Plastic is Killing the Planet. It’s Time to Ban Single-Use Plastics

The wrapper on your candy bar. The water bottle you’re drinking from. Your shampoo bottle. These everyday items and a thousand others have one important thing in common: They’re single-use plastics. You’re not putting the wrapper back on a new candy bar—instead, it’s going in the garbage.

The problem is, these single-use plastics don’t often end up in the garbage. In fact, even those that do make it to landfills or recycling centers don’t often stay there. Instead, they end up out in the environment. They’re in the ocean and littered across our parks. They’re in the gutter out in the street. They’re in the bellies of wildlife who mistake them for food.

There’s no better way to say it: Single-use plastics are killing our planet. It’s time to put a stop to them.

Horrifying facts about single-use plastics

We’ve all seen litter in the street and hear stories about the mounting trash out in landfills. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The stats are alarming and damning. Single-use plastics need to go. Here’s why:

  • The world produces 300 million tons of plastic every year
  • More than 50% of all plastics—150 million tons—are for single-use products
  • More than 8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year
  • As many as 1 in 3 marine mammals will be tangled in plastic litter this year
  • Over 90% of seabirds have traces of plastic in their stomachs

If you’re not alarmed, you’re not paying attention. Single-use plastics are a bane on our environment and they’re only getting worse. Perhaps the biggest point of outrage is in how little value single-use plastics actually have.

  • Plastic bags—the most prolific single-use plastic—have a working life of just 15 minutes
  • 14% of all plastic waste comes from beverage containers—not including caps and labels
  • Consumer packaging is the largest end-use segment of plastic waste, at around 40%

According to the data, single-use plastics really only exist for us to throw them away! We only value the product contained by them and as soon as it’s expended, so is the use for the plastic. It’s the epitome of wastefulness.

How to cut back on plastic use

If you’re appalled at the facts about single-use plastics, you’re not alone. More and more people are starting to push back against single-use plastics and packaging, opting to pay more for other materials. Glass bottles instead of plastic. Biodegradable paper wrappers. It’s getting easier to find these things if you look for them.

If you’re someone who’s concerned and outraged and who wants to make a difference, start by cutting back on your own single-use plastics—then, get your friends and family to emulate you. Here are some tips:

  • Check packaging to see if it’s biodegradable or compostable and avoid plastic packaging.
  • Buy products in bulk to reduce individual packaging. Refillable items are even better!
  • Take recyclable packaging to a local recycler so it can be properly reused.
  • Find new uses for old products—also called upcycling—to avoid tossing plastics.

Any of these things can make a big difference, and the more people who start doing them, the bigger the impact. If you consider the average person throws away about 203 pounds of plastics per year, all it takes is 10 mindful people to eliminate a literal ton of plastic from the earth’s oceans and landfills!

What else can you do to help?

Cutting back on your plastic use isn’t enough—or, more appropriately, it won’t make a big enough impact fast enough. Our planet is dying at an alarming rate under the duress of mounting plastic. Even if we stopped all single-use plastics tomorrow, there’s still a tremendous volume of plastic out in the environment. We need a twofold approach.

First, you can write to your legislators and encourage them to support environmental legislation that regulates or abolishes single-use plastics. Let them know your priorities and make sure to track your legislators’ record when it comes to sponsoring or voting on environmental legislation. Elected officials should make environmental protection a priority, starting with bills that attack single-use plastics.

Second—and just as important—we need to clean up our planet! Join non-profits and environmental organizations to learn more about what you can do to help remediate the planet’s plastic crisis. The Plastic Pollution Coalition and the #breakfreefromplastic movement specifically fight against single-use plastic pollution, organizing cleanups and directing lobbyist efforts to ban these harmful products. Local cleanup groups can go a long way too!

Putting single-use plastics to an end is our responsibility to the planet. It starts with a personal decision, and carries forward with proper legislation and community involvement. Together, we can stop single-use plastics from destroying the world we love.

Abhishek Chauhan

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