Top tips for tackling plastic pollution – from marine scientists

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<p>Have you ever found yourself staring at the shelves of a supermarket in turmoil, trying to make the most eco-friendly choices from an overwhelming array of products available?  You’ve brought your reusable shopping bags, you’ve searched for products that aren’t wrapped in plastic, and you’ve carefully scanned the labels for evidence of fair labor rights and sustainably sourced palm oil – but it is always very difficult to find.  which items are the most environmentally friendly.</p>
<p>Research has shed light on the scale of the challenge posed by plastic pollution.  Pieces of plastic that humans use for a few minutes can take hundreds of years to decompose in nature.</p>
<p>While we see reduced use – and increased recycling – of single-use plastic in some regions, overall plastic production continues to increase and single-use plastics used in everyday packaging remain the main culprit.  Changing human behavior is vital if we are to reduce our collective plastic footprint.</p>
<p>Suggested policy changes, like Extended Producer Responsibility – which requires manufacturers to include the environmental costs of products in their prices – also aim to reduce disposable waste, but progress is slow.</p>
<p>So is it better to buy milk in glass, plastic or Tetra Pak?  Does using a hand dryer imply a lower carbon footprint than using paper towels?  Should you go to the farmer’s market or have your groceries delivered to a supermarket where produce is less likely to be locally sourced?</p>
<h2>Pointers to reduce your plastic footprint</h2>
<p>Here is some key information to help make those everyday decisions easier – and more environmentally friendly.</p>
<p><strong>1. Produce less waste.</strong> Since the Second World War, most societies have known the consequences of the inexorable rise of consumerism: as a demand for fast fashion – for mass-produced, low-cost clothing whose poor quality limits their lifespan – and for products. disposable single use.  For decades, these trends have gone largely unchallenged.  An equivalent generalized behavior change is needed today to ensure that Earth’s resources are used more efficiently.</p>
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These 31 suggestions for more sustainable choices you can start making today, from craft materials to stretch wrap, can help reduce waste production.

31 exchanges that can help reduce waste

2. Share, borrow or buy used. Save space, money, and the environment by sharing with friends, or find your local library of things, a physical repository to borrow useful household tools instead of buying them. Donate items you only use occasionally and borrow them from the library when you need them, to give each item a longer life – and declutter your home in the process.

3. Extend the life of your belongings. Consider whether you need a new kitchen or bathroom, or if cleaning the floor, washing the walls, and revamping the furniture could give it the new life it needs.

4. Dispose of your waste responsibly. Waste deposited in public trash cans can fall if the trash cans are overfilled – or be removed by scavenging animals. Take recyclable items home to be more certain of their fate.

5. Collect litter while contributing to science. Any litter pickup or beach cleanup can be recorded using citizen science apps like Open Litter Map. These data helped identify the most littered items, leading to the banning of single-use plastic items such as microbeads in cosmetics, straws, shakers and cotton swabs in some countries.

6. Know your plastics. Knowing what the plastic codes mean can help you make choices that support a circular economy. Tools like the Recycling Locator tell you where to send materials that aren’t collected by the roadside. Avoid plastics with resin code seven, which are not recyclable.

7. Beware of greenwashing. Sustainability sells – and the indiscriminate use of images of nature and the terms “natural,” “green,” “biodegradable” or “compostable” is common, however correct they may be. Eco-labeling – where products are certified to sustainability standards – is essential in helping us understand exactly what we are buying.

8. Don’t assume plastic = cleanliness. You don’t need to buy items wrapped in plastic to protect yourself from disease and infection. Although public confidence in buying fruits and vegetables in bulk declined during the pandemic, the COVID-19 virus actually lives much longer on plastics than on more porous materials such as paper and cotton. Buying unpackaged items and placing them in washable product bags is both safer and more durable.

Stability of the Covid-19 virus on different materials

Stability of the Covid-19 virus on different materials

Adjust your way of thinking to support sustainability

Look at the big picture – making eco-responsible decisions is complex and should always include social and environmental considerations. For example, while it may seem unintuitive, a single-use paper bag is not necessarily more durable than a single-use plastic bag, depending on the resources used to produce it.

The number of times different types of bags must be used for equivalent environmental impacts (compared to a single-use plastic bag).

The number of times different types of bags must be used for equivalent environmental impacts (compared to a single-use plastic bag).

To help you make the best choices possible, consider using tools like a carbon footprint calculator, or check out the latest tips on how to minimize the climate impacts of your diet.

And try to be a good ancestor. Thinking about “intergenerational equity” – taking responsibility for decisions that will affect future generations – helps us make decisions that can reduce future environmental degradation. By including young people in environmental decision-making, we can empower them to make responsible living second nature – just like wearing a seat belt in a car.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The conversation

The conversation

The authors wish to express their gratitude to Julie A. Hope and Mark Lorch for their valuable contributions to this article.

Cath Waller and Clare E. Collins do not work, consult, own stock, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond their university post.


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