Eliminating plastic from your life is a noble quest
There is no away. That is a central message in the film “Bag It,” a Reel Thing Productions film documenting the experience of “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he navigates our plastic world.
In the documentary, Berrier “discovers that virtually everything in modern society from baby bottles, to sports equipment, to dental sealants to personal care products is made with plastic or contains potentially harmful chemical additives used in the plastic-making process,” the film’s synopsis describes.
Plastic seems to be everywhere and the statistics are staggering. From the estimated amount of all plastic ever produced which totals 8.3 billion tons — 6.3 billion tons is waste. From that, 9 percent is recycled, 12 percent incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills.
Single-use products are a significant contributor to all that waste. Americans use 500,000,000 plastic straws a day and 60,000 plastic bags every five minutes. Around the world, 1,000,000 plastic bottles are bought every minute. Wasteful convenience seems to be driving those numbers, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Being aware of the problem is the most important step to start working toward a solution. The second is to communicate with others — not only sharing information, but also asking for alternatives from the ones with the power to say yes. And the third is to break habits and take action; simply choose a better way.
We might say no to single-use straws, shop with our reusable bag, drink from our reusable bottle, refill our coffee cup, carry our own reusable containers for leftovers and buy recycled products — these are all positive and count.
However, what can we do about prepackaged products?
We can bring our own container, buy in bulk to use fewer containers, look to safely reuse packaging and containers as much as possible, and compost or recycle what we can. At times, a mix of all of the above might be in order. We just need to remember that every little bit we do counts.
Knowing that, for Recycle Brevard’s grand-opening event in April, we looked for alternatives for everything we needed. That is what we do as an organization. We chose fabric tablecloths instead of single-use table covers, bought recycled paper napkins, sugarcane bagasse tree-free plates and compostable cups, had drink coolers instead of plastic bottles, and opted for finger foods to relinquish the need for cutlery.
It was a challenge to keep it sanitary, relatively simple to clean up, environmentally responsible and all at a reasonable cost at the same time. But we did it!
We were able to eliminate disposable plastic from everything except for the cupcakes we ordered. Those came in plastic containers that went in our Reuse Room created for discards of that type. That was the decision we made.
As The Guardian reported, Londoner Anne Watson went plastic-free for Lent and found out that “food packaging accounts for most of our plastic waste and it’s often completely unnecessary.”
Watson found new places to shop and started cooking more. But “it was milk and toilet paper that gave me the biggest problems,” she shared.
Yes, in a system set for single-use plastic, it can be trying to find a more sustainable way. In that case, we either compromise, replace or do without. It might be frustrating not to be able to purchase 100 percent plastic-free milk but, as Watson realized, she could not buy a cow for the milk so she decided to go without.
Every effort will resonate and have an impact. We have to keep in mind why we are doing what we are doing and never lose sight of the bigger picture when making decisions. There are always going to be people who only see the cupcake containers and miss the rest, or who will complain about not having milk in the refrigerator.
In your own quest to rid your life of single-use plastic, make informed decisions and learn to compromise, aiming to always “do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway” — Eleanor Roosevelt.
In an effort to assist with this quest, Recycle Brevard will launch a few new programs to help eliminate and recycle more plastic. Stay tuned!
Email Marcia Booth at Marcia@ RecycleBrevard.org.