As anyone who has spoken to me about green cleaning knows, this is something I am incredibly talkative and passionate about! And one topic that I’ll bring up again and again is just how harmful our dependence on plastic is for our planet.
I thought it might be good to take some time to dedicate a blog post to the perils of plastic, so I can share some of the more important information we all need to know in one convenient spot.
The Harmful Effects of Plastic
One of the most important things to understand plastic is that it’s everywhere — literally. When we throw away plastic, it decomposes extremely slowly over the course of hundreds of years. Once discarded, decomposing plastics produce microplastic fibers, which get washed away into our rivers and oceans — and may become even more toxic through exposure to pesticides and other pollutants during run-off.
In turn, these plastics are consumed by aquatic wildlife. Scientists have found microfibers in more than a hundred varieties of fish, many of which are regularly consumed by humans. This means that there may well be dangerous plastics in the food we eat and the water we drink! Researchers are continuing to explore how much exposure to plastic may impact human growth and development.
According to a report from The Independent, scientists estimate that 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans each year, with more than 150 million tons already present in our waterways! Per The Independent, that’s equivalent to a “garbage truck full of plastic dumping plastic into the ocean every minute.” This number is only going to keep rising; the Ocean Conservancy estimates that there will be more than 250 million metric tons of plastic in the ocean by 2050, with more plastic than fish in our waters by the year 2050.
To make matters worse, plastic also contributes a ton of CO2 to the atmosphere. Research suggests that the emissions from plastics in 2015 amounted to nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2. Plastic production is a massive drain on fossil fuel reserves, and it is estimated that about 8% of the world’s oil production goes into manufacturing plastics.
Research suggests that humans have created more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics since large-scale production began in the early 1950s; we currently produce more than 300 million tons of plastic per year. As a rule, experts estimate that only abou 9% of plastic is properly recycled, while the rest gets sent to landfills or ends up in our oceans.
How Can We Help Eliminate Plastic Waste?
So, what can we do to minimize our consumption of plastic — and eventually say goodbye to this all-too-common source of pollution for good? Here are three simple, impactful steps we can all take in 2021:
Say “No” to Single-Use Plastics
According to The Independent, about 50% of all plastic products are used once and then discarded. Single-use plastic products are extremely harmful for the environment — and studies suggest that our single-use habit has only grown stronger during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One way to adjust your own habits is to be extremely mindful about how and when you use single-use plastics. Fortunately, a little planning and strategy can dramatically cut down on the amount of single-use plastic products you use. Here are some simple ideas you can put into place in no time at all:
- Say “no” to all plastic bags at the grocery store, and use reusable canvas or linen bags instead
- Say “no” to plastic utensils and straws with takeout or delivery
- Use a refillable water bottle instead of plastic bottles; if you do need to purchase something to drink, opt for something in an aluminum or cardboard container with minimal packaging (as both of these materials are far more recyclable than plastic)
- Use compostable trash bags instead of plastic liners whenever possible
- Bring your own reusable containers to farmer’s markets
- Purchase a razor with blades that can be replaced, rather than a disposable razor
Switch to Reusable Glass Containers
While glass certainly isn’t perfect from an environmental standpoint, it is often held up as a better alternative than plastic for a number of reasons. For one thing, while only about 9% of plastic is recycled, glass has a recycling rate of about 33%. When it is thrown away, glass does not leech unpleasant byproducts into the planet as it decomposes. And finally, glass is far more reusable and versatile than plastic. You can find countless ways to make use of a glass container, which is sturdy and can hold up to repeated washings.
We often recommend purchasing concentrated cleaning products and diluting and storing them in glass containers, rather than cycling through endless plastic bottles. You can also make your own DIY products with home essentials in glass bottles. Similarly, you can use glass for the storage of food, art supplies, and just about anything else you can think of.
Use Readily Compostable Alternatives
Many of the plastic products that we take for granted can be replaced with far more environmentally friendly alternatives. For example, humans throw away more than three billion plastic toothbrushes every year; this number can be dramatically reduced by switching to more eco-friendly bamboo or plant-based brushes. Conventional kitchen sponges tend to leak microplastic into our waterways; opt for sponges and brushes made from more biodegradable natural materials such as loofah, bamboo, walnuts, or cellulose. You can even ditch sponges entirely for reusable scrubbing brushes and fabric cloths, which can be disinfected and used hundreds or even thousands of times.
Sweeping Dimensions: A Cleaning With a Conscience
Here at Sweeping Dimensions, we focus on handling all sorts of cleaning and housekeeping projects, so you can focus on the other things that matter to you.
A big part of that is making sure our clients’ wants and needs are met at all times. That’s why we make a point of always having sustainable and environmentally friendly cleaning solutions on hand and ready to use.
We also believe in passing along our green cleaning knowledge, whenever we can. We love to talk all things cleaning and organizing, including the strategies that can make taking care of your home a more sustainable practice. The more people we can bring together in our mission for a greener world, the better off our oceans, lakes, and rivers will be.
So, if you ever have a question about comparing cleaning products, or making a green switch in your home, don’t hesitate to get in touch – I am always happy to talk shop! At SDCS, we are sincerely passionate about these issues, dedicated to finding real solutions, and always eager to keep the conversation going.
Want to set up a green cleaning for your Chicago home? Don’t hesitate to reach out for your free estimate!
Looking to exchange ideas on reusable plastic alternatives, or share how you’re going to focus on sustainability this year? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch via email or on social media to let us know your thoughts.