No Excuse for Single Use

The food industry encourages the use of three of the most environmentally-dire single-use items: plastic bags, straws and takeaway cups. The unimaginable volume of waste created by these convenience items is entirely avoidable if consumers choose to invest in low-cost reusable alternatives. Once the initial investment has been made, there is no downside to choosing to use the ecologically-sound option versus the disposable. In fact, there are oftentimes added benefits to going green. Read on to learn about the impact of plastic bags, straws and coffee cups as a result of the food industry, and how to avoid using the excuse for single use.

Each plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes total and will take at least 500 years to degrade in a landfill. In actuality, it will never completely break down and will become micro-plastics, continuing to pollute the environment. Every minute, approximately two million plastic bags are used around the world. This amounts to one trillion plastic bags used worldwide per year. The solution? Bring your own reusable bag. It’s that simple. As a further incentive to carry your own tote, many grocery stores now charge for plastic bags and some choose to eliminate supplying them altogether so shoppers have no choice.

Approximately 500 million plastic straws are used in the United States every day. That is enough to circle the earth two and a half times… per day. Plastic straws are the eighth most prominent item found in the catastrophic expanse of ocean waste. Straws endanger the lives of oceanic animals like turtles and sea birds who mistake them for food. It is estimated that over one million sea birds die per year from ingesting plastic. The kicker? Straws are most oftentimes a convenience item and not actually necessary for beverage consumption. Tell your server you would like to forgo a straw or bring your own reusable version (i.e. paper, stainless steel or glass). Join the #strawssuck movement.

Five hundred billion disposable cups (over 70 for every person on earth) are manufactured every year, worldwide. Though we know plastic to-go smoothie cups and similar have a dismal environmental impact, consumers are oftentimes unaware of many “paper” coffee cups’ easily misunderstood level of recyclability. Though paper cups are generally touted as the greener option, the vast majority of them are lined with plastic polyethylene which allows them to be waterproof and hold liquid. This, and the fact that many cups are disposed of still containing liquid which leads to further processing requirements and results in fewer than one percent of “paper” cups being recycled. To alleviate this issue, bring your own cup! Many cafes and restaurants even offer a drink discount for bringing your own vessel. To save space in a purse or backpack, there are new collapsible cup options on the market, too.

The impact of plastic bags, straws and takeaway cups on the environment is immense. These items are commonly supplied to consumers for convenience, not necessity, and have reusable alternatives that are undoubtedly the greener option. Furthermore, reusable bags and cups can even save the buyer money in the long run due to restaurant discounts. Get in the habit of bringing your own bag, straw and cup and never make an excuse for single use again.