Is single use plastic really as bad as everyone makes out?
I think so but in case you aren’t convinced, I have done a little research on the impact that single-use has on the environment both here in South Africa and globally.
What is single-use plastic
Single-use plastics are generally made from fossil fuel-based chemicals and have been designed to be disposed of directly after use. This includes largely packaging, bottles, straws and bags.
Common single-use plastic in our every day life includes;
- wrapping around products,
- water bottles,
- soda bottles,
- take away coffee lids,
Why is single-use plastic bad?
Single-use plastic is an example of how we prioritise convenience over quality goods and defines the throwaway culture we find ourselves immersed in. One of the reasons these single-use plastics are a problem is because we are amassing waste at an alarming rate.
300 million tons of plastic is produced worldwide every year. A half of this waste is made up of single-use plastics. That is an enormous amount of waste that has to go somewhere!
Even if we have enough space for this waste to go, ti does not ever really break down. They do eventually (over a long period of time) break up into smaller microplastics that end up in our water supply, eaten by both us and our wildlife.
So basically what is happening is that landfills are becoming bigger and bigger as we consume more and more.
10 Facts About Single-Use Plastic Bags
- Roughly 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 1950’s with only 9% having been recycled and 12% burned. The remaining 79% is sitting in landfills or the environment.
- Around 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste entered the global oceans in 2010.
- Over 90% of plastics produced have not been recycled.
- According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, South Africans use between 30kg and 50kg of plastic per person per year.
- More than 500 million straws are used daily in the United States.
- In 2015, National Geographic reported that plastic trash was found in the guts of 90% of seabirds, and this is expected to increase to 99% by 2050.
- A recent study found that when plastic is exposed to sunlight, it releases greenhouse gases (methane and ethylene). This means that plastic contributes to climate change in its production and in its degradation.
- Tens of billions of bags of chips are sold annually by large corporations.
- Studies that have been done estimate that in the oceans today there are anywhere between five and fifty trillion plastic particles.
- In South Africa we use around 8 billion plastic bags every year!
How can we reduce plastic waste?
Well, the answer is super simple – stop buying single-use products. I know realistically that is near impossible, especially in South Africa during a pandemic where everything needs to be wrapped and sanitized and protected!
But there are a few things you can do.
- Take your own cup when you get take out coffee.
- Ditch the straw. Seriously just say NO but if you are like my kids and need a straw – use a reusable one.
- Choice glass. Instead of buying condiments in plastic, rather look for glass options.
- You do not need plastic bags!
- Invest in a glass or stainless steel bottles.
- Reduce and reuse!
How are you trying to become more sustainable?