The amount of plastic produced in a year is roughly the same as the entire weight of humanity. Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, and efforts to recycle the bottles to keep them from entirely polluting the environment are failing to keep up.
By 2050 it is expected that the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish (a terrifying incentive to reduce our plastic usage wherever practical). Half of the world’s plastic goes into products that are only used once. There are so many issues at play here – lack of standardization in materials, design, marketing, accessibility particularly in lower socio-economic areas, no alternative replacements, a severe restriction on our time due to our working economy, and unfortunately also our own greed and laziness.
We’ve got lots of work to do on these and it will require significant pressure from us on companies and governments (we truly need to vote better). For the last two, our individual actions aren’t going to save the world but collectively we do contribute to the problem when we can be doing better. Also, assessing the waste we create is a real wakeup (and something the next generations aren’t asking for nor should be dealing with…them and the animals and communities choking from our rubbish). Firstly we can consider if we even need what we’re about to buy. More often than not we don’t. Does your child really need a new plastic or polyester toy? Part of parenting is setting those boundaries and undertaking different activities. The best thing we can do first is to not buy it at all.
If we do need it, we can shop secondhand, swap with friends, head to local markets, take reusable bags, bring our own jars, say no to straws and pack meals in reusable containers. Yes this won’t save the world but also many, many millions of people just couldn’t care less about the impact they’re having on the environment and we often feel we have completely removed ourselves from natural cycles. We haven’t and we have a responsibility to do better where we have the ability to do so.