Where we go from here
Our consumption of plastic — both literal and figurative — shows no signs of slowing. Quite the opposite, actually, if you recall that plastic production is expected to quadruple by 2050. But if the first step to solving a problem is, as they say, admitting you have a problem, we may be heading in the right direction.
In many circles, there’s no debate that humans are using too much plastic. To that end, many of the most prolific plastic items have been banned in some areas. Take plastic shopping bags. Americans use about 100 billion of these bags a year, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. However, their use has been banned in several cities and states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Here in Illinois, the bags are still commonplace, but you can do your part to reduce their use by keeping reusable bags in your car.
Another everyday item that’s been the subject of bans is plastic straws. Several cities, including Seattle and Washington, D.C., have banned their use, and several corporations have changed their cup design so straws are no longer needed. Take Starbucks, which rolled out cups with strawless lids in 2020 to help reduce the use of plastic straws. Dunkin’ unveiled a strawless lid in 2021 and is also testing biodegradable straws in some markets. You can contribute to the cause by passing on taking a straw with your drink when dining out or getting takeout. Love drinking with a straw? There are plenty of reusable straws on the market, including silicone and stainless steel options.
These steps — both individual efforts and large-scale actions like legislative bans and corporate initiatives — put us on the right path, but based on the amount of plastic produced each year it’s not enough to stem the tide. To truly make measurable progress in ridding the environment of plastic, we have to do a better job of recycling it and using less of it. Both these steps require individual action — things you can do in your own life — and large-scale efforts by governments, industries and corporations.
If we don’t, our natural areas, particularly our oceans and other waterways, will become increasingly filled with plastic. Already, it’s estimated that the world’s oceans will be filled with more plastic than fish by 2050, the World Economic Forum reports. Is that the future we want for the next generations?
(Lead image via Shutterstock)