Updated: Nov 15, 2021
By Minaëlle Green
We live in a world of plastic. Plastic in every aisle of the grocery store, in our clothes, in our home, discarded on the street, floating in the ocean. Plastic production worldwide continues to increase exponentially, meaning this plastic world is nowhere near over.
Plastic is amazing in the sense that it is an indestructible material. The problem is that we’ve taken the most indestructible material and used more than 50 percent of it for single-use purposes. Coffee cups and plastic bags are used for an average of 12 minutes before being thrown away. Once in a landfill, or even in the ocean, plastic lives anywhere from 450 years until forever.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, what about recycling plastic?”. Unfortunately, only 9 percent of plastic in Canada is recycled. 12 percent is incinerated, and the remaining 79 percent accumulates in landfills or in our environment. Producing new plastic is much cheaper than reusing old plastic, which gives little incentive for recycling. On the other hand, a material such as glass is 20 times cheaper to recycle than produce from scratch, making it a highly recyclable and more environmentally friendly option.
Are we stuck in this plastic world? Not at all. Of course, it won’t be an easy way out. We need to continue putting pressure on our governments and being conscious consumers. Write letters, sign petitions, donate to organizations and live as low waste as possible. The latter has been quite an exciting challenge for me – I used to discard one large garbage bag per week, now I’m producing one small bag of waste in nearly two months. How is this possible? First off, I start by always bringing reusable bags for my groceries and all my produce. Next, I refuse to buy anything in plastic and opt for carton or glass. I shop at small and local stores, such as bakeries and farmer’s markets, where I can bring my own containers and bags for things like berries and bread. Finally, I’ve started making more things from scratch at home, like hummus or potato chips.
Refusing single-use plastic and opting for zero-waste alternatives is something we can all take part in. When combined, individual actions will take us farther than we can imagine.
10 Shocking Facts About Plastic. National Geographic. (2021, March 25). https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/10-shocking-facts-about-plastic.
Plastic Pollution Facts: PlasticOceans.org/the-facts. Plastic Oceans International. (2021, February 4). https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/.
Young, R. (2021, June 22). Canada's plastic problem: Sorting fact from fiction. Oceana Canada. https://oceana.ca/en/blog/canadas-plastic-problem-sorting-fact-fiction.