More and more products and initiatives are cropping up to address the growing plastic problem. Eco-friendly feminine products are gaining popularity among women. Reusable straws are all the rage nowadays, and there is a growing interest in the bamboo toothbrush.
A zero-waste lifestyle is also gaining more traction, with people becoming more mindful of the environmental impact of their day-to-day life. It’s not just a fad, or at least it shouldn’t be.
The Center for Biological Diversity warns that ocean plastics pollution is a global crisis. Tons of plastic are floating around in our oceans, covering about 40 percent of ocean surfaces, the group reports. At this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans within three decades!
The biggest accumulation of ocean plastics is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is essentially a floating island of trash. While it’s located between Hawaii and California, ocean plastic is in no way a North American problem.
In fact, a 2015 report by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment pinpoints that Philippines as the third biggest source of plastic leaking into the ocean. This dubious claim to fame is a result of a combination of factors: increased demand for consumer products, inefficient waste management, landfills nearing full capacity, and illegal disposal of waste.
Why You Should Care
The Center for Biological Diversity details the ways in which animals are affected by plastic. Fish and seabirds typically mistake plastic for food, which leads to starvation, intestinal injury, and death.
Half of sea turtles worldwide as well as the mighty whale are said to have ingested plastic (and you might remember that viral video of a hapless turtles with a plastic straw stuck up its nose). Seals and sea lions are just some examples of animals that have gotten tangled up in plastic waste.
If you’re not much of an animal lover, then consider this: You may be inadvertently ingesting plastic when you eat fish. The Center for Biological cites a study that found that 25% of fish in California markets had plastic in their guts.
Little Changes, Big Impact
It seems like such a huge problem but it shouldn’t overwhelm you into inaction. Little changes can go a long way. You can start with the humble toothbrush.
You probably don’t give it much thought but those little pieces of plastic can make up a massive amount of plastic waste over time. Consider the numbers: Each person is advised to replace their toothbrush every three months. That’s four toothbrushes a year. Multiply that by the current population of 7.7 billion and the number is staggering. In a year alone, that’s tons of toothbrushes. Multiply that by the average mortality rate (71 for men, 72 for women) and you’ll begin to understand how that sliver of plastic can pose a big problem.
Consider, too, that none of the plastics that have ever been manufactured have biodegraded by now—there is such a thing as forever when it comes to plastics!
Switching to a bamboo toothbrush is an easy way to help cut down on plastic waste. Bamboo toothbrushes are made of sustainable materials. Bamboo, a fast-growing grass, ensures a sustainable supply, and the material is biodegradable and compostable.
As with plastic toothbrushes, bamboo toothbrushes should be replaced every three months—but as environmentalists estimate that it can decompose within six months, you don’t have to worry about adding to the waste problem.
Aside from considering the handle, you should also consider the bristles. Some manufacturers claim to have biodegradable bristles as well. Do your research so that you’ll know how to properly dispose of bamboo toothbrushes.
If your bamboo toothbrush has synthetic bristles, check if they’re recyclable. You may have to do the extra work of removing the bristles before composting the handle. If they’re not recyclable and still end up in the trash bin, you can feel better knowing that at least you’ve kept plastic handles from taking up space in landfills and seeping into oceans.
You don’t have to make great changes to help alleviate the plastic crisis. You can start with a bamboo toothbrush and reusable straws. Ask your favorite coffee shop if you can have your takeout coffee in your own reusable container. Choose products that have minimal plastic packaging. Bring your own reusable shopping bags when you do your groceries. Every little bit counts!