I think any environmentally conscious person has thought about this topic long and hard! It seems like we are constantly using plastic packaging in this day in age because it is so durable and convenient. So it deserves some credit. But what about how it leaches toxic chemicals into the ground and water in the long process it takes to biodegrade? We are finding new materials made from plants to substitute for plastic, but these are often not durable enough to be used practically. Ever used a compostable spork and had it break within ten minutes of using it? (I have!)
A big issue is grocery stores. You head to the store, and everything from produce to meat to cheese is in plastic packaging. Even you cereal seems to come in cardboard boxes but what’s holding it in? A plastic bag. Aluminum is an example of a durable material that can be substituted in many instances. Something I do when I get produce from the grocery store is not use a plastic bag when getting things like unpackaged avocados or if I’m only getting one or two items. You can also bring reusable cloth bags if getting several items. But think about it, your going to put it in a bag anyway, wash and cook your produce. Not to mention that most have inedible skin!
Try to shop at local farms or farmers markets. It is vital to support local produce because it cuts down on food miles traveled and supports small business. Not to mention, most of the produce you will buy is fresh and unpackaged. One summer, I really only ate produce straight from the Temple Community Garden. There was so little packaging I used that summer and most of what I did use from the grocery store was recyclable! Other online outlets like Loop need more support that send food in reusable containers that you send back to the store! Generally, cooking meals from home instead of ordering out can also reduce plastic container waste.
So that’s one way to reduce plastic consumption through food. But think about all of the packaging used to ship items like clothes and other household good through amazon. It is wrapped in plastic, and it is more likely now than ever that people are going to online shop instead of going into a store for something they don’t really need. Most people, including myself, have compiled a load of plastic packaging and bags to be recycled. So recycle your plastic packaging! Most people are unaware of what can actually be recycled and the right way to recycle packaging. This includes things from contact lenses cases, cereal packaging, and packaging from clothes. Companies like Terracycle give you the option to send in your #5 plastics like toothbrushes, medicine bottles, and razors. You can mail them in or many places like Whole Foods may have drop boxes.
So should we start this program at Bucks Audubon? Well, once you collect about 100 pieces of plastic, Terracycle can provide donations to non-profits! So everyone can drop off their old toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes, medicine bottles, contact lenses and cases, and more to help out Bucks Audubon.
Unfortunately, the state is not provided with sufficient funding to be able to support recycling for many plastics, so dropping them off in appropriate bins may be a better solution. Also, a great way to reduce plastics that may end up in our waterways or in landfills is to spread awareness about recycling. I am a contact lens wearer, and everyone uses toothbrushes and toothpaste, and I had no idea there were companies with these kind of programs that can reward you for recycling certain products!
– Written by Ali Gish, Bucks Audubon 2020 Intern
For more info on Zero Waste, Sustainability, and more – check out our #NoPlasticNancy blog posts!