How to Reduce Your Use of Plastic (Fact Sheet 1)

The Problem: How Plastic Becomes Pollution

  • Plastic collects in lakes, rivers, and the ocean.
  • It breaks down in sunlight (photo-degrades) into small pieces.
  • Birds such as albatrosses, turtles, and fish eat the plastic pieces.
  • The plastic will either fill the animal’s stomach, causing it to starve to death, or pierce its stomach, causing it to bleed to death.

There are massive whirlpools filled with plastic in the world’s oceans, the most famous being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or North Pacific Gyre, located between California and Hawaii. For a more complete explanation, go to 5 Gyres and click on “What is the problem?”

Want an image? Try Message from the Gyre, a series of photographs by Chris Jordan.

Think those pictures have been staged? Watch “Bottle Caps,” a video of a Fish and Wildlife Service employee sorting through plastic from a dead albatross chick on Midway Island.

The Solution: You, Changing Your Habits

  • Water: buy several reusable water bottles and always have one with you, even at restaurants. Stainless steel is best.
  • Coffee and tea: buy several reusable coffee cups and keep one at home and one at the office and one in your car.
  • Bags: Keep reusable bags in your car and at home. You can get the reusable plastic bags at the grocery store, but real cloth bags will last longer, and the handles won’t break.
  • Bags for produce: Vitamin Cottage and Whole Foods sell bags you can use for produce.
  • Bags at the mall: keep some nice-looking bags, either cloth, or plastic from a store where you like to shop, in your purse or car, and use them for clothing or gadget purposes.
  • Utensils: Keep some in your purse or car. Or you can buy a bamboo spork at Whole Foods. It works for salad, though you can’t cut anything with it.
  • Plastic Containers: there is so much to say here that I can’t fit it all on one page.

NOTE 1: Try changing one habit at a time.

NOTE 2: These reusable items don’t take up that much space. Really!