Half of the plastic we use annually is a single-use item like packaging or a plastic straw. These so-called convenience items are used for roughly 12 to 15 minutes, on average. But the plastic they’re made of can take anywhere from 400 years to over 1,000 years to disintegrate.
We as consumers have the power to get action from manufacturers by changing the way we spend our money. So why not use our purchasing power for the good of our environment and ocean?
If we all do our part daily, we can help to protect nature. Here are our 20 favourite ways to get you started:
1. Use an eco-friendly bamboo toothbrush with natural bristles.
2. Use natural fibre dental floss coated with beeswax. Traditional dental floss is made of nylon or teflon, the same stuff in non-stick pans.
3. Avoid non-stick pans coated in teflon. Teflon breaks down into microplastics, which are tiny pieces of plastic of less than five millimetres. Not only are you eating it, but these tiny particles go through the sewage system into our waterways and eventually the ocean. We then eat the fish that eat these tiny plastic particles.
4. Say no to disposable plastic razors.
5. Use hair products without plastic ingredients like silicone and petroleum. Read the labels carefully! And as a bonus, go waste-free. Try a natural shampoo bar instead of one with plastic packaging and quench your tresses with natural plant-based oils. Eighty percent of all global industrial and municipal wastewater is released into rivers without any treatment.
6. Leave microplastics out of your skincare routine. Look for natural products without exfoliating microbeads in your facial and skincare products. Some products offer sea salt and plant-based scrubs like crushed kernels of apricot and coconut husk.
7. Use a cotton wash towel, a hemp fibre “cotton round,” or organic cotton instead of disposable cotton swabs and rounds with your facial cleanser or make-up remover. While cotton disintegrates, the chemicals in cotton can leach into our environment or harm wildlife.
A marine biologist measures a bleached coral. Photo: iStock/RainervonBrandis
8. If you love to go fishing on your days off, be mindful to take your fishing gear home with you, especially your fishing lines. Ghost nets and other gear like nylon lines, hooks and nets will continue to travel with the ocean current where they trap and tangle fish, birds and large marine life such as whales, for up to 1,000 years after their owners lose them or throw them off board. Forty-six percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a giant area of garbage as large as Texas, is made of ghost nets.
9. Skip balloons at parties and celebrations. Balloon scraps can choke and strangle animals and marine life.
10. Just say no to glitter. Shiny and tiny, this microplastic can be confused for food by fish.
11. Carry a reusable water bottle. Don’t let your bottle be one of the 1 million plastic bottles bought every minute worldwide.
12. Likewise, carry a reusable plastic-free thermos for your morning coffee or tea.
13. Always keep a few reusable bags rolled up at home, at work and in your bag. Remember to also carry smaller reusable bags for fruits and veggies. More than 1 million bags are used every minute according to the UN Environment Programme.
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