Management of plastic waste is a global crisis, making the resulting plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental problems. As part of Earth Day 2018 (April 22), Earth Day Network has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator (https://www.earthday.org/plastic-calculator/) for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce the waste.
To date 9.1 billion U.S. tons of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced, generating 6.9 billion U.S. tons of plastic waste, and only 9 percent has been recycled. The world is already incapable of properly managing this enormous amount of waste, and the production of plastic is predicted to increase three times in the next 25 years.
“Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge. We can see plastics floating in our rivers, ocean, and lagoons, littering our landscapes and affecting our health and, the future of billions of children and youth. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution,” says Valeria Merino, vice-president of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network.
EDN is encouraging consumers to join the fight to reduce plastic pollution as part of its End Plastic Pollution campaign for Earth Day 2018. “You first need to know where you stand,” said Merino. “This plastic pollution calculator will help you determine your total yearly consumption of disposable plastic items.”
The Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit (http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Earth-Day-Network-Plastic-Pollution-Primer-and-Action-Toolkit-updated-2.20.2018.pdf), also on the website, will help consumers determine actions they can take to reduce their plastic pollution footprint. EDN’s efforts center around the 5 Rs: “Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove” actions.
“Once you have learned the benefits of embracing the 5 Rs in your daily lives,” Merino said, “we hope you will create a goal for decreasing your yearly plastic pollution using the Plastic Pollution Tracker (http://www.earthday.org/wp-content/uploads/Plastic-Pollution-Calculator-Plan-and-Tracker.pdf) also available in the Toolkit.”
While recycling plastic waste is important, it is not nearly enough, notes Merino. “You may be lulled into thinking it is OK to consume disposable plastic products because you plan to recycle them, but many plastics can’t be efficiently recycled and will end up in the landfill or littering the planet, even in the most remote places. Also, some localities lack the most basic infrastructure to manage waste and to sort and recycle plastics. For this reason, it is much more important to focus on reducing your own level of plastic consumption,” she adds.
There are a number of things that will lessen your plastics impact:
Ask yourself every time that you are considering buying a disposable plastic item: Do I absolutely need this? Can I use something else that I already have? Could I buy something that I can use long-term instead?Prevent the creation of micro-plastics by properly disposing of plastic products and being careful not to toss plastic products near waterways, beaches or in open spaces.Pick up plastic trash whenever you see it, especially in ponds, streams, rivers, and beaches.
Consider changing the way you wash your clothing to reduce the number of microfibers that are released, wash synthetic clothes less frequently, purchasing items made of natural fibers when possible.