When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, the obscure world of waste management entered a state of panic.
China, the world’s leading importer and processor of waste paper, metal, and plastic, had just enacted a ban on importing 24 kinds of solid waste and updated their guidelines for the waste they will accept going forward.
The country’s officials said that too much of the garbage it had accepted was contaminated, extremely difficult to recycle, and harmful to local environments, according to the New York Times.
Take Action: Take the Pledge: #SayNoToPlastic
And now landfills throughout the US, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere are expanding with this junk waste as officials search for ways to deal with it, according to the Times.
The silver lining of this crisis is that many places are now thinking about why they allow junk materials to be produced in the first place and are taking steps to curb production.
For example, the European Union recently announced plans to restrict single-use plastic production and to improve the recyclability of plastics that can be produced.
That’s an important development for the global environment.
The amount of solid waste in the world has grown rapidly over the past several decades and by 2025 global solid waste is expected to increase to more than 6 million tons per day, a 70% rise compared to 2010 levels.
Dealing with this garbage should ultimately be the responsibility of manufacturers who send the stuff out into the environment in the first place. But everyday people can also play a role in reducing how much plastic waste enters the world.
Here are seven ways you can cut plastic from your life.
Stop using plastic bags / Use a tote bag
As many as 1 trillion plastic bags from stores are used each year, and only around 5% ever get recycled, according to the EPA. The vast majority end up in landfills, in oceans, or otherwise pollute the planet.
Cutting plastic bags out of your life pretty easy if you make the effort.
If you’re only buying a few things from the store, ask to not be given a bag. And for everything else, buy a durable tote bag that can hold your groceries — a quick Google search will bring up a lot of cheap options.
Stop buying bottled water / Use a reusable water bottle
Plastic water bottles are another ubiquitous form of plastic that are mostly unnecessary and are rarely recycled — 80% end up contaminating the environment.
Buy a reusable water bottle instead.
Stop using plastic wrap / Use tupperware
Plastic wrap is an easy solution to keep unused food fresh, but it’s very difficult to recycle and mostly ends up in landfills or elsewhere. Plus, it’s got that razor-sharp bit that can often lead to unnecessary use of plastic bandages.
Using tupperware is an even easier, safer, and ultimately cheaper way to cut plastic wrap from your life.
Stop using straws / Use reusable straws
Although they seem harmless, plastic straws are putting an enormous strain on the global environment and harming countless animals in the process.
First of all, try to avoid using a straw unless you absolutely need one. For those times when you do need a straw — if you have a disability or you’re drinking a smoothie — buy reusable straws that are cheap and easy to use.
Styrofoam can’t be recycled and it takes a very long time to decompose in the environment.
Avoid Styrofoam as much as you can.
Read More: Zimbabwe Bans Styrofoam-Like Food Containers
Buy fresh food that doesn’t have plastic packaging
Buying fresh vegetables and food from bulk containers may seem like a luxury but it can actually be cheaper than buying packaged goods.
A lot of food packaging is excessive anyways. In 2015, Whole Foods came under fire for putting orange slices in individual plastic containers, perfectly encapsulating how many brands overuse plastic.
If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn't need to waste so much plastic on them. pic.twitter.com/00YECaHB4D— Nathalie Gordon (@awlilnatty) March 3, 2016
Stop buying from companies that overuse plastic
Many companies respond to customer pressure. While restricting plastic production through regulations is more effective and puts the blame on manufacturers where it belongs, consumers can also demand more sustainable behavior from companies they buy products from.
Look for alternatives to companies that use an excessive amount of plastic, because, ultimately, all kinds of plastic are hard to recycle. Then let these companies know that you want them to use sustainable materials.
Global Citizen campaigns on reducing plastic waste and you can take action on this issue here.