I sometimes have to laugh when I hear it said that the U.S. is such a progressive, forward-thinking nation, for others are far ahead of the U.S. in many ways.  One of those ways is plastics, or more specifically, the elimination of single-use plastics.  Take New Zealand, for example, the country that has committed to banning a swathe of single-use plastics, including cotton buds, bags, cutlery, plates and bowls, straws and fruit labels.

From an article in The Guardian

New Zealand had already banned most single-use plastic bags in 2019, but the changes will include packaging for produce, as well as a range of other items. These steps follow similar bans overseas: outlawing plastic bags is now common around the world, and the UK introduced a ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in 2020. The EU has voted for a similar ban to be introduced this year. In some countries, Covid-19 has stalled progress on plastics – a number of US states rolled back their bans on plastic bags and halted new legislation to limit plastic products as the pandemic reached its height. Environmental groups have also reported enormous quantities of “Covid waste” – including plastic gloves, hand sanitiser bottles and surgical masks – are clogging oceans.

The U.S. lags far behind.  Even though I take my own re-usable canvas bags to the grocery store, and mesh produce bags so that I do not have to use the store’s plastic bags, I am amazed by the amount of plastic I am still bringing home each week from the grocery.  Produce and meat that are pre-wrapped in plastic are the worst culprits. Laundry detergent, dish detergent and almost all cleaning products are packaged in plastic.  And why can’t the producers of bottled water find another material from which to make their bottles?  I would gladly pay a bit more to know that the bottle is re-cyclable.

Did you know that the average person in the U.S. throws away 231 pounds of plastic per year???  The UK isn’t far behind, at 218 pounds of plastic waste per person per annum.  According to a study published in Science Advances …

… 300 million tons of plastic trash are produced annually, of which at least 8.8 million tons end up in the ocean.  What’s that you say?  Recycling?  HAH!  It doesn’t work much for plastics and only about 9% of plastic can be recycled.  Why?  Mainly because it is an expensive operation and has very little payback.  In other words, profit over life once again.  Oh, and remember that plastics are made from petroleum products — fossil fuels — so if we cut back on plastics, we will also be helping the environment in another way, less oil being produced.

The solution, as I see it, is two-step.  One, yes governments must work diligently to reduce plastic waste via single-use plastics.  But more importantly, and a more long-term solution, is the companies that produce all this garbage must invest in research to develop a more sustainable product, one that is fairly easily recycled and that is biodegradable.  But meanwhile, until that happens, it is up to US … You and I … the consumer, to “Just say ‘no’” to single use plastics.  Refuse to buy products that are packaged in layers of plastic.  Take your own re-usable cups to Starbucks and fast-food places.  Take your own reusable bags to the grocery.  Every little bit helps, my friends.

NPR: The Plastic Problem Isn’t Your Fault, But You Can Be Part Of The Solution

National Geographic: U.S. generates more plastic trash than any other nation

33 thoughts on “STOP!

    • I fully agree … humans are selfish creatures who place their convenience above all else. And that includes me! Last night, my daughter brought us take-out dinner from a local chain restaurant. It was delicious, but after we were finished eating I looked around the kitchen and there were several large plastic containers the food had come in, plastic silverware they had sent, wrapped in more plastic, and two large plastic bags. Why can’t restaurants find a better way??? And why don’t we demand that they do? Sigh.

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  1. The pollution of our planet by plastics (and other materials) is something that will greatly affect and harm future generations. But those who could do something in this country are far more concerned about “political” matters, like voting regulations, abortion laws, winning elections at all costs, etc. Oh! And protesting masks and vaccinations against a highly contagious virus!

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  2. you know what we’ve discovered as a result of the pandemic and having groceries delivered? Walmart uses a bag for almost every single item, talk about waste. It makes both of us sad, not to mention it’s inefficient to try to grab all those grocery bag handles when they could put 4 or 5 things in a bag instead of one. It’s crazy. Hell, I even recycle the empty tp rolls and we’ve got solar panels. They’ll pay for themselves, though it will take a while. It’s so wasteful.

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    • For a time, Kroger did not allow us to bring our own re-usable bags, and I noticed the same! A box of cereal or a head of lettuce alone in a plastic bag … 25 bags to carry in when 5 would have done quite nicely. Thankfully, I can once again take my own fairly large reusable canvas bags and get a week’s worth of groceries into about 4 bags, excluding bird seed and peanuts for the squirrels. Like you, I recycle anything I can, but it gets harder and harder these days!
      Hugs to you, dear friend!

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  4. Jill, well said. Convenience has usurped more thoughtful and responsible approaches. Some have argued that convenience is a freedom of choice. But, that lets us off the hook over our responsibility to each other and our collective well being. We need major things to happen on a large scale basis, but we also need to do our parts at the individual and local level. Water in a bottle is just water. Get a filtered pitcher and save plastic waste and money, especially if you rent an apartment where water costs are imbedded in the rent. There is so much more we can do, but we must also have the large scale efforts. Keith

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    • Thank you, Keith! You are so right … we have put our convenience ahead of conscience, ahead of responsibility, and in more ways than one. We do need both the large scale and individual efforts. Sometimes we think that our small contribution isn’t going to make a difference, but if we all do our part, it adds up to a major difference. Trouble is convincing some people just how critical it is, and when governments and corporations ignore the problem, then it’s even harder.

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  5. Not sure how to take this post, Jill. Canada recycles about 80% of its plastics, providing of course people are willing to separate their garbage, or in smaller centres, carry the recyclables to the recycling center. Paper, cardboard, plastic film, glass, metal, electric products, most all these things, get recycled. Is this not true in the great USofA? Also, we reuse as many product containers as we can, over and over, until it is not safe to reuse them, and then we recycle them.
    I am not saying that all Canadians are conscientious, but the majority are. Gsil and I have to truck our recyclables 300 kms, but we save them up and when we are going through Peace River, our nearest recycling centre, we dutifully take them with us. Even our automobile tires are recycled and turned into building materials, patio furniture and playground structures. We do what we can to help the environment. If the US is not doing this, they are failing their neighbours around the world. Shame shame!

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