Single-use plastics, also known as disposable plastics, are those that are used once before recycling or throwing them away, according to the U.N. Environment 2018 report. Examples of single-use plastics are plastic cups, plastic straws. plastic bottles and caps, plastic bags, coffee stirrers, food packaging, wrappers, and take out packaging, plastic spoons, forks, and knives
Basically, they are just everywhere and many of us use them almost every day. In this generation’s widespread consumption of single-use plastics, can we really live without them?
A lot of the items we have now were introduced for some reasons. Disposable plastic utensils became popular in the U.S. in the 1960s. To cut on labor, save energy in cleaning, and reduce the spread of diseases, these plastics were used at home and restaurants. Plastic bags were presented in the late 1970s and early 1980s because of so many trees that were being cut down to produce paper bags. Since then, making disposable plastics has become more efficient and popular to use.
According to This Is Plastics many plastic items designed to be used only once, can deliver convenience, cost savings, and public health support. Single-use plastics are in the fight against food waste as they keep food and drinks fresh for longer periods, thus lowering possible food contamination. Its reliability, safety, and cost-effectiveness made the material a choice for many people in different sectors.
Around the world, many consumers and businesses benefit from different single-use plastic items. The advantages of convenience, cost, and energy efficiency that these items provide are recognized.
The Bigger Environmental and Health Implications
There may be benefits in using single-use plastics, but they are all but superficial. The cons of it lie heavily, more than just they’re easy to break. Microplastics are what makes the plastic problem more difficult to solve.
Challenges can come to disposing of single-use product items. Many can’t be reused, so because of that, they can’t be recycled. This leads to people throwing them in the trash, adding more landfill waste. Worse, others don’t even dispose of them properly, which mean surroundings full of mess that can harm nature and wildlife.
According to the reports by the U.N. Environment, only nine percent of nine billion tons of world’s plastic are recycled. It can take thousands of years for disposable plastics and Styrofoam to decompose. Most of them end up and gets buried in landfills, then moves to waterways, find their way into the oceans, and the environment. They don’t biodegrade; they gradually break down into tiny pieces called microplastics. They can then make their way into the soil and water, affecting us through our animal food sources and water supply.
These plastic toxins, when ingested and goes into our bloodstream, can damage our nervous system, reproductive, endocrine, and respiratory organs. They can then cause impaired immunity, birth defects, cancer, infertility, and other related illnesses. If single-use plastics continue, it will truly be a nightmare for the human race.
Producing hundred million tons of plastic annually, more than what people need does not help in having a sustainable environment and health.
The debate regarding the use and effect of using plastics is never-ending. The environmentalist and health enthusiasts clearly state their platforms against the companies producing plastics.
Discussions on banning plastics highly revolve on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, straws, cups, spoons, forks, and many more. Many people wanted to ban their production and use, though there are still a couple who support it. Moreover, many of us still use single-use plastic products. The arguments for banning them are due to a huge amount of plastic littering the ocean and producing far too much of these items.
Others argue that the real issue is not plastic, but the way they are being utilized and discarded. The serious here, though, is the deteriorating health of the Earth. It demands grave actions, not trivial arguments and temporary band-aids.
One of the group advocates in stopping the use of single-use plastics, Plastic Free Challenge said that we produce around 300 million tons of plastics every year, only half is disposable. Worldwide, only roughly 10-13% of plastic products are being recycled.
The good news is there are companies who are making and will make changes in the consumption of single-use plastics. See, a growing number of people are keen on reducing them. In the U.K. and Ireland, businesses like Hyatt Hotels, Starbucks, and McDonald's plan a plastic straw-free campaign by 2020 which will save a billion straws yearly. Places such as Taiwan, U.K., Vancouver, Montreal, Seattle, and San Francisco are even joining the plastic-free movement. Reduction in plastic cups and straws, swabs, microbeads, and plastic bags will be noticeable if that happens. The plastic-free movement in Hong Kong and Ireland is working. They have put on huge charges for plastic bags leading to high drops in plastic bags usage.
We need to step up and take responsibility, from corporates down to consumers, when using and disposing of, or better yet not using, these plastic materials.
Break The Habit and Healthier Alternatives
The truth of the matter is, there are so many ways but it’s not that all difficult to break the habit of using single-use plastics. We just need to know how to break them in order to help change the global plastic trash disaster that our planet is facing. Here are some ways and ideas so you can get started.
- Bring reusable shopping bags, eco-bags, or paper bags – use these instead of plastic bags
- Buy items in bulk to minimize plastic packaging
- Avoid establishments that don’t offer non-plastic options.
- Bring your own coffee mugs or tumblers when you go to a coffee shop – ask them to pour coffee in there
- Make a switch to reusable sandwich bags
- Give support to groups helping to reduce our dependence on single-use plastics or those who ban the use of plastics
- Remember to recycle as much as you can — support establishments with the same advocacy
- Have your own takeout containers – and support establishments using recyclable takeout choices such as paper containers
- Never ask for plastic spoon, fork, knife on your food takeout – bring your own silverware, wooden, or bamboo cutlery
- Know what’s not recyclable in your area
- Get a reusable water bottle – Glass Bottles are perfect
- Say NO to plastic straws – go for Stainless Steel Straws instead
- Choose Stainless Steel Cups indoors and even when going outdoors
- Reflect on your choices – stand firm on your advocacy in helping to reduce single-use plastics
- Don’t hesitate to share your advocacy to others in an informative but friendly manner – some may even be interested and follow the campaign in avoiding the use of single-use plastics