Where Our Plastic Goes

Nov 2021 ~ This is a summary of a Consumer Reports article

By the numbers – In 2018, of 35 million tons of plastic waste: 8.7% was recycled, 15.8% was incinerated (think greenhouse gas here) and 75.5% went to landfills. Eventually, the landfill plastic ends up as microplastics in the air, water and soil. Plastic bags used globally every year: 5 trillion (expected life: 500 years) –Plastic beverage bottles sent to the ocean each year: 21 – 34 billion –Disposable razors used in just the US in 2020: 158 million – Rolls of plastic wrap used in the US in the last 6 months of 2020: 196 million

Pretty easy fixes:

  • Plastic shopping bags: Your own reusable shopping bags can cancel out hundreds to thousands of single use bags. Keeping a few in your trunk for shopping trips can increase the wins for Earth.
  • Restaurant plastics: Bring your own containers to restaurants for leftovers. For take-out orders say NAY to plastic ware and straws.
  • Beverage containers: Bring your own mug and lid to the coffee shop or opt for their washables to down your java before leaving. Buy beverages in (infinitely recyclable) metal cans if possible, and carry a reusable water bottle to refill on the go.
  • Personal care: Buy soap, detergent, and shampoo packaged in cardboard, glass, or aluminum. Use a metal razor with replaceable blades.
  • Plastic wrap: Replace plastic wrap for containers with stretchy silicone covers or aluminum foil.
  • Consumers in the U.S. can and do push and reshape producers, who are always alert to customer satisfaction and market share. More states are enacting Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation to control plastic waste.
  • Individually, we can do a lot by moving away from the current throwaway lifestyle. Take the self-check below and talk to your favorite restaurant & coffee shop managers and your state representative about strategies that will make you & your environmentally savvy family happily plastic-free.

CCUU Self-check on single use plastics: