Plastic is one of the cheapest, versatile and easy to manufacture materials in existence today. It has become extremely easy to produce plastic and since its discovery, we have produced an approximate 8.3 billion tons of plastic. However, a great majority of the plastic produced does not get recycled but instead remains festering either in landfills or in our oceans. Our over-dependence of plastic has negatively affected our environment.
It’s estimated that approximately 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans directly. Reports of marine life including fish, whales, seals and even seabirds ingesting plastic waste leading to their untimely death has become increasingly common in recent times.
Microplastics which refers to plastic particles whose size is less than 5mm have also contaminated our seas. These small particles are often associated with additives called plasticizers which have shown to have negative effects on not only fish but may also the humans who ingest them.
- Eco-friendly Alternatives
- Reducing Everyday Plastic Footprint
- Benefits of Eco-Friendly Alternatives
Considering all the consequences of using plastics and also keeping in mind the fact that plastics take 500-1000 years to actually degrade its advisable to decrease the everyday use of plastics especially when there are eco-friendly alternatives.
1. Reusable Carry-Bags
An alternative to one-use disposable plastic bags is reusable bags made of cotton, canvas, hemp, leather, fibre. These can be used when out shopping and can help reduce your plastic footprint drastically.
2. Biodegradable Waste Bags
One of the fastest selling plastic items is plastic waste bags. These bags fill up the landfills along with our wastes and are one of the most polluting kinds of plastic bags. In a country like India where animals are known to feed off from landfills, it is self-explanatory that most of them ingest the bags that we fill the wastes in.
Hence, using an eco-friendly option, that gives the same functionality and is designed to decompose in a short span of life makes sense rather than using plastic waste bags. Whatsmore, a certain type of biodegradable plastics are compostable as well which means that they can be collected, sent to compost heaps and the compost obtained from these can be used for agricultural purposes and reduce the amount of waste generated.
Bagasse is the by the product obtained from the processing of sugarcane. It can be used to make durable food packaging which can be used for food delivery. Usually polystyrene is used for food packaging but it is not biodegradable, instead, bagasse can be used for the same since its a natural biodegradable alternative.
4. Glass Bottles or Storage Jars
Glass is an eco-friendly material which can be used as an alternative packaging to plastic PET bottles or even be used as jars to keep or store foods.
5. Compostable Cutlery
Using disposable plastic cutlery for functions have become a trend. With so many weddings, functions and ceremonies taking place every day, it is not hard to imagine the amount of plastic waste we are generating. However, what is not imaginable or comprehensible is the effect these waste have on our planet. From killing stray animals consume it mistaking it for food, soil that degrades because of poor waste management to the aquatic life that chokes on them, these plastic waste have a profound effect on or the environment.
One of the best ways to make sure this is avoided is to use biodegradable or compostable cutlery made out of plant leaf or bamboo grass. This will make sure that our eco-system is not affected adversely.
6. Reusable or Biodegradable Straws
A reusable straw made of metal or an environmentally friendly bamboo-straw can be used in place of the normal plastic straws which are generally thrown away after single-use. This will make sure that we move towards lowering oceanic pollution.
7. Bamboo Toothbrush
Considering the fact that there are billions of people using a plastic toothbrush to brush teeth and buying a newer toothbrush at least every six months, making a conscious effort to start using a brush made of bamboo is the need of the hour. Most of the plastic toothbrush thrown away is hardly ever recycled and each year more and more plastic is being used to make newer toothbrush than using recycled plastics.
Using a bamboo toothbrush makes sure we are not creating unnecessary wastes and any waste that is created, biodegradable. The bamboo handle of the used toothbrush can also be used for many other household purposes as they are durable. They can also be used to make DIY crafts for decorating purposes.
8. Reusable Drinking Cups
Use a reusable drinking cup made of stainless steel or some other environmentally friendly material instead of single-use plastic cups. Single-use plastic cups take a very long time to degrade and the age-old tradition of use and throw is unsustainable in the modern day and age so making the switch to reusable drinking cups makes sense.
9. Starch-Based Polymers
Starch is a low-cost, biodegradable and completely natural polymer. Starch-based plastics can be made by combining aliphatic polyesters with starch and polyvinyl alcohol. Scientists have tried making plastics more biodegradable by adding starch. While it cannot completely replace plastic, it has the potential to make plastic biodegradable.
Reducing Everyday Plastic Footprint
Plastic footprint refers to the amount of plastic waste generated by a single person over time. We have managed to produce a lot of plastic and a good portion of the plastic is discarded as waste. This accumulation of plastic in our environment is already negatively affecting life around us if this continues it will have direct effects on not only our environment but on humans as well.
A few ways to reduce your plastic footprint are:
1. Use reusable straws made from stainless steel. Annually an estimated 500 million single-use plastic straws end up as waste so using a reusable straw made from stainless steel makes sense.
2. Always bring a reusable shopping bag with you when you’re out shopping. This is an easy way to reduce your plastic footprint.
3. Carry water from home in a reusable bottle instead of buying a single-use water-bottle. This will not only reduce your plastic-footprint but also help you save money.
4. Stop using cosmetics which contain microbeads as these plastic microbeads end up in the ocean where they negatively affect the aquatic life.
5. Try using green-plastic or other biodegradable alternatives wherever you can in your daily lives.
Benefits of Eco-Friendly Alternatives
Eco-friendly plastic alternatives are the best way to combat plastic-pollution happening currently. Even small initiatives to reduce plastic pollution if taken up by even a fraction of the human population can make a huge effect. Our biggest problem right now is reducing the amount of single-use plastic which we use, it will be a huge undertaking but it’s very much possible especially if we as a species decide to drastically reduce our plastic footprint.
Using plastic alternatives which are biodegradable will help reduce the stress which we put on our environment. Conventional plastics can take 500-1000 years to degrade and hence will continue to accumulate but biodegradable green plastics will get degraded and present an eco-friendlier solution to conventional plastic.
Plastic is an important part of human life. It’s used in packaging, technology ranging from mobile phones to spacecraft and medicine amongst others. It’s impossible to completely replace plastic right now however, we can actually reduce our plastic footprint by cutting down our plastic use in places where we don’t really need it.
Reducing the amount of single-use plastic like straws, drinking cups, plastic bags, unnecessary packaging etc. and replacing it with eco-friendly alternatives will undoubtedly help reduce the strain which we put on our environment by plastic-pollution.