When I began my 30 Day Challenge of Plastic Free July this month I felt fairly confident that I would be able to divert a lot of my common single use plastic items like disposable forks, straws and shopping bags by making some simple life changes. What I didn’t fully think about was the full picture behind why plastic can be so problematic to our environment.
What I have started to recognize is how ubiquitous and diverse plastic is in our world. While plastics are used in so much packaging and everyday materials, I had not thought much about what they are made of, where they come from, or (perhaps most importantly) what happens when they get thrown away.
Types of Plastics
As I did some research on types of plastic, the overwhelming discovery I made was that not all plastics are created equal. As a lot of people are already familiar with, the number (1-7) that is found at the bottom of a plastic container signifies the type of plastic it is made from. Only some of these types of plastic are recyclable and what is accepted can vary wildly from county to county and state to state!
Beyond that, some plastics are actually made from materials that are not only non-recyclable but are considered harmful or even toxic! I have never thought much about the health and toxicity aspect of my everyday plastics. Life Without Plastic does a great job of breaking down the different types of plastics by groups and how they are commonly used while also addressing the safety concerns.
Small Solutions and New Alternatives
By better understanding the impact and issues with plastic, I have a renewed passion to continue to find ways to live a little more plastic free. Some of the most successful things I have been able to implement in my everyday life have been to incorporate simple alternatives.
- Cutlery– Instead of using plastic cutlery for lunch I have been bringing a set of silverware from home to use instead
- Shopping Bags– Instead of using plastic bags, I keep a stash of reusable bags in my car to tote groceries and other purchases around.
- Straws– For my smoothies, I purchased stainless steel straws. When out at restaurants, I just ask for no straw.