Be a part of the ‘Pollution Solution’ with these helpful tips for reducing plastic waste
We’re facing a global plastic crisis, with less than 10 per cent of plastic waste being recycled each year. In Canada we throw out a staggering three million tonnes of plastic each year. Sadly, much of this plastic ends up in our oceans, where marine life can ingest or become entangled in plastic items, leading to suffocation, infection, or fatal injuries.
In July, the Plastic Free Foundation invites everyone to take part in Plastic Free July, a global campaign encouraging us to reduce plastic waste. To help you reduce consumption, the Martlet has put together a list of simple steps you can take toward a plastic-free future.
Change up your morning coffee
By now, many of us know we should bring a reusable tumbler to campus for our morning java, but there are other adjustments we can make. If you use a coffee machine, consider switching to reusable K-Cups, available online or at major retailers like Canadian Tire and Walmart. Another option is using a French press to skip the disposable filters entirely.
For tea lovers, there’s some bad news. Researchers at McGill University found that some tea bags release billions of microplastics in every cup. You can opt for loose leaf teas or look for brands with plastic-free bags, instead.
“Wish-cycling” is the term coined for throwing all your plastics in the blue bin with a blind hope that it will be recycled. While it may seem like the right thing to do, this practice can have unintended consequences. Contaminating recycling plants with incorrectly sorted materials can slow down sorting processes, damage equipment, or even cause rejection of an entire load by the recycling plant; instead diverting it to the landfill.
Adopt best practices by checking what is collected in your area and keeping a list visible for quick reference wherever you prep your food. Consider keeping separate bins for recycling and general waste in other parts of the house, such as bathrooms, to make sorting easy!
Go zero-waste at the store
Recycling is great, but remember, reducing and reusing come first! Choose a packaging free shopping experience by trying out a refill store such as Zero Waste Emporium in downtown Victoria. Don’t forget to bring your containers, or use the in-store take-a-jar, leave-a-jar system. You can rinse out some plastic tubs/glass jars from your recycling to bring along next time.
Sometimes a trip to a major retailer is required, especially on a student budget! However you can still make one or two sustainable swaps during each shop. For instance, try buying items such as rice or yogurt in bulk rather than pre-portioned to save on packaging. Avoid using plastic produce bags, re-use bulk bags where you can, and, in a pinch, opt for paper mushroom bags instead!
Wrap it up
Food on-the-go is a hot-spot for plastic waste. In B.C., single-use plastic items such as food containers, cutlery, and polystyrene packaging are being phased out under new legislation. As businesses transition, keep a single-set of cutlery in your work or school bag so you’re never caught off guard. If you’re bringing a sandwich, ditch the plastic wrap. It’s difficult to recycle and releases harmful chemicals as it breaks down in our landfills. Test out beeswax wrap as a sustainable alternative to keep food fresh.
For students on meal plans, remember you can opt into the ECO box program at The Cove. For those not on a meal plan, you can obtain an ECO card for a $5 fee. When you want to take away food, you will be provided with a reusable container. Just remember to bring back your container so it can be sterilized and washed — you’ll get back your ECO card to start the cycle again!
If you’re riled up about plastic pollution, consider making a pledge to campaigns such as those hosted by 10 000 Changes or the Plastic Free Foundation. Local organizations such as Surfrider South Vancouver Island host monthly beach cleanups. You can sign up online to meet like minded people and make a difference.
Most of all, keep up the good work and know that every change is a positive step toward a plastic-free future!