BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 22 Apr '18

For Earth Day, use this tool to calculate how much disposable plastic you use in a year – then make plans to reduce it

Management of plastic waste is a global crisis, making the resulting plastic pollution one of the most pressing environmental problems.

As part of Earth Day 2018 (April 22), Earth Day Network (EDN) has released an online Plastics Pollution Calculator for consumers to calculate the amount of disposable plastic they use in a year and make plans to reduce their waste.

The challenge of plastics

9.1 billion US tons of virgin (non-recycled) plastic has been produced to date, generating 6.9 billion US tons of plastic waste, and only 9% has been recycled.

The world is already incapable of properly managing this enormous amount of waste, and the production of plastic is predicted to increase three times in the next 25 years.

We know that microplastics are polluting our drinking water and the fish we eat that they and also cause health problems. Littered plastic not only kills wildlife but affects the lives of more than 2 billion people living without waste collection.

End Plastic Pollution

EDN is encouraging consumers to join the fight to reduce plastic pollution as part of its End Plastic Pollution campaign for Earth Day 2018. ‘You first need to know where you stand’, said Valeria Merino, vice-president of Global Earth Day at EDN. ‘This plastic pollution calculator will help you determine your total yearly consumption of disposable plastic items.’

The Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit, also on the website, will help consumers determine actions they can take to reduce their plastic pollution footprint. EDN’s efforts centre around the ‘5 Rs’: Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Recycle and Remove.

‘Once you have learned the benefits of embracing the 5 Rs in your daily lives’, Valeria said, ‘we hope you will create a goal for decreasing your yearly plastic pollution using the Plastic Pollution Tracker also available in the Toolkit.’

‘You may be lulled into thinking it is OK to consume disposable plastic products because you plan to recycle them, but many plastics can’t be efficiently recycled and will end up in the landfill or littering the planet, even in the most remote places. Also, some localities lack the most basic infrastructure to manage waste and to sort and recycle plastics. For this reason, it is much more important to focus on reducing your own level of plastic consumption.’

VALERIA MERINO
Vice-president of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network

How to cut down your plastic

There are a number of things that will reduce your plastics impact:

  • Ask yourself every time that you are considering buying a disposable plastic item: Do I absolutely need this? Can I use something else that I already have? Could I buy something that I can use in the long term instead?
  • Prevent the creation of microplastics by properly disposing of plastic products and being careful not to toss plastic products near waterways, beaches or in open spaces.
  • Pick up plastic rubbish whenever you see it, especially in ponds, streams, rivers, and beaches.
  • Look up products on the internet and choose not to buy products containing microbeads. Choose products that have natural exfoliators instead.
  • Consider changing the way you wash your clothing to reduce the number of microfibres that are released. Wash synthetic clothes less frequently, and buy clothes made from natural fibres where possible.

‘Plastic pollution is now an ever-present challenge. We can see plastics floating in our rivers, ocean, and lagoons, littering our landscapes and affecting our health and, the future of billions of children and youth. We have all contributed to this problem – mostly unknowingly – and we must work to reduce and ultimately to End Plastic Pollution.’

VALERIA MERINO
Vice-president of Global Earth Day at Earth Day Network