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  • Writer's pictureSarah Camp

Earth Day 2024 — It's Time to Team Up: Planet and People vs. Plastic

ELM Resources cares! Earth Day Planet vs. Plastics

This year's Earth Day theme "Planet vs. Plastic" calls us to unite against the global plastic pollution crisis. While the challenge is immense, there is also an immense opportunity for collective action to shape a cleaner, greener future.

The Plastic Wake-Up Call

Disposable plastic has become an overwhelming issue – clogging landfills, landscapes and oceans with non-biodegradable waste. Beyond environmental damage, microplastics now permeate our food, water, and even the air we breathe.  We’ve all likely seen images of islands of plastic waste in our oceans like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch located between Hawaii and California, or the heartbreaking images of wildlife that has become trapped or injured by plastic waste. 

A Change to Embrace

Globally, a powerful movement is gaining momentum to curb plastic pollution. Nations like Kenya, the U.K., and Taiwan lead with bans and hefty fines on single-use plastics. We, too, can make a difference through thoughtful choices.

"Taking a reusable bag, bottle, and container when on the go is an easy way to reduce plastic waste," advises Tara Hemmer, WM's Chief Sustainability Officer in Tampa, FL. Proper recycling also allows more plastics to be repurposed instead of trashed.


What We Can Do

Each of us has the power to reduce our plastic footprint. The following is a list of various ways you can make a difference:  

  • Use Reusable Bags: Bring your own reusable bags when shopping for groceries or other items to reduce the need for plastic bags.

  • Choose Glass or Metal Containers: Opt for glass or metal containers for storing food instead of plastic containers, which can leach harmful chemicals over time.

  • Refillable Toiletry Bottles: Invest in refillable bottles for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash to avoid single-use plastic bottles in the bathroom.

  • Switch to Bar Soap: Swap out liquid hand soap and body wash for bar soap, which typically comes with minimal or no packaging.

  • Say No to Plastic Straws: Skip the plastic straws and use alternatives like metal, bamboo, or paper straws, or simply enjoy your drinks without a straw.

  • Buy in Bulk: Purchase items like grains, pasta, nuts, and spices from bulk bins using your own reusable containers to minimize plastic packaging.

  • Use Reusable Beverage Containers: Carry a reusable water bottle and coffee cup with you to avoid single-use plastic bottles and cups when you're on the go.

  • Choose Fresh Produce: Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables instead of pre-packaged ones to reduce plastic packaging waste.

  • Make Homemade Cleaning Products: Create your own cleaning solutions using simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils, stored in reusable containers.

  • Repair Instead of Replace: Extend the life of your belongings by repairing them when possible rather than immediately replacing them, reducing the need for new plastic items.

  • Compost Food Scraps: Start a compost bin for food scraps to divert organic waste from landfills, reducing the need for plastic garbage bags.

  • Shop Secondhand: Consider buying clothing, furniture, and other items secondhand to reduce the demand for new plastic packaging associated with manufacturing.

  • Beyond the Home:  Encourage community organizations to transition away from single-use plastics.  For instance, ask your child's school to replace disposable trays in the cafeteria with reusable ones or support companies and policies that prioritize sustainability and plastic reduction.

A Future of Eco-Innovations

Exciting plant-based and biodegradable alternatives to conventional plastics are emerging, from mushroom packaging to algae water bottles. As physicist Eleftheria Roumeli states, "We need to find a better, kinder version of polymers derived from sustainable sources."

The Time for Change is Now

Until these innovations scale globally, we must evaluate our plastic footprint and transition to eco-friendly choices. Let's challenge our community to ditch disposables for reusables and voice support for companies and policies focused on reducing plastic waste.

What’s one thing you can commit to today to help reduce plastic waste?  

Share your thoughts in the comments! Happy Earth Day!

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