Ponder these statistics via UNESCO for a minute…
- Over 220 million tons of plastic are produced each year
- Up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste is washed into the ocean each year
- The United Nations Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
- Once discarded, plastics are weathered and eroded into very small fragments known as micro-plastics. These together with plastic pellets are already found in most beaches around the world.
- Plastic debris causes the deaths of more than a million seabirds every year, as well as more than 100,000 marine mammals.
The truth is that plastic is so pervasive that it is fairly impossible to measure the exact impact it is having on the environment. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that plastic is a serious problem that we as individuals have a direct part to play in.
Are we unwillingly contributing to Plastic Pollution?
I thought that I was doing enough and being a good environmental citizen by:
- Saying NO to plastic bags and using the enviro bags instead.
- Recycling, recycling, recycling.
- Picking up litter in public places instead of stepping over it.
- Buying sandwich bags (for school lunches) that were labelled BIODEGRADABLE.
- Oh my gosh, the list goes on….
UNTIL I watched an Australian documentary, called War On Waste. That’s when I realised that I was not doing enough because I was woefully misinformed.
HOW EXACTLY ARE WE CONTRIBUTING TO THE PLASTIC PROBLEM?
PROBLEM NUMBER 1 – unnecessary plastic wrappings for grocery items in supermarkets.
Isn’t this utter madness? Why oh why does a sweet potato with its own skin need to be wrapped and packaged in plastic? It’s just insane and it happens all the time. But you don’t necessarily notice until someone points it out to you.
What can you do about this?
The first step to changing anything is awareness. Until you’re aware of a problem or something you’re doing, you cannot change anything. So my first challenge to you is this:
I encourage you to raise your awareness by paying closer attention to what you buy in the supermarket over the next couple of weeks and notice if you’re inadvertently buying items that are unnecessarily packaged in plastic.
If you find that you are buying items with unnecessary plastic packaging, then consider how you might avoid it (or reduce) in the future (I will follow this up with practical tips in a later post!).
PROBLEM NUMBER 2 – what is actually recyclable?
Once you notice these superfluous plastic wrappings, your next step is to check if they are actually recyclable. Have you ever scrutinised the recycle symbols on the back of plastic packaging? Here are some examples below:-
I didn’t think about it too much, because I frequently glimpsed the recycling symbol on the back of most items I bought and just assumed that they were fit for recycling.
But what I wasn’t paying attention to (out of sheer ignorance) was the variety of recycling symbols, and what they actually meant.
Differentiating between the Recycling Symbol and Recycled Plastics Codes
This is the universal symbol for Recycling (aka the Mobius Loop).
When you see this symbol on a product, it means that it can be recycled.
This is the symbol that often gets confused with the Plastic Codes. Which is understandable, because they look the same!
These are the Plastic (or Resin) Codes Symbols:
The Society of the Plastic Industry introduced the Resin Identification Code (RIC) system in 1988 in order to assist workers in the Recycling Facilities to sort and separate items according to their resin type.
The symbols consist of arrows that cycle clockwise to form a triangle that encloses a number. The number broadly refers to the type of plastic used in the product:
DECIPHERING PLASTIC CODES
#1 PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) SHOULD BE RECYCLED BUT NOT REUSED
#2 HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) REUSABLE AND RECYCLABLE
#3 PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) NOT RECYLABLE & HAS SIGNIFICANT HEALTH CONCERNS
#4 LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) REUSABLE, BUT NOT ALWAYS RECYCLABLE
#5 PP (Polypropylene) GENERALLY NOT ACCEPTED FOR RECYCLING
#6 PS (Polystyrene) GENERALLY NOT ACCEPTED FOR RECYCLING & SHOULD BE AVOIDED WHEREVER POSSIBLE
#7 OTHER (BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN) GENERALLY NOT ACCEPTED FOR RECYCLING
I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here, so if you’re interested in the ins and outs of these materials and their impact on our health and environment, please REFER to EarthEasy.com for comprehensive information.
The day after I watched War On Waste I set myself a mini awareness challenge to see how much plastic I was buying (and thinking was recyclable). And the results were astounding. Over a period of two weeks, my little family of 4, had accumulated this much plastic waste.
All of which I previously thought to be recyclable, and had been happily throwing into the recycle bin! Ugh!!! Woe is me.
THIS IS A LOT TO TAKE IN AND ABSORB, So I’m going to leave IT here for now and set you the same challenge I set myself.
Over the next 7 to 14 days:
1.Take notice of the plastic packaging next time you visit the supermarket. Do your supermarket grocery aisles look like the image on the left or the right?
2.Investigate your own purchases and see how much of it is actually recyclable.
Like me, you might find that you are inadvertently buying packaging that is destined for landfill.
I hope that this post about PLASTIC has been informative and provided food for thought. Do you have anything to add? Let me know in the comments.
Bianca @lobby4love ✌️❤️
Knowledge is power
Applying knowledge is empowerment
Sharing knowledge empowers others
~ Bianca Bowers