Our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 if we don't reduce our consumption of single use plastics. Here are 10 everyday plastics we can stop using now.
A 2016 Ellen MacArthur Foundation study predicted oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050 if no actions are taken to reduce the flow of plastics into waterways.
Did you know that after a single use, 95% of plastic ends up in landfills, as roadside litter, or in the ocean? And most of what ends up in the water is not even visible.
The majority breaks down into tiny pieces called microplastics that end up in the digestive systems of sea animals—often leading to sickness or death. And those pieces of plastics that haven't yet broken down often end up entangling or killing wildlife.
But its not just in our oceans and landfill. Plastic is everywhere. It’s made its way into our drinking water, our soil —contaminating agricultural land—and our air. Toxins and chemical in plastic litter are absorbed by marine animals and bio-accumulate through the food chain, affecting the overall ecosystem, including humans.
The main culprit of all that plastic soup is single use plastic and packaging. Every second, 15,000 plastic bottles are sold worldwide. That is 1,000,000 per minute and 480 billion a year! Only 7% of these single-use plastic bottles are recycled, despite the fact that the material used (PET) is one of the easier to recycle.
There is no away in ‘throw away’. Your plastic trash always ends up somewhere.
Replace single-use plastics with these reusable or compostable options, and help keep plastic out of our oceans.
Plastic Shopping Bags
Just producing plastic uses huge resources – it takes around 12m barrels of oil to make the 100 billion plastic bags used annually in the United States alone. A plastic bag has an average working life of 15 minutes and is then tossed away where it will languish in landfills or the ocean for around 20 years. Say no to plastic bags at the supermarket, and get yourself a reusable fabric bag instead. We love these ones.
Plastic coffee cups
You might think single use coffee cups are fine. Afterall, they’re made of paper or carboard, right? Wrong! Coffee cups are lined with plastic, making them unrecyclable, uncompostable and full of chemicals. Furthermore, around 7 million coffee cups are thrown away in the UK alone every day, ending up in—you guessed it— landfill and our oceans. Check out these chic reusable coffee cups instead.
Really, straws are pretty unnecessary if you’re able bodied. Your lips will do. The average American uses 1.6 straws per day, adding up to a daily total consumption of up to 500 million straws a day. And that’s just the US. Imagine how many are being used the world over everyday! Next time bring your own reusable or compostable straw.
Plastic water and soft-drink bottles are a no-no. Not only do they end up on our oceans, but plastic water bottles also leach chemicals into our water. There are tonnes of cool reusable bottle designs to choose from.
Cling Wrap + Food Containers
Sadly almost all food we buy, especially processed food, is packaged in plastic. Whether its take away containers, fast food, meal delivery, or supermarkets (Hong Kong supermarkets are even guilty of wrapping thick skinned fruit and vegetables in plastic), plastic food packaging is pervasive.
Try and avoid plastic packaging whenever possible. Buy from local markets and bring your own bags. If you have a zero waste shop in your area, bring refillable containers to stock up on your dry food. Consider buying take out less often and cooking at home when you can. When storing food, opt for compostable cling wrap made from biopolymers, beeswax or plant-based wraps, reusable silicone food pouches, or use foil which is recyclable. Reuse your old takeaway containers. Or try the ol' tea towel and rubber band trick. If it worked for your grandma, it'll work for you.
Wrappa x Sea Shepard, Plant Based Vegan Wrap, HK$205 ; Stasher, Reusable Food Pouches, from HK$99 ; Ever Eco, Stainless Steel Stackable Bento Box, 3pc, HK$235 ; Ever Eco, Reusable Silicone Food Covers, 6pc, HK$147 ; Compostic, Compostable Cling Wrap, HK$58
Worldwide we throw away around 5 billion toothbrushes a year ending up in our rivers and oceans harming marine life. Turtles and other sea creatures are greatly impacted by plastic in the ocean as it looks like their food. These toothbrushes can be put in the composter. The bristles are nylon and are not biodegradable or compostable, but they can be recycled (check with your local waste collection). Pull out the bristles, or cut off the head, and pop the handle in the composter.
Green + Kind, Bamboo Toothbrush, HK$23 each
Doggy poop bags are a menace. In our area in Hong Kong, the country park is littered with plastic doggy poop bags from lazy pet owners who don’t bother throwing the waste into a bin. And there — or in landfill—they’ll sit for decades. There’s an estimated 900 million dogs in the world, and 89.7 million pet dogs in the US alone. That’s a lot of plastic poop bags! But, trying to reduce your consumption of plastic isn’t an excuse for not cleaning up after your fur friend. Try paper dog poop scoop bags or compostable bags.
BioBag, Compostable Dog Waste Bags, (50 Pack), HK$35
Shampoo, Soap + Earbuds
Make the switch from liquid soap and shampoo in plastic bottles to plastic-free shampoo and soap bars. Or recycle and reuse your plastic bottles by refilling them with soap and shampoo at your local zero waste shop. As for the earbuds, swap plastic cotton buds for biodegradable ones.
Household Cleaning Products
Do a household plastic audit— cleaning sprays, dishwashing liquid, laundry liquid, toilet cleaner, sponges etc—and see what can be swapped out for a more sustainable alternative. Switch to refillables or make your own cleaning products (with way less harmful chemicals), and consider using biodegradable dish cloths and natural dish brushes and scrubbers instead of plastic ones.
They're necessary in the fight against the spread of Covid-19, but disposable face masks are causing a plastic waste environmental hazard, ending up in oceans, in the wilderness, and entangled around wildlife. Studies estimate that we use an astounding 129 billion face masks globally every month —that's 3 million a minute! Most of them are disposable face masks made from plastic microfibres. Make a statement with these reusable masks.
Wedel Art Collective, Printed Cotton Masks, 6pc, HK$1,583 ; Marine Serre, Crescent Moon Print Recycled Fibre Face Mask, HK$1,110 ; Marine Serre, Black Recycled Fibre Face Mask, HK$1,110