It can often be difficult to admit, especially when you have already seen its negative effects, but plastic has, unfortunately, become a big part of our lives throughout the years.
From packaging, cutlery, bottles, and many other basic items, plastic can be found everywhere (even your friends). This is because in the past years, plenty of manufacturers found that producing plastic is much cheaper than the more sustainable, eco-friendly options.
As a result, many of us have been using all kinds of plastic items our whole lives. However, no matter what the convenience plastic items may have seemingly brought into our lives, with almost everything becoming disposable at this point (just like modern-day relationships), they are actually killing this planet.
According to a study, about eight million metric tons of plastic were recorded to have ended up in the ocean back in 2010. Sadly, the number has continuously increased throughout the years. Plastic pollution in the ocean has become worse.
A plastic bottle takes about 450 years to break down completely, according to THIS INFOGRAPHIC. This simply means that the components of even just a single ordinary plastic bottle that is thrown into the ocean at this very moment, if never retrieved, could continue to pollute the ocean for many, many years to come.
When plastic does break down in the earth’s waters, it turns into smaller pieces, that even when found, will no longer be recyclable. As time goes by, these smaller pieces get broken down even more, and eventually turn into microplastics, which end up being ingested by fish, shellfish, and other sea creatures.
And do you know where these often end up? Inside our stomachs! Think about all the seafood you have eaten and all the microplastics that those animals might have ingested throughout their time in the ocean.
So, if you care about the ocean, and especially the Earth, which is the only planet that we can live on (for now), read on.
I recently came across an infographic that inspired me to write this lengthy article (yes, brace yourselves) in order to spread the message about a cause that is close to my heart- saving the ocean by reducing plastic waste.
Now, I’m not saying that I am religiously following these practices because honestly, even though they might sound so easy, it can be challenging because of several factors, including my own forgetfulness. Sometimes, I forget to bring my metal straw, forget to tell restaurant staff to not include plastic straw with my order, and even sometimes forget bringing my own cutlery when I’m rushing to leave for work at 4:20 freaking A.M.
But anyway, what matters is that we start taking the steps to making good changes in our lives, as soon as possible. By writing this article, it will remind me of the stuff that I need to do every day to stick to my cause. And hopefully, I can inspire you to reduce your usage of plastic as well, or better, to live a plastic-free life. (We can do this, guys!)
Okay, so, let’s discuss the eco-friendly practices shown in the infographic above…
Bring your own reusable shopping bag
A plastic grocery bag can take up to 10 to 20 years before it completely decomposes. And no, burning plastic bags to get rid of them does not help either. This will only do more damage. When you burn plastic, it emits dangerous quantities of highly toxic chemicals that may cause cancer, asthma, allergies, and many other health problems in humans.
Supermarkets here in the Philippines offer eco-bags for usually around 40 to 50 Pesos. I’ve started buying my own eco-bags from different grocery stores and I look at it as an investment. I have not completed all the bags from all the grocery stores that I go to yet, but I promise that I soon will! 😀
Here in Cebu, Mandaue City has banned the use of plastic bags in all of the establishments within the city. Although there are people who still complain about this (because complaining is what people looooove to do), its long-term effect will be beneficial to our environment and to us, humans, as well.
Considering that the Philippines is one of the world’s biggest contributors of plastic pollution, these efforts are signs of good progress!
Say NO to plastic straws
Millions of plastic straws are being disposed every day. Although straws are being used only for a few minutes, these can last for years. And unfortunately, plastic straws aren’t often recycled, so they end up in landfills, and worse, in the ocean, harming marine life.
Have you seen the video of a turtle that had a straw stuck up in its nostril?
This was one of the most painful things that I’ve had to watch and it really opened my eyes to the dangers of plastic pollution.
So, let’s make an effort to stop things like this from happening. Say NO to plastic straws. If you don’t need it, refuse it. Better yet, bring your own reusable straws everywhere!
I got mine from a friend, but you can get yours from various online stores, just like @gozeroph or @paralumanph on Instagram. Reusable straws come with cleaning brushes too!
Bring your own reusable cutlery, water bottle, and food containers
I admit, I have long been guilty of buying bottled water, especially when I’m on the go and I suddenly feel thirsty. Well, aren’t we all? However, it’s not too late to change habits like this.
Ever since I’ve started reading up on plastic pollution, a wave of guilt comes through me every single time I purchase plastic bottled water. So, when I recently went back to being a corporate slave, I have always made sure to never forget bringing my own tumblers to work- one for my coffee and one for my water. I also bring my own food containers for my viand. However, I still have to buy rice, and unfortunately, it is usually packed in plastic. I don’t have time to cook rice at home at 3 AM. I have yet to find a way around this!
Anyway, just recently, somebody saw me washing a plastic spoon in the office pantry. In my defense, I had to use plastic cutlery because I forgot to bring my own, and the food item could not be eaten with bare hands. That person said, “Why are you washing that? That’s disposable.”
Yep, it’s disposable alright, but that doesn’t mean it disappears the moment you put it in the trash bin. Just look at this video.
Isn’t it devastating? So, whatever I can recycle, I will recycle. Everything we throw away, especially plastics, will come back to haunt us one way or another… just like all those embarrassing drunk texts you’ve sent to your ex.
Use reusable produce bags
If you buy your produce from the market, ditch the plastic bags and go for reusable produce bags instead. When you think about it, that’s what people used to do in the old times!
The best thing about this is that you don’t even need to buy one because it’s so easy to make your own! Check out this DIY tutorial from WellnessMama.
I haven’t made one for myself yet, but I’m planning to include this in my 2018 projects. I mean, I was able to make a tote bag for my dog without following any pattern, so this wouldn’t be too hard! 😉
Moreover, there are other things that I would like to add as well, such as…
Supporting organizations that aim to alleviate the world’s plastic pollution problems
One of the organizations I know and love is 4Ocean. They frequently hold coastline clean-ups in many places around the world. However, if you cannot participate in the activity, there is still something that you can do to help!
By purchasing a 4Ocean bracelet, you will fund the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean. As of writing, the organization has pulled more than 250,000 pounds of trash from the ocean!
If you can join beach clean-up drives, that would be even better! If you’re living in Bohol, Philippines, please check out Plastic Free Bohol on Instagram / Facebook to know how you can participate in their 4Ocean clean-ups.
Another organization that has caught my attention recently is The Plastic Solution. What they do is re-purpose used plastic bottles by stuffing these with different kinds of plastic wastes, including straws, food wrappers, and sachets. They also recycle plastic cutlery and containers by cutting these into small pieces so that they can fit inside the bottles. Once the bottles are filled, these will be used as alternative fillers for the construction of walls and fences for houses, classrooms, and many more. Isn’t this such a great innovation?
Their Facebook page has all the details on how you can make your own eco-bricks and if you’re interested in making eco-brick donations, you can find their drop-off points here.
I wish there will be one here in Cebu as well in the future. 🙂
There is one in Cebu after all! Check out Ecobricks Cebu on Facebook and join their workshops, where you can learn all about how to make your ecobricks properly and all the creative things you can build with them.
I’ve started making my own ecobricks too, but instead of donating them, I am going to build something out of these recycled plastic bottles by the end of the year. You can do that too! 🙂
Making every dive a clean-up dive
Last but not the least, if you are into snorkeling, scubadiving, or freediving, make every trip an opportunity to do this planet a favor by retrieving pieces of trash from the ocean. It may not be a permanent solution to plastic pollution, but at least you can spare the marine life from being harmed by plastic waste for a certain amount of time.
Remember, it’s better to try than do nothing at all. And if you retrieve something that can still be recycled, find some use for it.
I hope I was able to inspire you all to start truly caring about our oceans. The simple practice of reducing your use of plastic can create a big impact, especially when you encourage others to do it as well.
Don’t think that what you do will not matter because you are only one person. Remember, even the smallest of efforts can make an impact. When these efforts are done collectively, then maybe, just maybe, we will have the chance of saving our oceans. About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water. The oceans are the lifeblood of our planet.
A seemingly innocent act of using a single plastic item can lead to a planet becoming uninhabitable for animals and humans alike. Start thinking about the choices you make.
Just a girl in her late twenties trying to find her way through life. She loves to write, eat, take photos, and freedive. She used to travel a lot and hopes she could do that again when this global pandemic is over.