The internet has been buzzing with debate ever since Greenpeace USA issued its most recent report trashing plastic recycling. If you haven’t heard, Greenpeace now says that attempting to recycle plastic waste is a fool’s errand. They say it doesn’t work and indeed that it can’t work.
Where does that leave you? If you are concerned about plastic pollution and you can see the writing on the wall as far as recycling goes, you may be of the opinion that it’s time to get rid of plastic altogether. Fair enough. Let the change begin with you.
Seraphim Plastics is a Tennessee company that has been very successfully able to buy scrap plastic and then recycle this industrial plastic waste for years. They say that it’s possible to do the same with consumer plastics if we are all willing to change the way we do things. In the absence of such changes, here are easy ways Seraphim says you can reduce your own plastic waste:
Choose Different Containers
Start by choosing different containers for normal things you use around the house. Take that all-purpose cleaner that normally comes in a plastic jug. Get yourself a glass jar and, instead of buying more of the same cleaner, make your own with vinegar and water. There are all sorts of recipes online for making household cleaners.
Does your employer provide paper coffee cups in the break room? If so, understand that those coffee cups have a plastic lining that keeps the coffee in. Quit using them. Instead, bring in a ceramic or metal mug from home.
Buy Fresh Produce
You can go to any supermarket and find prepared salads and herbs in plastic bags. Don’t buy them. Instead, buy fresh produce and prepare your salads and herbs at home. Also note that you are not required to use those produce bags at the grocery store. You can keep your produce loose. If that bothers you, bring a paper or canvas tote with you when you go shopping.
Buy in Bulk Whenever Possible
Your typical grocery store also has a section where you can buy certain things in bulk. Everything from dried fruit to nuts to pet food is made available in large bins with scoops attached. You may have to use a plastic bag here but buying in bulk means using fewer bags in the long run. If you can bring your own containers from home, that’s all the better.
Buying in bulk reduces the need for single-use containers across the board. So even if the best you can do is join one of those wholesale clubs that sell gargantuan boxes of cereal and huge rolls of toilet paper, you’re still reducing plastic waste by shopping with them.
Reuse for as Long as Possible
Most of the perceived problem relating to plastic waste involves single-use packaging. Whether it’s food packaging or packaging for consumer goods, reuse whatever you can for as long as possible.
Here’s an example: your grocery store probably sells bulk meat in large, plastic trays. Rather than throwing those trays away, find a way to reuse them. A plastic food tray makes a great receptacle for all those loose DVDs you’ve got sitting on top of the entertainment center. Using it for that purpose means you’re not throwing it in the trash.
It’s clear that recycling consumer plastics is never going to work if we don’t implement systemic changes to how we produce and use plastic. So if the only other alternative is to stop producing plastic altogether, the implementation starts with each one of us. We all need to stop contributing to the plastic waste stream.