Guest Writer: Lucy Stultz
Most developed countries have come to heavily depend on single-use plastic items. Water bottles, food packaging and countless other everyday objects are designed to be used once and then thrown away.
However, these items will stay on Earth for centuries. According to National Geographic, “It’s unclear how long it will take for that plastic to completely biodegrade into its constituent molecules. Estimates range from 450 years to never.”
Much of the plastic that is produced eventually ends up in our oceans. Larger pieces such as fishing nets, six-pack rings and plastic grocery bags can get tangled around marine life, strangling them or rendering them unable to defend themselves from predators. Smaller bits of plastic, such as bottle caps and plastic straws, can choke sea turtles and birds.
Even when plastics seem to have biodegraded they most often turn into microplastics. These tiny pieces of plastic are consumed by sea animals, but they cannot be digested. The plastic sits in their stomachs making them feel full, so they stop eating the nutrient rich food they need and eventually starve.
The idea of no longer using single-use plastic is intimidating, as it pervades every area of our lives. While it may seem like a challenge at the moment, the more aware consumers are of the impact of their choices, the more conscious producers will be of the impact of their products.
As the demand for products made from renewable or reusable resources rises, companies will begin to convert their products to adapt to the needs of the market. Making the switch to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle does not have to happen all at once. Making just one small change a week can really add up as time goes on.
The easiest switch for me was to start using a bamboo toothbrush. You can buy different sizes and bristle firmness, just like a plastic toothbrush. And when you’re done they can be composted or burned. Carrying a reusable water bottle is a simple way to both reduce plastic waste and save some money.
Another switch I made was to a stainless-steel straw. They are easy to clean and travel well. Swapping out your bottled soap for bar soap is another great option. Not only is it good for the environment, but it is healthier for your skin.
You can even buy shampoo and conditioner bars to further cut down on waste. The more steps you take to be aware of the products you are using, the easier it is to find ways to cut down on your plastic waste.
I started my waste reduction journey about a year ago, and I am still trying to figure out ways to cut out some of the more specific items in my life, such as sensitive toothpaste and medicines. However, every day I make a conscious effort to make healthy choices. It is a process, and I am far from perfect, but even baby steps are progress toward a healthier planet.
Lucy Stultz is a sophomore project management major from Danville, Indiana.