Seeing Beyond Single-Use: 4 Benefits of Reducing Plastics 

Seeing Beyond Single-Use: 4 Benefits of Reducing Plastics 
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Seeing Beyond Single-Use: 4 Benefits of Reducing Plastics. Image Pexels.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Seeing Beyond Single-Use: 4 Benefits of Reducing Plastics 

You might have heard shocking statistics about how many times single-use water bottles can encircle the Earth. That waste doesn’t magically disappear and causes considerable trouble for human and animal life. Drinking is only one small part of the overall equation, too. How can you reduce your reliance on plastics? 

There are multiple benefits to reducing plastic use, from the environment to human health. Another pressing reason to switch is certainty — the fossil fuels used to create today’s bags and toothbrushes won’t last forever. 

Here’s how you can see beyond single-use and reap the perks of reducing plastics in your life. 

Where Does All This Plastic Come From? 

The U.K. alone projects it will sell enough single-use plastic bottles to wrap around the Earth 68 times in 2023 alone. That’s one country, over one year. Multiply that by how many manufacturers have created over the past 100 years and you’ll get an idea of the problem’s scope. 

Bottles aren’t the only problem. It would be easier if they were, as people only recycle 10% of the plastics currently used, often soda and milk jugs. However, food wrappers, cigarette butts, stirrers and straws are even more prevalent and don’t see new life. Instead, they break down into micro and nanoplastics, invisible to the naked eye but taking tolls on habitats and human health. Scientists have found plastic in newborn blood and the ocean’s deepest depths. 

The Many Benefits of Reducing Plastic Use

Reducing plastic use matters. It’s essential to protecting humans and all other life on Earth. Here’s what humanity stands to gain by changing how it does business. 

1. Prevent Pollution by Reducing Demand 

Why do people buy single-use plastics? Outside of specific applications such as medical settings, the answer is often convenience. It’s simply easier to snag a bottle from the store and toss the container in a bin than to remember to carry a flask. 

Measures that discourage single-use plastics, such as bag bans, make it tougher to take the easy way out “just this once.” Reduced demand for single-use plastic also means creating less pollution during mining operations to extract petroleum and the associated risks, such as ocean spills. 

2. Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Both Ends of a Product’s Life Cycle

Plastic pollutes multiple times. Extraction requires machinery, which involves fossil fuels and emissions. Furthermore, transforming crude oil into bags, wrappers and straws takes energy. 

The plastic that ends up in landfills pollutes another time by encouraging methane release. Methane is a greenhouse gas heavier than carbon dioxide, and while some facilities capture it as fuel, they are few and far between. Greenhouse gases raise global temperatures and spur violent storms. 

3. Lessen Strain on Available Recycling Facilities 

One of the big lies about plastic occurs in labeling. The little triangle with the number implies you can recycle it indefinitely. However, most facilities can’t handle more than numbers one and two, sometimes five. 

Furthermore, you can only recycle plastic two or three times before it becomes unusable, and running the machines takes energy. Cutting back on single-use means more of what can be recycled is. 

4. Save Money 

Plastic products take money to produce, although they’re often less expensive than the alternatives. However, new technologies offer hope. Although bioplastics are not a magical answer, shifting to a circular economy that requires producers of such products to handle disposal could slash plastic use by 80%, according to a report from the Pew Trust.

Implementing measures like banning waste exports gives manufacturers an economic incentive to recycle existing materials and design new ones that are more eco-friendly. Governments must make creating waste less cost-effective than managing it responsibly. Such measures drive cost-effective innovations, as deriving materials from plants is far less expensive than extracting oil from the ground. 

Large-Scale Efforts to Pare Down Plastic — and How to Help

Seeing beyond single-use takes a concerted effort on the part of individuals, corporations and governments to address the plastic problem. Here are six ways to pare down plastic in your life. 

1. Send a Message With Your Bottle or Mug

Invest in a reusable glass bottle and carry it with you to avoid purchasing single-use plastic bottles at the store. You can also take mugs to coffee shops now that they’ve removed pandemic restrictions. 

Doing so serves as a visual reminder to stay hydrated while reducing demand. Furthermore, look for other hydrating alternatives like metal and bamboo straws. 

2. Invest in a Stronger Sack 

Reusable bags take more energy to make, so force yourself to do the “walk of shame” a few times by returning to your car to retrieve them. You’ll benefit from the effort and not just because you won’t need to use a plastic bag. 

These containers are also far sturdier and have a bigger carrying capacity than single-use models, keeping your eggs safe and unbroken until you decide to scramble them. 

3. Pay Attention to Packaging 

A lot of single-use plastic use comes from product packaging. It seems everything needs a protective coating these days — or does it? For example, there’s no need to wrap apples in plastic, but enough producers do it to prompt France to pass a law prohibiting such waste. 

However, there’s no need to wait for a similar law where you live. You can purchase products with as little plastic packaging as possible while pushing for wider-scale changes. 

4. Patronize Bulk Stores 

Avoiding unnecessary plastic packaging is easier when you buy in bulk. Such arrangements also reduce food waste by letting you select only as much as you need — for example, a single person may only need a handful of nuts, not a whole bag. Some stores provide containers to make it easier to subtract their weight from your purchase. 

5. Wrap Your Food Differently 

If you grew up on plastic sandwich bags, it’s time to return to an earlier invention — the lunch box. Today, you can find groovy Bento models that heat your meal while working. 

Glass is nearly infinitely recyclable and preserves flavor. Additionally, you can microwave your leftovers in it without contaminating the contents with questionable chemicals. Invest in quality, reusable food storage solutions. 

6. Reuse Plastics You Can’t Recycle When Possible

Unless you move off-grid, grow your own food and weave your own clothing, you’re probably going to use single-use plastic. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your overall usage by reusing what you can’t recycle. 

For example, take that old stash of plastic bags and transform it into yarn. You can then use your creation to knit a new, stronger sack for carrying your groceries home. 

Benefits of Reducing Single-Use Plastics

Seeing beyond single-use plastic is essential to protecting human life and the planet. While society-wide changes require the participation of governments and corporations, the actions individuals take also matter. 

Use these tips to benefit from reducing single-use plastic. You’ll feel good about doing your part to protect the environment while introducing fewer problematic chemicals and waste into your life.

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