Every day, approximately eight million pieces of plastic find their way into the oceans. Nearly three-quarters of all litter on beaches is plastic. And this volume of plastic pollution leaves an impact—plastic kills more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.
Here are some staggering facts about the current state of our plastic pollution crisis:
- A plastic bag is used for a total average time of 12 minutes. It then takes up to 1,000 years to decompose.
- Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide. That’s equivalent to the weight of roughly a billion elephants or 47 million blue whales. And only nine percent of it has been recycled.
- There are five trillion pieces of plastic in our oceans—enough to circle the earth over 400 times.
While the problem seems large beyond measure, every small action by even just a single person has an impact. Consider these plastic-free alternatives in your personal journey to contribute to a happier, healthier planet.
Carry a reusable bag
This is Plastic-Free-Living 101. Make sure you keep a spare cloth bag in the back of your car, bottom of your backpack or purse, or just generally around so you can grab it before heading out to do your shopping. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. You can do your small part in dropping that number.
Use plastic-free containers
Glass or metal jars can be used to store grains, nuts, flour and other foods, as well as laundry detergent, dish soap and lotions. Always make sure to have a reusable water bottle on hand as well—one million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.
Keep plastic-free items in your backpack
Try packing a bamboo cutlery set, paper straw and your own water bottle to eliminate the need for most single-use plastics while on the go. Restaurants and vendors all over the world are getting much more used to people bringing their own containers.
Buy in bulk
To avoid plastic food packaging, try shopping in the bulk aisle at the market and bringing your own glass containers. Weigh the jar beforehand to avoid being overcharged.
Buy used items
Some plastic is unavoidable, especially in modern appliances. For things like a vacuum cleaner, try looking around for a second-hand one either online or at a local thrift shop. If you’re not buying new, you’re also avoiding all the packaging.
Recycle “good” plastics
Whenever you can, recycle your plastics. Recyclable plastic includes clear plastic bottles, bottles for shampoos, yogurt containers, toys and reusable food containers. Things like disposable cutlery, cling wrap and coffee cups and lids likely won’t be able to be recycled, so try to find non-plastic alternatives for these.
Wear natural fibers
Synthetic fibers from clothing are an enormous plastic pollution problem, because they are a key contributor to microplastic pollution. When possible, choose clothing made of cotton, wool, hemp and silk. Or consider buying your clothes second hand.
Make your own
As so many products are packaged in plastic, it can feel unavoidable. For certain things, you can try making your own at home. For example, try a DIY toothpaste made out of baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils.
See also: Five Books About Climate Change You Need to Read Now