Saving animals by saying no to straws
Why are we talking about plastic? The creation and use of plastic negatively affects wildlife and their habitats, as well as our health and homes.
Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of it is used just one time and then discarded. Unfortunately, plastic cannot biodegrade and only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Most of the plastic that we first used in the last century is still in our environment today!
What about recycling? Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year, but only 8 percent of it gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or becomes litter. Did you know that 80 percent of all marine debris found in the ocean is land-based? Think about that trash you see on the side of the road, that flows to storm drains, that flows to rivers and then to our oceans.
To make plastic, you also need oil, a non-renewable resource with an extraction process that is very harmful to our environment, animals and us! To get oil, companies drill, then transport, and then process this oil into plastic materials in a very energy-intensive process that involves burning fossil fuels, which ultimately furthers the effects of climate change. The estimate for the amount of carbon released from plastic manufacturing is anywhere between 100 to 500 million tons of carbon per year. To provide perspective, that is equivalent to between 19 to 92 million vehicles on the road. (Mackann, One Green Planet)
Don’t be discouraged! There are many simple steps you can take to help preserve our planet and save species.
Start with avoiding single-use plastic items like straws, utensils and bags. Did you know the U.S. produces 500 million straws every day, and the majority of these straws end up in the water? Simply say no to straws when ordering at a restaurant, or bring your own reusable straw. The same goes for plastic utensils; keep a reusable set in your car or bag! You can also help by bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store, instead of using plastic bags. The average plastic bag is used for just 12 minutes before being discarded, but it then takes hundreds of years to breakdown. To avoid plastic packaging (which makes up a huge part of plastic, especially unrecyclable plastic, waste), try shopping in bulk, shopping at local farmers’ markets, bringing your own containers and bags, and bringing your own containers to grocery stores. Buying lunch meat? No problem! Bring your own container to the store, weigh it so you can subtract that weight, and you’re good to go. Bring mason jars for coffee, and opt for paper or glass over plastic containers when possible.
There are so many simple ways to get started and be a part of the solution! For more information, please visit here.
Conservation Education Initiatives Supervisor