Plastic packaging is just pollution waiting to happen
December 18, 2020
Supermarkets today are plastic crazed — it is a cheap, cost-effective way to showcase food. No matter where you are or which store you shop at, it’s almost impossible to avoid single-use plastics. Even the most waste-conscious consumers have trouble going plastic free. Groceries stores that provide essential food can also set a bold example and reduce harmful plastic waste by eliminating single-use plastic packaging from their stores.
While some supermarkets have taken steps to reduce plastics in the store, they are still far from enough to put a dent in reducing the plastic pollution we produce. According to a study from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, less than 14 percent of the 86 million tons of plastics produced annually are actually recycled. Therefore, we are leaving 73.96 million tons of plastics to pollute our environment and overflow our landfills each year.
As difficult as going plastic free at the grocery store may seem, EARTHDAY.ORG has a few tips that may help on your next trip to your local market.
First, bring your own reusable bags! This step is simple yet overlooked. Grocery bags have extremely short utility periods. One reusable bag can reduce your plastic footprint by a significant amount. (Disclaimer: A majority of stores are discouraging shoppers from using reusable bags at the moment due to Covid. In the meantime opt for no bags in the store and simply bag your goods once you get to your car with your reusable bags!)
Second, avoid single-use plastic items, and if possible buy products in glass or paper. Glass products are easily reused and paper is a much friendlier product to the environment.
Finally, get to know the brands you purchase from. Some companies make conscious efforts to reduce their plastic use, while others continue to value profit over our global environment. Although single-use plastics make up many consumer products (and roughly half of our global annual plastic production), many are thrown away after just a few minutes of use.
In addition to these individual practices, change from the top down is necessary as well, meaning that global leaders cannot leave the burden of plastic pollution for citizens to solve on their own. A prime example of this is France, who according to the United Nations Environment Programme, banned single-use cups and plates in January 2020. You can help push changes forward in your communities by supporting similar bills and reaching out to your local representatives to share your concerns about plastic pollution.
Plastic is overwhelming our current waste management systems and has found its way into virtually every ecosystem on our planet. Of the 380 million of tons of plastic pollution created per year, the second most common source comes from food packaging, with cigarette butts being the most common. As consumers it is our responsibility to limit plastic where we can and collectively push for reductions in single-use plastics and the waste they produce.
EARTHDAY.ORG is committed to changing the roles that plastic plays in our society. Take the pledge to End Plastic Pollution and watch our webinar, Breaking Free From Plastic Dependence, to learn about how our overuse of plastic is affecting our global environment. Plastic pollution is at a crisis level and we need to make change now.