Twelve steps towards reducing our plastic addiction
This is the last in a series of articles by members of the Marine Debris Task Force on marine debris in Bermuda and how to reduce dependence on plastic
Addiction is a serious matter, and difficult to overcome. The world has become addicted to plastic, in particular, single-use non-essential plastic items which drive our convenience-based lifestyles. Over-consumption and mismanagement of these types of plastics has created detrimental environmental impacts, including on our own human health.
Plastic is pervasive in our environment and never really goes away. It breaks up into tiny microplastics that are not only being ingested by animals but also by us humans. Single-use plastic constitutes 50 per cent of the 300m tons of plastic produced each year!
By keeping plastics out of the ocean, we are protecting ourselves from the microplastics that are finding their way into fish and shellfish. A study has estimated that on average one gram of seafood contains 1.48 pieces of microplastic. Furthermore, it has been estimated that the average American consumes 44lbs of plastic in their lifetime. Are we in Bermuda likely to be any different?
The actual pieces of plastic are not the only concern. Harmful toxins incorporated in them build up in the food chain, creating body burdens of the chemicals in the biomass of the organisms. The concentrations of toxins become greater as they go up the food chain, becoming more problematic to consumers at the top. These chemicals, which are leaching out of the plastic packaging into our food and beverages, have been linked to many health issues including obesity, cancer and hormone disruption.
The problem of plastic is a complex one. Production and overconsumption of this fossil fuel-based product also contributes to climate change. With sea levels rising at a rate of one eighth of an inch per year Bermuda can no longer ignore this issue. We need to be part of the solution as it is already affecting our shores, the freshwater lenses and our community. Plastic waste has contributed to the global environment hitting rock-bottom.
Faced with plastic everywhere we turn, how can we reduce our addiction? Here are 12 steps in which single-use non-essential plastics can easily be swapped out for friendlier products as well as simple behaviours that we can adopt.
1, Say no to single-use plastic you do not need
2, Use reusable shopping bags
3, Use mesh or reusable produce bags
4, Switch to bamboo, metal or silicone straws
5, Use reusable coffee cups
6, Use silicone bags instead of Ziplock bags
7, Swap plastic cutlery for bamboo or metal
8, Pack plastic-free lunches and picnics
9, Take your own containers for takeout food
10, Talk to your local shops to get them to support plastic-free products
11, Consider a plastic-free day, week or month with your family
12, Support any single-use plastic ban
It can sometimes be overwhelming to make changes to our lives and not know where to start. However, if each of us followed these simple steps and committed to reducing our use of single-use plastic, our environment as well as our health will be in a much better condition. Pick a few steps and start today. It will get easier and it is definitely worth it!
•Amy Harvey is the senior lecturer, earth and environmental science at the Bermuda College. Jennifer Flood is a director of the Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce. Both are members of the Bermuda Marine Debris Task Force a group of environmental and research organisations that aims to promote awareness of the impact of marine debris landing on Bermuda’s beaches and affecting marine life and to propose solutions to the growing problem