwhelming plastics problem and You

Plastics ashore Clipperton Island — Most remote atoll in the Pacific — Photo taken under special permit # HC/1485/CAB

So you saw all the photos from Henderson Island, Midway Island and all the other plastic polluted beaches and waterways. You heard about the Go Topless challenge to avoid the coffee cup lids, and you are aware of #plasticfreejuly movement among the other hundreds of beach clean-up invitations you receive. You’re trying to remember your own water bottle as much as possible, or refuse the lid.

The problem is still growing.

What do you/we do now?

I’ve been trying to go plastic free as much as possible for the last 16 months now. I am mostly so, though still not 100%. I’ve reduced a LOT of what I used, refuse to buy most things that are wrapped in plastics, but sometimes I find myself completely out of option.

I live in NYC — so I end up making a conscious choice, that I “need” to buy that yogurt that is in a plastic container. When it’s just myself, I only get the ones that are in a glass container with an aluminum lid on top, so it’s 100% recyclable, but when I have a house full of guests and require high quantities over 3 days, it becomes more challenging on my budget. It’s a whopping 5 times the price! So I get it, when you have a big family and limited income, the choices are limited. More importantly, the choices are there…

If you can’t buy yogurt in glass containers, then you can opt to refuse balloons for your children’s birthday party? You can choose to have only reusable cups at the party, carry your own or if you must use single use then opt for biodegradable kinds of single use forks and spoons… You can go for paper straws, or a glass one, if “no straw” isn’t an option for your taste.

If you must use bottled water — you can opt for the returnable kind. Get the 5 gallon jugs and return them, rather than buying bottles and throwing them away. If you find yourself outside and need to get a bottle, reach for the glass instead of the plastic. If it’s more expensive, well that’s a way you can ensure that you won’t forget your reusable bottle again. The bottomline is we do as much as we can to record as much progress as we can with what we have available to us. It’s a matter of being a part of the solution.

NYC has 8.5 million people. According to the official NYC Census Bureau 35% of them have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. We’re a well educated population. If just half of them followed this practice, we’d have a noticeable impact to the amount of trash we see on the streets and in our waterways. It is possible to do. It’s about informing people. It’s about spreading the knowledge and inspiration. In Europe and Australia the majority of people do use reusable cups, bottles and bags as second nature. We’re just lazy here in the US.

The idea is make the best choice you can. Until we can cause bigger changes in policies, regulations and product design practices it will be very difficult to be 100%, if not impossible while living in a developed city in North America. Still we have the power to make a difference. We all have preferences when we buy — buying expensive vs. cheap, buying brand names vs. not, buying items made in the US vs. elsewhere. Now we can add another criteria — buying from brands who refuse plastics vs. not.

Then we can start looking at how to best drive changes in industries, from companies, cities and governments.

If you enjoyed reading this article, please recommend, share and remember to leave a comment below. Thank you for reading!

Ocean Actionist. Circular Economy Consultant. Reuse and Plastic recycling SME. Entrepreneur. Speaker. Underwater Photographer. NYC.

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