Why Single-Use Products Are No Use
There’s a dirty little secret companies that sell plastic bottles don’t want you to know: you can’t recycle plastic.
Plastics take 400+ years to decompose fully. When we “recycle” plastics, we’re really just breaking them into smaller “microplastics” and redistributing them into landfills and water systems.
That means that every plastic product we make eventually ends up in our oceans or a landfill, whether or not we recycle it (to say nothing about the billions of plastic products that never get recycled).
The only way to stop this from happening is to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic products and embrace zero-waste alternatives.
But the big companies making money selling you single-use plastic water bottles won’t stop making them on their own; we need to force their hands.
When we start using zero-waste, long-lasting, budget-friendly plastic alternatives, big companies will stop making single-use plastics.
Not convinced that it’s time for you to join the zero-waste revolution?
Here are the top five reasons you should stop buying single-use “recyclable” products and start your zero-waste journey today.
1) You Can’t Recycle Plastic
We can’t stress this one enough: you 👏 can’t 👏 recycle 👏 plastic 👏.
It takes more than 400 years for one plastic bag to decompose. Even when we send plastic bags to a recycling plant, that number stays the same.
So what happens to the plastic in all of those recycled grocery bags?
They get broken down into smaller and smaller pieces called “microplastics.” Those microplastics are then reintroduced to landfills or the ocean.
Then - because these plastics are so small - they end up in the fish we eat and the water we drink.
Like we said: you can’t recycle plastic (but apparently you can consume it).
Take into account the fact that we make 8.5 billion plastic bags every year, and that’s a lot of plastic we’re all eating.
Anyone need a canvas grocery tote?
2) Plastic ‘Nurdles
We know what you’re thinking...
‘Nurdles is not a real word.
But even though “‘Nurdles” sound like the name of the fifth Teletubby, they’re actually pretty scary.
‘Nurdles are tiny, round plastic pellets that almost all plastic goods are made out of, from your child’s toys to water bottles to highway traffic cones.
But not all of the nurdles that are made each year end up getting used in goods production. Many are discarded, either into landfills or into the ocean.
According to researchers, approximately 250,000 tons of nurdles end up in our oceans every year either because they are lost in transit to manufacturers or discarded.
Once they’re in the ocean, nurdles “soak up” toxins like mercury, DDT (a banned insecticide), industrial chemicals like PCBs, and other chemicals.
‘Nurdles are so tiny, that they’re often mistaken by fish as food, and most water-purifying systems aren’t capable of weeding out all of the ‘nurdles in our water supply.
That means that we’re either eating or drinking tiny, plastic bubbles that have soaked up loads of dangerous toxins, all for the sake of a single-use water bottle.
3) Plastic Turns Endangered Species Into Extinct Species
According to a recent study, one out of every three leatherback sea turtles has plastic bags in their stomachs.
Those bags block their digestive tracts, causing them to produce more gas and making sea turtles more buoyant. When sea turtles are overly buoyant, they can’t dive for food and eventually starve.
And that’s just one of the species in our oceans that consume millions of tons of plastic every year.
From seabirds to dolphins to Atlantic salmon - marine and aquatic populations consume the 8 million tons of plastic that we dump into our oceans every year.
When enough of a given population eats enough of that plastic, they go instinct.
When you take into account the fact that nearly half of all the plastic made each year is intended for single-use products, it’s easy to see how switching from your daily plastic iced coffee cups to reusable one can make a big difference.
4) Making Plastic Makes Carbon
If you thought that the single-use plastic only affects our oceans and landfills (and shouldn’t that be enough?), think again.
Every time we make a plastic product, we release more carbon into the atmosphere.
Example: one 500-milliliter plastic water bottle creates 3 ounces of carbon. In the U.S. alone, we buy a million plastic bottles per minute.
Our reliance on single-use plastic bottles alone creates almost as much carbon as our reliance on fossil fuels.
Think about that next time you see a “highest ever recorded temperature” story on your local news.
5) Single-Use Plastic Pollutes Beaches
When did “picking up plastic” become the new “searching for seashells”?
Finding a beach that is littered with plastic is easier than finding a clean one in 2019.
While aesthetics and a day of family fun shouldn’t be the first reasons you switch to zero-waste products, they absolutely should be one of the reasons.
As we make more and more plastics, build more and more landfills, and pollute more and more beaches, we lose control over the public spaces that build communities and facilitate our connection to nature.
No one wants to swim in a sea of floating plastic bags, and if that happens enough times, people will stop going to the beach altogether.
When we stop going to the beach, we stop caring about what it looks like.
We stop caring about keeping it clean.
And we forget why we should fight to clean our oceans in the first place.
Transitioning from single-use products to zero-waste products isn’t something that will happen overnight. But it also isn’t going to happen if we don’t start putting in the effort now.
Not sure where to start? Check out 12 Swaps You Can Make to Embrace Plastic-Free Living for some ideas.
Have you found a cool swap for everyday plastics that most people don’t know about? Tell us about it in the comments!