Have you ever wondered what happens once you throw plastic away? Single-use or “disposable” plastics (individual snack wrappers, frozen dinner boxes, water bottles, drinking straws, plastic bags, etc.) were created for convenience, to be used only once and then discarded. Plastic waste can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaching harmful chemicals into our soil and waterways in the process. Humans have created 9.2 billion tons of plastic, over half of which has never made it to a recycling bin. Even plastics that are put in the curbside bin for recycling don’t always escape the landfill. In January of 2018, China (who formerly handled up to half of America’s recycling) banned imports of paper and plastic recycling with more than 1% contamination rate.
As plastics pile up in landfills and oceans, they pose serious health risks to humans and animals, and threaten the existence of hundreds of species. A recent article from phys.org showed that Sri Lankan elephants have been found to consume plastic as they scavenge trash piles looking for food—an under-examined consequence of the human-elephant conflict.
“Beat Plastic Pollution,” the theme for World Environment Day 2018 (June 5), is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. The theme invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health. WorldEnvironmentDay.global
The Sanctuary is joining in this cause by encouraging our supporters to reduce their dependency on single-use plastics. How can this be done? Say ‘No’ to the big four:
- drinking straws
- takeaway coffee cups
- plastic water bottles
- plastic shopping bags
We encourage you to take National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic? pledge, part of a multi-year initiative to reduce single-use plastics and their impact on the world’s wildlife.
- Looking for more ways to reduce your personal plastic consumption? Here are some additional ideas:
- Purchase food and beverages in bulk and use reusable glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers whenever possible
- Buy food packaged in paper, cardboard or glass
- Buy fresh produce rather than frozen
- Package leftovers in ceramic or glass containers rather than ziplock bags or plastic Tupperware
- Carry a glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle
- Avoid Styrofoam takeout containers — bring your own reusable containers to put your leftover in
- Use reusable cloth or canvas grocery and produce bags at the store
- Use reusable dishes, cups, and silverware for picnics and parties
- Compost as much of your waste as possible to reduce the use of plastic trash bags