3 July 2023
Could you live a day without plastic? A New York Times journalist tried to do this, and found it virtually impossible. We rely on plastic for so many things, and it is certainly useful (at this moment, I’m looking at plastic eyeglasses, pens, and of course, my computer keyboard!). But I feel our obsession with plastic – particularly single-use plastic – has gotten out of hand. It’s , a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution.
Switching to paper straws (and do we really need straws anyway?) is not going to solve the problem. Like our food choices, plastic choices need to be made more mindfully. Reusable water bottles may be a good start. To produce one new [single-use plastic] water bottle, one quarter bottle of oil and six bottles of water are required. They take 450-1000 years to break down in a landfill, or they may end up polluting the oceans, with less than a third getting recycled. So refilling a water bottle helps by reducing water and energy usage and keeping bottles out of the waste stream.
Even though I think about it a lot, I find it difficult to avoid single-use plastic. I’ve switched to plastic free laundry detergent (powder or sheets) and a shampoo bar, but I’m not there yet with toothpaste and dish soap. I’m learning to be creative. I figured out that I could wrap my cabbage in one of its own outer leaves, secured with a rubber band. And I tie up bags of frozen vegetables using the plastic (ugh) they came in (my former self would have just slipped them into a ziplock).
In Westchester, our garbage goes to an incinerator in Peekskill. If you don’t recycle or recycle wrong (a common occurrence with complicated rules and frequent contamination), the plastic waste that is made from fossil fuels will literally go up in flames. A few months ago, I saw at an event hosted by the . If you doubt the problem of plastic, this is a must see. You can also watch this 4-minute cartoon summary of the film:
Our New York State Legislature recently failed to even vote on the Packaging and Recycling Infrastructure Act, a bill that would have made producers of packaging responsible for the costs of consumer waste and reduce harmful chemicals used. Businesses came out sharply against this law, saying the consumer would suffer through reduced convenience and increased costs. My answer contains nuance. Sometimes you just don’t need to get that product the next day. Let’s face it, the internet is teeming with companies trying to convince us that we NEED something that we didn’t even know existed before their ad. Most of it is plastic, and all of it is delivered through the magic of plastic, whether it be the new Amazon recyclable (store drop-off only!) plastic envelope, the packing peanuts or bubble wrap and air pillows.
If we CHOOSE TO REFUSE [single-use plastic] whenever possible, change can happen through consumer demand. The law and the waste management system are not designed to help us with this, but we can still take action. Skip the produce bags, bring your own leftover containers to the restaurant, make your own salad dressing in a glass jar, do what you want. Noone can do everything but everyone can do something! Write to me and share your commitment for this Plastic Free July.