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There seems to be a ton of attention given to banning plastic recently. It feels especially Californian to be the state to lead the movement in protecting the environment. As convenient as plastic is in the daily rush of life, I also admit that the plastic can be very damaging to the environment. Plastic is difficult to break down and the process to recycle plastic into new products is not simple. If you want more information, there are many great documentaries available that outline the hazards of plastic.
- Exposing Australia’s recycling lie | 60 Minutes Australia [2019 | YouTube]
- China's Waste Ban Is Causing A Trash Crisis In The U.S. (HBO) [2018 | YouTube]
- We're addicted to plastic [2018 | YouTube]
- Plastic China [2016 | official website | Amazon Video]
- CarbonLite: Inside the World's Largest Plastic Bottle Recycling Plant [2014 | YouTube]
- Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch [2014 | official website | Amazon Video]
As I learned, plastic that is not easily broken down in the environment. When the plastic breaks down, it becomes very small plastics particles that become even more difficult to pick up. These are known as "microplastics".
Even if your recycle your plastics by throwing in your recycle bin or by dropping off plastic bags at your local recycling centers, it's a possibility that those items get loose and pollute our environment or worse it just gets shipped off to a foreign country where it just sits in their landfill.
And so states and countries are taking steps to ban and/or minimize the use of single use plastic products. To me, this makes sense and I'd like to help where I can.
Banning Single Use Plastic Grocery Bags
From July 2015, California was the first state to ban single use plastic grocery bags. Honestly, I thought change in law would be a huge burden to my life. I shop at many stores throughout the week, all of which without thinking would be loaded into a plastic bag. Soon afterwards, I kept getting free re-usable plastic bags from almost any and every event. Companies realized there was a demand for bags and found it to be a simple free way to advertise. And now, I have an fat stack of re-usable plastic grocery bags I keep in my car.
In the beginning, the most difficult part was remembering to take the bag out of my trunk when I get to the store. Next was remembering to put the re-usable grocery bag back into the car. But in as little as month, it became second-nature to grab the re-usable bag when I got to the store.
Banning Plastic Straws
In 2019, California took another step and banned plastic straws from being served unless specifically requested. However, some forward thinking restaurants have started offering paper straws. I'm not 100% sure how I feel about these straws, as the texture isn't quite the same. I've experienced it a few times already and it feels odd each time, but I'm sure with time, the paper straws will also become second nature.
Other Plastic Product Alternatives
Even though some governments have banned only single-use plastic straws and single-use grocery bags, there are many other ways I take to avoid plastics.
- Re-usable Water Bottles - Since about the same time plastic grocery bags were banned, I also tried to stopped purchasing plastic bottled water. Instead, I save money by filtering my water at home (Zerowater Filter) and use a metal BPA-free bottle. Some of these bottles are fancy and are double-walled to help keep 'cold water... cold' and 'hot water... hot' with the insulated design. Amazon sells many of these double-wall re-usable bottles as well.
- Re-usable Straw - These are a geat idea, but are less ideal than paper straws. Re-usable straws requires you to wash them with an included tool. Keep in mind the cost of the water to wash the straw. Metal straws also can't be bitten, if you have a habit of biting your straw. They also can't be bent, so make sure you purchase either the straight version or the 45 degree bend at the top version. But if you go this route, get a metal re-usable straw instead of a plastic straw.
- Paper Straws - If you don't like the re-usable metal straws, you can always go for paper straws. They're disposable, but because they're paper, they easily break down (when compared to plastic).