Earth Challenge 2020
5 ways you can tackle plastic pollution
January 9, 2020
Plastic, plastic, plastic. The prolific use of plastic in our world is staggering — humans have created some 8.3 billion metric tons of the stuff, the equivalent 800,000 Eiffel Towers.
Plastic pollution is a problem because of its long-lasting effects — this petroleum-based, man-made material never fully degrades. According to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, one plastic bottle takes at least 450 years to break down. Recent research suggests that worldwide, only 9 percent of plastics ever made have been recycled.
With numbers like this, it can be discouraging to try to tackle the problem. We find plastics littered from rivers to streets, ingested by land animals and aquatic species alike. But small lifestyle changes, education and outreach efforts can add up to make a big difference. Here are five individual actions you can take today to cut plastic pollution.
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse
Tossing your plastic package into the recycling bin used to feel like a win, but after China and other Asian countries stopped taking our plastic waste in 2018, these packages have been piling up overseas. The bottom line: Recycling is not as straightforward as many of us once thought.
Recycling is tough, but to ensure your recyclable waste gets where it needs to go, check out our 7 common recycling mistakes and tips. Of course, refusing plastics in the first place or opting for alternative products is a surefire way to reduce your impacts.
2. Become a citizen scientist for Earth Day with Earth Challenge 2020
If you’re itching to become even more active in the fight against plastic pollution, look no further than Earth Challenge 2020, the largest ever citizen science initiative. Earth Challenge 2020 is a mobile app that empowers everyone to be a citizen scientist. Citizen scientists who use the app can enter data and answer a handful of research questions, one of which explores the extent of plastic pollution in their area.
3. Participate in The Great Global Cleanup
Another exciting opportunity to spearhead the end of plastic pollution is Earth Day Network’s campaign The Great Global Cleanup. This event aims to be “The Largest Environmental Volunteer Event in History” as a celebration of citizen science and the strength of community. There are many existing cleanup events events already in the works. If there is no cleanup already organized in your area, you can register a cleanup of your own.
4. Support policy change
While there are many lifestyle shifts and actions that each of us can take as individuals, ending plastic pollution requires a two-pronged approach. This includes innovations in technology and policy changes. The list of cities, states, businesses and entire countries that are placing bans on plastics continues to grow, providing a reason for hope.
California has become a leader in the United States, becoming the first state to ban single-use plastic bags. Canada also recently pledged to ban single use plastics completely by 2021. You can support these global efforts by signing petitions, communicating with your local representatives and supporting coalitions dedicated to stopping plastic pollution.
5. Take the pledge to End Plastic Pollution
There’s no need to sit idly by while plastic piles up. Knowledge is power, so get educated and spread the word. Take advantage of Earth Day Network’s many resources, such as the Pledge to End Plastic Pollution and plastic calculator. If you enjoy a good read, check out the Plastic Pollution Primer and toolkit.
More than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic are not just going to disappear — steer progress the way you want to see it. Between making your weekly grocery lists, volunteering in your community and spreading the word, bringing down plastic pollution is something we can all tackle together.