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Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. And we're not just talking about people dumping their garbage overboard. Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows. So the best thing we can do to protect our waterways is try to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place. The good news? There are many small ways you can have a big impact.
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or a travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes a habit.
2. Buy Reusable Water Bottles for Your Family
With over a million purchased every minute, it’s clear that water bottles contribute massively to the plastic problem. While we understand that they’re convenient for lunches, snacks, and on-the-go rushes, let your kids pick out their own reusable water bottle. We highly recommend getting them personalized/etched with their names
3. Boycott microbeads
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Support a bag tax or ban
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
5. Use Reusable Product Bags
Since around 1 million plastic bags are used every minute, you really need to start using reusable bags when shopping. Purchase large and sturdy reusable bags to help reduce plastic landfills. The best types to choose are cotton bags, as nylon and polyester are also made from plastic. You can take your bags wherever you go shopping, be it grocery or clothing shopping.
6. Buy Cardboard Over Plastic
Look for items in cardboard boxes instead of plastic bottles. This includes laundry detergent and dish soap. Pick pasta in a box instead of a plastic bag. Look for companies who source their cardboard sustainably.
7. Choose Stores that use paper
If you're an avid shopper, you'll start to notice stores which use paper over plastic. Spend your money at these types of stores and spread the word among your family and friends. The more business they have, the more other companies will start to take notice and emulate their tactics. The good news is there are an increasing number of retailers who are switching from plastic to paper and/or allowing you to use your own cotton shopping bag.
8. Buy In Bulk
Much of the world's plastic waste comes from the kitchen. One of the best ways for a plastic reduction is to stock up on bulk foods. Instead of storing them in disposable plastic containers, use shopping jars and glass containers. Even cardboard works for snacks such as sweet potato chips and nuts. Bring your containers with you when shopping so that you don't have to use the plastic bags out of convenience.