Environmentalists know that single use plastics cause major problems to all areas of the world, by clogging streams and water infrastructure, littering natural areas, like parks, fields and roadsides, and even oceans and animal life in the seas are choking on plastic pollution.
Lasting for hundreds of years wherever they’re dumped, plastics don’t break down and return to enrich the natural world. They persist, probably close to forever, harming wildlife, ecosystems and polluting water and soil.
Recently supermarkets stopped using plastic bags for packing grocery purchases, and this is a good first step. But much more has to be done to limit single use plastics in order to help the environment.
What are single-use plastics? Included are plastic utensils; straws; coffee stirrers; cling wrap; Styrofoam; snack, storage and garbage bags; cups; plates; and some take-out containers (even several with chasing arrow symbols). As shown by this list, single-use plastics are a big part of consumers’ lives. What can be done?
To be part of the solution to plastic pollution, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is participating in a global movement, “Plastic Free July.” The DEC is appealing to the public to join the movement, discovering new ways to limit single use plastic items in homes across the state.
What the DEC suggests:
. Use containers with lids for storing leftovers instead of cling wrap or plastic bags;
. Look for creative ways to decorate for parties, other than balloons; how about crepe paper? Cardboard posters? Live plants and flowers?
. Serve drinks in reusable glasses and food on real, reusable plates;
. Choose tap water over single-use bottles of juices and teas; or prepare drink mixes in glass bottles.
. Swap liquid soap for bar soap;
. When possible, avoid prepackaged foods, purchase bulk or loose foods; and
. Swap disposable razors for reusable ones.
Saying that the single serving plastic bottle is “by far the biggest source of plastic pollution,” Goshen resident and environmental advocate Betsy Dunlevy offers this remedy:
“Fortunately, our well water is tasty, but if yours isn’t, consider a Brita filter pitcher or something similar. If that doesn’t work, consider buying for home use a gallon or larger water bottle instead of single use bottles.”
When she’s away from home, Dunlevy said she carries water in a reusable bottle that she refills often.
Plastic bags are second on her list as “a huge scourge on our planet.” Dunlevy encourages bringing your own shopping bags to the supermarket, but if you have plastic bags (some supermarkets brought them back after the ban because of the pandemic), “please make an effort to recycle them at the grocery store in the recycling bins provided there and not in your curbside recycling bin,” Dunlevy. “Plastic bags aren’t meant to be in the general recycling as they can jam the processing machine.”
After reading over the DEC suggestion list, you most likely will think of more ways to celebrate “Plastic Free July” by cutting down on single use plastic.
Editor’s note: Share your ideas with others by emailing (firstname.lastname@example.org) or mailing (20 West Ave., Chester 10918) “Letters to the Editor” at The Chronicle. By sharing —and using - our ideas, we can make a difference.