By Rebecca Ruger
By some estimates, more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year. Sadly, almost 8 million tons of that same plastic wind up in our oceans annually—more than enough to cover every foot of coastline in the entire world! Scarier still, it’s estimated that by 2050 the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh the amount of fish (by weight, projected by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation). If you haven’t started to cut back on your own personal use of plastic, now is the time! These four plastics are the biggest offenders on our beaches, but luckily all are so simple to replace!
Plastic Water Bottles
Americans alone use about 50 billion plastic water bottles every year; and, while they are intended to be recycled, only 1 in 5 actually are. Also, though recycling is good—when we do it—it’s even better to reduce. Buy and commit to a reusable water bottle. It’s less expensive in the long run when used with tap or home-filtered water and a lot easier to add fresh lemon, cucumbers, or ginger to spice up your healthy water habit.
Plastic Grocery Bags
They have an average life span of about 12 minutes, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, yet are responsible for the deaths of 100,000 marine animals every year. Target stores alone give out enough annually to wrap around the earth seven times. Reusable mesh, canvas, jute, cotton, and even paper bags are sturdier, friendlier, and always prettier—and turtles won’t mistake them for jellyfish.
Plastic Drinking Straws
They’re in the Top 10 of plastics requiring clean up on the beach. Too little to bother recycling? Or, too little to be a nuisance in the ocean? Unfortunately, people often assume the latter to be true and so adopt the former as policy. Research of straw manufacturers in the US gives an estimate of 500 million straws used a year (via ecocycle.org). Request no straw with your drink order, or use long-lasting stainless steel straws instead.
Disposable Coffe Cups
Don’t be misled by the paper cup-- it’s usually lined with a plastic coating which will kill so much of our ocean before the cup itself ever dies. And disposable cups, whether paper, plastic coated, or foam cups are not recyclable in truth (or require a special recycling plant, of which there are too few to handle the $20 billion a year US coffee industry). Make the fishies smile—get yourself a reusable, eco-friendly coffee cup or travel mug.