Today is World Ocean’s Day, and one of the worst environmental threats to our planet’s oceans is plastic pollution. We made more plastic in the first decade of this century than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000. Billions of pounds of plastic end up in the ocean each year, and at this rate, we face a future where there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish by the year 2050. Emerging research suggests that not one square mile of surface ocean on Earth is free of plastic pollution. Most of this plastic comes from land where it is blown by the wind or carried by rivers into the ocean .
What are the effects of all this plastic? We’ve all seen the pictures of turtles, birds, seals, and other animals tangled up in plastic rings or injured from ingesting plastic bags. Plastic pollution can cause severe injury and death to countless ocean species, and it makes its way up the food chain as fish ingest an estimated 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic annually. One study found that a quarter of fish at markets in California contained plastic microfibers in their stomachs. As plastic floats through the sea and breaks down, it absorbs and releases chemicals like PCBs, DDT, PAH, and BPA .
These facts paint a pretty tragic image of the state of our world’s oceans. So, what can we do about this problem? There are simple changes we can make in our lives that can easily reduce the amount of plastic that we throw away.
Hopefully, you are already doing some things, like recycling and using reusable water bottles and coffee cups. The grocery store is a great starting point to start making plastic-free improvements. Next time you’re taking a trip to the store, use reusable bags instead of plastic ones. Go a step further, and buy your own mesh produce bags instead of using the plastic ones at the store.
Limit plastic straws, whenever possible. In America, estimates suggest over 500 million plastic straws are used every day, and many end up in the ocean. Plastic straws are among the top-ten items found during beach cleanups, and they do a considerable amount of harm to marine creatures. Plastic straws are too small and lightweight to make it through the mechanical recycling sorter, and they drop through the screens, getting mixed up with waste destined for the landfill . Next time you’re at a restaurant, consider asking for your drink to be served without a straw or opt to bring your own metal or paper one that can break down.
Consider taking a tour of your local recycling plant, also known as a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). This is a great way to learn about what is and isn’t accepted in your local curbside recycling bin and to become more aware of what happens to our trash once it leaves our homes. For example, most soft film plastic (think grocery bags and trash bags) are not recyclable in the typical curbside recycling bin, but most grocery stores have collection bins where you can take your plastic bags (and any other type of film plastic) to be recycled. Learn what your local policies are so you can recycle more effectively.
At home, instead of using disposable plastic bags for food storage, use reusable metal or glass containers. An estimated 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes are thrown out every year, so consider swapping out your plastic toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo one . There are many more ways that you can cut down on plastic use and live a more sustainable life. Get creative!
Doing Our Part
At Isagenix, we are growing ever more aware of the immense threat to our ecosystems, marine life, and our health that plastic pollution is causing. That’s why we are working toward more sustainable forms of packaging that still uphold the integrity of our products. The first phase of this commitment is switching our recyclable shake canisters to be made of 100 percent postconsumer recycled plastic so that we don’t have to make new plastic for each canister. In our global headquarters, we give each employee a reusable water bottle and have eliminated plastic water bottles. It’s a start, and we intend to make other changes in the future to lessen the impact of plastic pollution as we continue to grow.