“Plastic pollution is everywhere, including all of the places you least expect it — from the bottom of the deep ocean to the pristine environment of Antarctica,” says Justine Barrett, a post-grad student studying for a Masters in Antarctic and Marine Science.

The problem is not the material, but its misuse and abuse. In the way we use single use plastics for our every day lives (50% of discarded plastics are containers that often turn into trash after minutes of use. (Jambeck, 2018).  

In January 2019, I travelled through the natural reservations and local communities in the state of Quintana Roo and Yucatán, Mexico. While driving along the coast of El Cuyo, a small fishing port in Yucatán, with approximately 1750 inhabitants and few foreign tourism, you can find a beach with clear turquoise water, a deck, and little to no hotels in town or along the coast (as it is common along the beaches of Mexico such as Cancún, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen). 


Walking along the beach I realized how little this beach has been visited or even valued. And I mean valued because not only the area was incredibly beautiful, and alone (me and my friend were the only people walking along the beach), but also because of all the garbage (specially plastic) that we woound along the beach. What shocked me the most was the contrast between a beach that was so pure and clean that you could still find whole seashells in every step you took, and also, plastic containers in every meter along the beach. With only one trash can in the whole beach and a few street dogs looking for food along the beach. 


Imagining that in a beach so pure and undiscovered by the world, where locals don’t have a culture to throw away trash where it belongs, in the trash can, and where they don’t have the consciousness of cleaning their own beach was tough to grasp. 


Doing some research on the subject of plastic pollution, I found that; "90% of marine pollution is due to plastics that escape the recycling system or sanitary landfill. The contamination of plastics is damaging our planet and us. For instance, toxic chemicals are contaminating our food chain through plastics in the oceans". (UNEP, 2014)

Our inability to manage plastics has resulted in millions of tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year. An estimated 700 species are threatened due to this pollution. Once in the ocean, plastic slowly breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics that are consumed by plankton, fish, birds, whales and eventually people. All for the sake of convenience and profit. With all that said, the production of the material is still set to quadruple by the year 2050.

If we continue purchasing plastic-intensive packaging, one-use water bottles, straws, coffee cups, food containers and other such items, the demand for them will also continue. Simply reducing the use of these items will lead to higher demand for alternatives, while easing the current pressures placed on our recycling systems. The World Economic Forum’s succinctly states:


‘We must enhance system effectiveness to achieve better economic and environmental outcomes while continuing to reap the many benefits of plastic packaging.” 

(The World Economic Forum, 2016)

The importance, therefore, of using environmentally friendly alternatives such as reusable water bottles, reusable coffee cups, or other plastic-free items cannot be overstated. Moving away from this throwaway culture will lower the demand for single-use plastic items or plastic intensive items that can put pressure on the system and lead to a much-needed industry change where more viable biodegradable alternatives can be produced and used.

Tips to Use Less Plastic

Check out these easy ways you can start reducing your waste in your every day life! 

Did you know that of the 30 million tons of plastic waste generated in the US in 2009, only 7 percent was recovered for recycling? Here are 17 ways to reduce your plastic waste:

  1.  Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw

  2. Use a reusable produce bag. A single plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. Purchase or make your own reusable produce bag and be sure to wash them often! 

  3. Give up gum. Gum is made of a synthetic rubber, aka plastic. 

  4. Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.

  5. Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging. 

  6. Reuse containers for storing leftovers or shopping in bulk.

  7. Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop

  8. Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam. 

  9. Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter. 

  10. Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you'll be eating fewer processed foods! 

  11. Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.

  12. Ask your local grocer to take your plastic containers (for berries, tomatoes, etc.) back. If you shop at a farmers market they can refill it for you.

  13. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year. Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby's carbon footprint and save money. 

  14. Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It's healthier and better for the environment.

  15. Make your own cleaning products that will be less toxic and eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.

  16. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and bags. Also, opt for fresh fruits and veggies and bulk items instead of products that come in single serving cups.

  17. Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor

“Never before, have we had such awareness about what we are doing to the planet, and never before, have we had the power to do something about that.” – Sir David Attenborough





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