Have you ever thought about how much plastic you use on a daily basis? Maybe you’ve been conscious of avoiding certain plastic products, like water bottles or shopping bags. But have you offered much thought to exactly how much plastic you utilize from sun up to sun down, in spite of some of those common plastic items?
Let’s walk through an ordinary day with situations encountered by the ordinary person to explore just how much plastic is intertwined into our lives.
Up And At ‘Em
Upon waking, there’s a chance you come into contact with plastic within seconds. Perhaps you use a cell phone with a plastic case or an alarm clock with a plastic body to wake you up. And so begins a day sponsored by plastic.
Your first meal of the day may likely involve plastic in some form or another. Maybe you make oatmeal from a canister with a plastic lid, pour milk or juice from a plastic jug, or grab a piece of fruit or pour a bowl of cereal from a plastic bag. And any appliances you use may likely have some elements of plastic in them from the refrigerator to the microwave. Perhaps even your dishes or utensils are plastic-based. And even if you decide to take breakfast on the go, you most likely won’t be escaping the use of plastics. Single cups of yogurt, individual beverage containers, and pre-packaged frozen breakfast burritos, just to name a few grab-and-go breakfast options, all rely on plastic packaging.
Getting ready for your day, you’re probably going to use a slew of plastics. Your bathroom is probably outfitted with plastic in some form or another – a plastic shower curtain, toilet seat, or toilet paper dispenser, perhaps? And then there are the host of personal items you may use to put yourself together. Your shower probably has bottles of shampoo and conditioner, liquid soap or body wash, a plastic-handled razor, and maybe even a plastic shelving unit to house all of these items. Your bathroom counter may be equally inundated with plastics. Moisturizers, cosmetics, and deodorant are all just a few items you’ll typically find housed in plastic. And don’t forget items like contact lens cases and your toothbrush.
Work and Play, Throughout the Day
How much plastic you encounter throughout your day at work or at school will depend on some lifestyle choices you may make around plastic-use. Still, you’re likely to come into contact with several of these situations along the way.
Your commute to your day’s destination may likely include some plastic elements. Fixtures inside your bus or car will probably include some forms of plastic. Even a bicycle may include plastic features.
And as you go about your day, you’re likely to use plastic in a variety of ways. The keyboard, mechanical pencil, landline phone, water cooler and computer monitor you use all likely include plastic parts in their composition.
When it comes to mealtime, just like breakfast, you’re sure to be utilizing the convenience afforded by plastic. Perhaps you brought your lunch in plastic Tupperware or plastic bags. Or maybe you’ve gone out to eat and will use a plastic cup with a plastic straw for a soda, or a plastic bag for takeout. The plastic straw alone will produce a lot of waste nationwide – Americans use 500 million straws a day! And the plastic bag will be one of roughly 1,500 each household will take home each year.
Your water consumption throughout the day could also amount to quite a bit of plastic depending on how you approach your hydration needs. Getting your 64 daily ounces of water from standard 16.9-ounce single-use water bottles will have you going through four water bottles a day, every day. According to Ban the Bottle, the average American used 167 single-use water bottles last year. Sadly, only about 38 of those bottles were recycled.
After you’ve completed your tasks for the day and commute back home, you’ll surely spend the rest of your waking hours in contact with plastics yet again.
Perhaps you’ll take your dog out for a walk before it’s time to sit down for dinner. You’re most likely going to use a plastic bag to pick up after him along the way. And even a cat may lead you to use plastic bags for cleaning out their litter box. Even if you use only one plastic bag a day to clean up after your pets, that’s over 300 plastic bags a year ending up in the garbage! And what about packaging for pet food and treats? Most likely there are plastic elements involved.
Dinner may have you opening up a plastic bag of salad mix or rolls, meat or poultry packaged in plastic wrap, or even a plastic container of tofu. You’ll wash your dishes with soap from a plastic bottle, and start a load of laundry with a bottle of detergent made of the same materials.
And before you head off to bed, you may end up taking your daily medication, vitamins, or supplements which are likely to be packaged in a plastic bottle or plastic blister pack. Even maintaining your health relies in some part on plastics.
And then you’re off to sleep, closing out another day maintained partially by plastic.
So, What’s The Point?
It may be wrong to suggest plastics are completely evil. They do offer us a valued level of convenience and flexibility. However, the overuse of plastics by our consumption-driven lifestyles are really starting to spell disaster for the planet and wildlife everywhere. As we drill for crude oil to manufacture more plastic items, we pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and further the effects of climate change. Humans produce around 300 million tons of plastic every year and in the past 30 years alone, the rate of plastic production has increased 620 percent. Only about seven percent of plastics are actually getting recycled in America each year. We are also letting eight million tons of plastic enter our oceans every year, sickening and killing marine animals.
Some of the plastic items you encounter on a daily basis are used over and over again. You don’t throw out your keyboard at the end of each day, only to replace it with another. Same with your appliances, your car’s interior fixtures, and furnishings in your house. But there are several areas in our daily life where plastic suffers a tragically short lifespan and enters the waste stream all too early.
Things like single-use water bottles, plastic straws, plastic shopping bags, and single-use containers of food could all stand to be reduced or even eliminated for the sake of the environment. While some instances of plastic use may be difficult, planning ahead and offering some conscious thought to your daily habits just may help you discover where you can step up your plastic-reducing game. Plastic may be ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable, but is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience?
As you go about your day today, pay attention to where your plastic use is coming into play and seek out ways to reduce or eliminate it. Check out these awesome resources to get you started:
- 10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture
- 10 Things That are Super Convenient but Also SUPER Wasteful
- Simple Steps for a Waste-Free Beauty Routine
- I Follow These 5 Tips and Live Waste-Free Nearly Every Day
- 10 Ways to Live a Zero Waste Lifestyle
- Less Waste Makes for a Happy Planet: Simple Guide to Waste-Free Grocery Shopping
- Waste-Free Laundry: How to Clean Your Clothes and Your Conscience
Lead image source: Alejandro Duran