Finding Solutions to the Plastic Problem
Guest Post By Miriam Silva Preas, Essex Soap Refill
Edited by Cassidy O’Lear
If you think of a typical day, and how much plastic you’ve used and thrown away in a single day, you would be surprised to hear that collectively it results in about one garbage truck dumped into the ocean every minute*. Iced coffee, take out containers, plastic utensils, straws, water bottles, cigarettes, candy wrappers — the list goes on and it all adds up.
The truth is that the conveniences of our modern throwaway culture has made single-use plastics one of the largest pollutants of our oceans, our wildlife, and our health.
While there are many uses for plastic that are not only reasonable but important, such as IV tubing, helmets, equipment for clean drinking water, the problem is that it’s taken over too many aspects of our life.
Over the years, our plastic consumption has steadily increased. Worldwide, current plastic production has reached approximately 400 million tonnes per year. That’s about 450 Olympic size pools of plastic produced per day!
At our current rate of plastic consumption, it is estimated that by 2050, just 30 years from now, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
The culprit is single-use plastics. You buy it, use it once, and throw it away. But what really happens when you throw it away?
While recycling helps, our plastic consumption rate far exceeds what we are able to recycle. In fact, only 10% of the plastic used in the U.S. is recycled.
Source: United States Environmental Protection Agency
Our current single-stream recycling practices make it difficult for recycling centers to operate profitably. Food-contaminated and non-recyclable plastics are often mixed in with recyclable materials and it takes very little of this contamination to render an entire shipping container of recyclables un-recyclable, which means that it all ends up in a landfill, an incinerator, or in the ocean. Worse still, China is no longer willing to buy our recyclables. So what do we do now?
The best course of action we can take is to reduce our use of single-use plastics.
By modifying just a few aspects of our consumer behavior, we can actually make a big difference.
Take a few of these examples:
Carry reusable bags, not only for grocery shopping but for all your shopping.
Keep a reusable cup in your car or bring one in your bag for your next coffee urge.
Invest in a water filter for your home and always bring a water bottle with you to avoid buying bottled water.
Say no to straws or carry your own.
Reuse your zip-lock bags or buy alternatives.
Choose items that are minimally packaged when you shop. This is easier to do if you shop at Farmers Markets.
Make EcoBricks out of unrecyclable plastics.
Buy bulk foods.
Sign up with your local milkman.
Refill and reuse your bottles.
By applying some of these practices, not only will you help reduce plastic waste, you’ll also save money.
Companies that are making a difference
While living in Mexico last year, I stumbled upon a small neighborhood store that sold soap products in bulk. The idea is that you bring in your own container, refill on soap products, and pay by volume.
When I came back to the North Shore, I was surprised to see that this was not easily available.
That is when I decided to start Essex Soap Refill.
Essex Soap Refill
Essex Soap Refill is a neighborhood refill service that gives the Essex County community the opportunity to reduce the demand for plastic production by not purchasing another container and just refilling the ones you already have.
Dish soap, hand soap, laundry detergents, cleaners, castile soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion are all available for refill. Products are non-toxic, biodegradable, earth-friendly, scented with 100% essential oils, and made by companies that are committed to sustainability.
Currently, Essex Soap Refill does not have a storefront. All orders are placed online at www.essexsoaprefill.com. With the support of several of my favorite local shops, we’ve placed pick-up and drop-off bins to make it easier for customers to drop off their containers for a refill. We currently have drop-off and pick-up bins at The Mill Essex, Breakwater Roasters Gloucester, and Grassy Roots Wenham. We also offer delivery. Check out our website for more details. Eventually, we hope to become a mobile business, with pop-up stops all around Essex County for easier drop off and pick up.
Give the Gift of Sustainability
This holiday season, consider giving the gift of sustainability and show someone you care about the plastic pollution problem. Teach a loved one how easy it is to reduce waste and refill with high-quality earth-friendly products.
This season, create your own unique bottle and fill it with Essex Soap Refill products. Check out our Instagram, @essexsoaprefill, for gift ideas. We also offer unique gift sets with refillable bottles filled with various products on our website.
Essex Soap Refill is committed to supporting the mission of Seaside Sustainability by donating a percentage of our profits to the organization! Not only does a refill by Essex Soap Refill reduce plastic pollution, each purchase will also help support environmental education and action provided by Seaside Sustainability.
Innovation as a solution
Responsible buying behavior is just one way to tackle this plastic pollution problem. Improving waste management systems and recycling programs, increasing biodegradable material production, and smart packaging design that takes into account the short life of disposable products will lead towards a solution.
When I see the phrase “We are all in it together,” I can’t help but think of ALL the ways we are in this together. There is just one world, one earth, and 7.8 billion people buying more and more plastic every day. We have to become responsible consumers and take action towards reducing our waste.
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32% of all plastic packaging, that is 128 million tons or plastic waste per year, never makes it into the trash or recycle bins, instead it finds its way into our rivers and oceans.