Let’s Talk Climate Change: Plastics and Recycling

August 18, 2023

When talking about climate change, the most obvious and visible issue is plastic. Plastic is literally everywhere. Your shampoo, dish soap, toothbrush, clothing, food, and amazon packages all either contain or come packaged in plastic. The question is, what’s so bad about plastic?

Plastic is a durable, cheap, and easily made material that has allowed the world to make major improvements, particularly in the field of medicine. However, as a result of these attributes, plastic poses serious threats to the overall health of the planet. Most commonly, plastic is derived from crude oil. So right from the start of its production, plastic is harming the environment. After the extraction of oil, the oil is refined, distilled, and cracking of the hydrocarbons takes place finally ending in polymerization. Now, I’m not a scientist, so these words are just as confusing to me as they are to you. But basically what this means is that plastic from its conception to its culmination is toxic for the planet and also for our bodies. And not only is plastic bad for these reasons, but plastic is made to last… forever. 

Generally, plastic is not biodegradable. So that means, when you throw your plastic bottle in the trash, that plastic is not going anywhere anytime soon. Here’s a list of some common plastic items and how long it takes for them to dissolve:

    • Plastic grocery bags: 10 to 20 years
    • Plastic sandwich bags: up to 1000 years
    • Plastic straws: 100-500 years
    • Plastic bottles: 450 years
    • Plastic diapers: 450 years
    • Plastic sanitary pads: 450 to 1000 years
    • Plastic coffee pods: 150 to 500 years
    • Styrofoam cups: 50 years

So yeah, these plastics hang around on the earth for a long time. And even if they dissolve, they turn into microplastics, which end up leaching into our waterways, food, and ultimately, into our bodies.

The common thought is, “What about recycling? Doesn’t that eliminate plastic waste?” This is a loaded question, as sure, recycling does eliminate some virgin plastic from entering into the system. However, it does not completely eliminate plastic as one might assume. Even the recycling process can release methane and ultimately produces a lot of waste. 

Finding tangible solutions to the plastic waste problem can be difficult, particularly for the average individual. Ultimately, a complete overhaul of the system and eradication of plastic from our everyday lives must take place. So what can the average person do in the meantime? I’ll present three solutions that I’ve started to do in my own life.

First, start by understanding just how much plastic you consume. If you want to really go for it, you can pull out every piece of plastic in your home to do a plastic inventory. I can assure you, it will be shocking to see in real time how much plastic is used to stock your pantry or your makeup bag. By doing this, you can gain a better picture of your personal contribution to the problem and ultimately grow in your conviction and determination to be a part of the solution.

Second, tackle your waste. Plastic items will not stick around in your home forever. Your yogurt container and toothbrush will eventually need to be disposed of. And while recycling is a complicated issue, do your best to thoroughly clean out your plastic containers and understand how to dispose of each type of plastic (Check out the picture below for more information!). Additionally, there are other resources available to dispose of your plastic. For example, you can look into TerraCycle. This is a well done recycling service (that does have an additional fee) which helps to to feel better about your plastic waste. If you want to get started, look into some of the products you use every day to see if they partner with TerraCycle. For example, GoMacro bars have a free program with TerraCycle to help eliminate waste from their protein bars. Ultimately, when it comes to plastic disposal, do your best. The world of recycling can be complicated and there are often many things outside of our control but we can all do our part in continuing to dispose of our items properly!

Finally, when you go to purchase new items for your home, seek out packaging and solutions that involve less waste. Opt for glass or aluminum instead of plastic. Bring your reusable bags and water bottles. This is where we can have the most every day impact on the plastic problem. By not engaging with the infrastructure of plastic, we can do our part to encourage the elimination of plastic from our world. And if you feel lost on where to start when it comes to shopping zero-waste, stay tuned for some blogs later this summer, as this is an issue I will be addressing directly. 

Overall, remain conscious and vigilant of your choices and actions. This is the first step to becoming a better steward of God’s creation. We’re all in this together, so let’s all join together to work towards a plastic free planet!



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