Right now, more than 400 million tons of plastic are manufactured every year, and over 300 million tons of plastic waste created. Plastic production, use and disposal in the United States contributed 232 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 – equivalent to 116 coal-fired plants.
Plastic is detrimental to our climate, communities, and the environment at nearly every step of its lifecycle: from the extraction of the fossil fuel building blocks to chemical processing, to manufacturing, disposal, and even during recycling. Not only does plastic pollute our air and water, but it also disproportionately harms Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and low-income families living in frontline communities near petrochemical facilities, landfills, incinerators, and other waste management facilities.
The purpose of Plastic Free July is to raise awareness of the urgency of our plastic pollution crisis and offer suggestions for reducing plastic waste at home, work and in the community by refusing, reusing and refilling. Together we can be part of the solution to plastic pollution.
Here are a few actions you can take to reduce plastic waste.
Plastic packaging is the single largest source of plastic waste and it’s also one that we can do without. Send a message to your local chain supermarket that you want them to decrease packaging and increase bulk and refillables. Purchase loose produce whenever possible. Replace single-use plastic produce bags with reusable ones on sale at Hannaford, We Fill Good, etc.
Getting Ready:York residents show their climate commitment at fair
Buy a reusable water bottle and refill it at home or on the go and never buy a single-use bottle of water again. It takes 1 PET plastic bottle 700 years to start decomposing. Bacteria, which usually help to break down organic materials, don’t like petroleum-based plastics. Technically, they can last forever.
Grab a reusable cup for your morning coffee and skip paper or plastic. In the U.S., we throw away 50 billion coffee cups every year. These are coated with plastic to laminate the inside and are not accepted in our curbside recycling.
Switch to reusable versions of single-use products – things you use once, then throw away- such as straws and utensils. These items are not accepted in our curbside recycling and like all plastic stuff, they most often end up in our environment, landfills, oceans, etc.
Dine-in. When ordering a drink, request that they skip the straw. Bring your own storage container for leftovers. As long as you transfer the food from your plate to your container, the restaurant won’t mind. When you do order out, request that they skip single-use utensils, condiment packages, and other single-use items.
Shop at refill stores and tell your friends. We Fill Good, www.wefillgoodseacoast.com, in Kittery makes refilling kitchen and bathroom products easy and economical. Let’s keep this store and others like it thriving.
Contact Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and ask them to co-sponsor the BreakFree From Plastic Pollution Act. A bill to amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to reduce the production and use of certain single-use plastic products and packaging, to improve the responsibility of producers in the design, collection, reuse, recycling, and disposal of their consumer products and packaging, to prevent pollution from consumer products and packaging from entering into animal and human food chains and waterways, and for other purposes.
Simon is a member of the York Recycling Committee. York Ready for Climate Action is a 501(c)3 nonprofit in York, Maine, and a grassroots organization dedicated to increasing awareness of the causes and effects of climate change and advancing environmentally friendly and inclusive policies and behaviors.